An appeal for an open European higher education area

Switzerland’s affiliation with the European higher education area is threatened in consequence of the yes-vote on the federal popular initiative “mass immigration” from 9 February 2014. In its initial reaction, the European Commission has excluded Switzerland from the 8th EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 and from the student exchange programme Erasmus+. The signers of this appeal call upon decision-makers in Europe and Switzerland to enable Switzerland’s participation in these important programmes, and voice their commitment to an open European and international higher education area.

Switzerland’s successful education and research hub is currently at risk of isolation after being excluded from European education and research programmes. In 1999, Switzerland signed the Bologna Declaration – as have over 40 other European nations to date – thereby expressing its commitment to a European higher education area. One of Bologna’s main goals is the promotion of mobility in education and research. The significance of international exchange for Switzerland’s knowledge community has never been doubted – to the contrary, it has been uniformly emphasised. The “yes” to the federal popular initiative on immigration has now placed the achievements and advances of the past years into question.

The exchange of students and researchers, of knowledge and know-how, has always been viewed as an undisputed element of academic life and as a crucial requirement for high quality in research and education. In the recent past, Europe has developed strong programmes to promote the exchange of students and researchers, and is today the cornerstone of many international research and education projects. International co-operation beyond Europe’s borders is carried out with equal regularity.

Internationality is an inherent part of academia, one in which we all participate and from which we all profit. This internationality is now threatened by current politics – a condition we vehemently oppose. We, the signing universities, educational institutions, lecturers, researchers and students in Switzerland and Europe, appeal to political decision-makers in Switzerland, Brussels and in European countries to make every effort to ensure Swiss higher education’s participation in the aforementioned programmes.

We hereby express our commitment to an open European and international higher education area, and emphasise our will to continue to foster and promote international exchange at our higher education institutions. International education and research programmes as well as inter-university projects must remain an uncontested part of the entire European and international higher education area, to which Switzerland belongs.