Feb 13, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The Swiss Federal Council has committed $2.5 million to fund a pilot program aimed at facilitating exchange with students from non-European countries, including the US, Canada and China. Here’s a closer look at the three-year trial, as reported by swissinfo.ch.

Beyond European Borders

In alignment with Switzerland’s strategy to improve international educational mobility, the program will fund join programs between Swiss universities and partner countries outside the EU’s Erasmus+ program. To help facilitate the process, the government has asked national promotion agency for student exchange Movetia to advise on the project.

The Backstory

While Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it had participated in Erasmus-related mobility programs since 1992. However, following a 2014 vote which introduced quotas on immigrants from the EU, negotiations toward Switzerland’s full membership in the scheme were suspended.

Said EU Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor at the time, “In 2014, Switzerland will not participate in Erasmus Plus on equal footing with member states as initially envisaged. I want to make very clear that this freeze of negotiations is not a punishment or sanctions of the expression of the Swiss electorate but a logical consequence of the choice Switzerland itself has made, the consequence which is really well known before.”

Currently, Switzerland participates in Erasmus+ as a “Partner Country,” meaning it is allowed to participate in some programs under certain circumstances. Last year, it was welcomed back into the EU’s Horizon 202 research program, which was a promising indication for upcoming negotiations for direct participation.

Looking Ahead

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) has decreed that ““participation in EU’s education programmes is one of the priorities of Switzerland’s international strategy for education, research and innovation”.

To that end, Parliament has called for Switzerland to reopen talks with Brussels about a permanent reintegration into Erasmus by 2021. In the meantime, the House of Representatives had approved $116.5 million in stop-gap funding to support outward-bound exchange beyond Europe between 2018 and 2020.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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