Switzerland Higher Education: Politics

Switzerland’s confederation dates back to 1848, when a new constitution formed the powers of the federal government while delegating a considerable amount of sovereignty to the cantons.  Their education system follows this strong political principle of cantonal autonomy:

“The education system is strongly anchored in local areas, cantons and linguistic   regions.  […] Each canton has its own legal regulations for education.  Important key parameters are regulated uniformly, either at the federal level or on an inter-cantonal basis.  There is no ministry of education at the federal level.  The Confederation’s tasks with regard to education are performed by the Federal Department for Home Affairs via the State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) and by the Federal Department for Economics via the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology (OPET).” [1]

Because of Switzerland’s political structure, no national education resolutions are binding.  All education policies are subnational, making lobbying more difficult for the Federal Student Union.  Representatives from the student union will attend the Swiss Ministerial Conference, where the ministers of the cantons gather to discuss politics; however, this is not always effective.   “Switzerland is stuck in this Federalist system,” said Dermont.

From a policymaker’s perspective, however, the structure’s principle of subsidiarity is vital to Switzerland’s education system.  Dr. Dell’Ambrogio stressed that the Federal level does not want to influence students’ actions.  Relegating decision-making responsibilities to the cantonal and university level can increase effectiveness and efficiency.  Moreover, Switzerland’s education structure allows fields of study to be virtually self-correcting according to the job market.  If there are fewer employees in a certain field, then there will naturally be fewer apprenticeships available—thus it follows that those programs will decline and others will rise to replace them.  Dell’Ambrogio said that this is more effective than policy-making.

<–Students | Swiss Culture | Finances–>


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