Swiss students require Erasmus: the youth arms of several political parties are petitioning the government to resume negotiations for Switzerland to rejoin the student exchange programme.
When Switzerland was compelled to suspend negotiations to join Erasmus+ after voting to place limits on immigration from the European Union in a 2014 referendum, it established a replacement, the Swiss-European Mobility Programme, within six weeks.
It was successful in the majority of cases. In fact, Switzerland’s incoming and outgoing student mobility increased between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
On Thursday the Swiss Council of Youth Activity (SAJV) launched a petition to demand Switzerland’s full membership of Erasmus+ and to push the Swiss government to “grant the necessary financial provisions” to allow adhesion to the scheme, it said in a statement, considering the solution “insufficient”.
On the other part, according to Lutz-Peter Berg, head of science and innovation at Switzerland’s UK embassy, the Alpine country had a long history of being outside the Erasmus programme and of running a shadow scheme in which it has to fund its own incoming and outgoing mobility: between 1995 and 2010 the nation was a “partner” rather than member country of the scheme.
Speaking after delivering a speech on Switzerland’s mobility “survival story” at Universities UK International’s Go International Conference, he explained that the Swiss government already had the “political will” to support mobility and was easily able to allocate funding for its own programme.
Despite the success of Switzerland’s mobility programme, its aim is to rejoin the Erasmus+ programme, he added. While student mobility has been maintained under Switzerland’s own scheme, the country is unable to take part in strategic conversations with other countries in Erasmus+ or lead consortia of institutions.
Erasmus+ is the “gold-standard”, he said. “What we’re doing at the moment clearly is a fallback option but it works. It does the job.”
Last February the government said it no longer thought negotiations for Switzerland’s resumption of membership could be realistically concluded within the deadline, news agencies reported at the time. The interim solution could now remain in place until 2020, it said.
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