Education – for the benefit of the students

Students in conversation outside the European Commission
Students in conversation outside the European Commission © European Commission

The EU has built up a considerable reputation for encouraging student mobility in life-long learning. During studies, mobility is mainly achieved through so-called "education" programmes such as Erasmus. Created in 1987 and used since by more than 9 million students, this mobility programme has become a true symbol of Europe. A bilateral agreement between 2011 and 2013 has enabled young Swiss people to bring this symbol to life and to benefit from the full range of activities offered by these exchange and mobility programmes.

The Erasmus+ 2014-2020 programme came to an end at the end of December 2020. The new €26.3 billion Erasmus+ 2021-2027 programme was officially launched on 18 June, and entered into force retroactively on the 1st of January 2021. In addition to mobility activities for pupils, students, young people in business, teachers or trainers, this programme supports cross-border collaboration on various projects and encourages the participation of organisations active in the fields of education, higher education, vocational training, youth and sport.

Bilateral agreements on education, vocational training and youth

After a long period of indirect participation, between 2011 and 2013 Switzerland officially took part in the EU's education and youth programmes under a corresponding bilateral agreement.

Because of the acceptance of the initiative against mass immigration on 9 February 2014, the ongoing negotiations for Switzerland's association with Erasmus+ were suspended. Switzerland was since then considered a third country for the Erasmus+2014-2020 programme. Following this suspension, the Federal Council decided to establish a transitional solution for 2014 to 2017 on the basis of the former project-by-project participation, which was finally extended as the "Swiss solution for Erasmus+". The Swiss solution focuses on mobility and has been the responsibility of the Swiss Foundation for the Promotion of Exchanges and Mobility, better known to the public as "Movetia” since the 1st of January 2017.

For the Erasmus+ programme cycle running from 2021 to 2027, the conditions for the association of third countries follow the same country categories as for the research and innovation programmes. Switzerland's association with Erasmus+ will require a specific agreement giving access to all EU programmes. Currently, Switzerland still participates in Erasmus+ as a third country and participates where possible on a project basis with direct funding from the federal government (e.g. European University Initiative). On 16 September 2020, the Federal Assembly approved the financing of the Swiss solution for Erasmus+ for the years 2021-2024, with a focus on international mobility. A negotiation mandate has been approved on the Swiss side, but formal negotiations with the EU on the association are not yet open. More information can be found in the infobox below.