Internationalization or Intercantonalization?

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23 oktober 2012 | The Conference of Swiss Rectors recommends that foreign countries should pay their share for educating their citizens in Swiss HE. German Prof. Klaus Landfried does not disagree, although it would cost Germany.

The Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities recommends this to alleviate the growing financial burden on many institutions. Universities want an international procedure similar to the existing inter-cantonal system that spreads the cost of higher education across the country. A canton that sees residents take up studies in another region will contribute a fee to the canton where the university is based.
The lack of such an arrangement for international students is a cause for concern for some cash-strapped Swiss universities, particularly those with a high proportion of foreign students. Swiss universities are funded almost exclusively from the public purse. Approximately 35,000 foreign students study in Switzerland, 10,000 of them from Germany.

Swiss or German plan?

Klaus Landfried, former chairman of the HRK, the German universities association, presented this plan earlier on ScienceGuide: “Once upon a time there were not many universities In Switzerland. Since this country is by tradition a democratic state in which common problems are discussed commonly and then solved by some sort of a compromise shared by all, a rather simple method was found to reimburse those cantons (federal  states) which had to entertain universities also for those students coming from cantons without a university. The principle was: money follows students”.

Those cantons without a university, but sending students to study in a canton with a university paid a fair amount of money to those which entertained the university. By this method  some sort of a balance was found. To some extent this system, now much more sophisticated, is still working, and well.

Working towards a bilateral agreement

The recommendation from the Swiss Rectors to fund the growing number of foreign scholars not only follows Prof. Landfried, but also the national union of students. Secretary of state for education Mauro Dell’Ambrogio said that the subject had already been informally broached with Germany. “The Swiss model could certainly also function internationally,” he said.
But Germany had not particularly warmed to the idea, despite an offer of reciprocal funding for Swiss students at German universities. Germany would end up with net payment deficits under such an arrangement, Dell’Ambrogio noted.
However, the Rectors’ Conference president Antonio Loprieno refused to give up hope that such a deal could be struck in future. “There is little realistic prospect of such a solution working for the whole of Europe. A bilateral agreement with Germany, as the largest home country of foreign students,  would be the best solution.”
Overseas students improve standards

Last year, Crus looked into the legal possibilities of imposing quotas of foreign students at Swiss universities. They eventually advised members that such measures are legal, but only one university,  St Gallen, decided to follow that path.

Other universities, most notably in the West of Switzerland, have a different attitude to the raise in  foreign students, arguing that more overseas students improves universities’ international standings.

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