Federal Council sets education, research and innovation policy for 2025–2028

Bern, 08.03.2024 - On 8 March the Federal Council submitted the Dispatch on Education, Research and Innovation in the years 2025–2028 to the Federal Assembly. Planned expenditures have been set at CHF 29.2 billion. Switzerland intends to retain its international leadership position in education, research and innovation.

One of the keys to Switzerland's international competitiveness has been the long-term and reliable financial investment by the Confederation and cantons in education, research and innovation (ERI). A high-quality, permeable education system encourages personal development for all participants and promotes integration into both society and the labour market. Education and research are the bases for creativity, inventiveness and innovative entrepreneurship. The players in the ERI sector facilitate adaptation to societal and technological change and help to utilise the opportunities it brings.

It is against this background that the Federal Council has formulated its ERI policy for the 2025-2028 funding period, taking into account the system of subsidiarity and partnership as fundamental principles of cooperation between the Confederation and the cantons in federalist Switzerland. At the same time, ERI policy is based on the principles of freedom of research and teaching, the bottom-up principle with selective prioritisation, and on competition and excellence. In all ERI areas, the focus is on the cross-cutting challenges of digitalisation, equal opportunities, sustainability and national and international cooperation.

The proposed total spending of CHF 29.2 billion is CHF 1.3 billion more than expenditure in the 2021-2024 funding period, reflecting nominal growth of 1.6%. Overall spending as well as individual budget items and expenditure ceilings were adjusted downwards by a total of CHF 500 million after the consultation, to align them with the decisions made by the Federal Council to ensure a balanced budget.

The ERI budget is used to finance measures in the areas of vocational and professional education and training (VPET), continuing education and training, higher education and research and innovation promotion. Priorities have been set to meet the objective of the legislative period, namely that Switzerland should maintain its leadership position in education, research and innovation. One of these priorities is the promotion of competitive research and innovation (Swiss National Science Foundation, Innosuisse and the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences), which may involve initiatives focusing on excellence in a certain field (e.g. Swiss Quantum Initiative) and greater collaboration in research projects in all parts of the world. International exchange is also to be supported in education, through programmes run by the Movetia funding agency. A further priority is continuing education and training, which is of great importance in view of the shortage of skilled labour.

Consolidation is another key element in the new ERI Dispatch. For example, the Confederation's contribution to VPET costs will be in line with the statutory benchmark of 25%. The higher education sector - the ETH Domain, cantonal universities and universities of applied sciences - will also continue to receive funding in accordance with current legislation.

Every four years, the Federal Council submits a dispatch to Parliament on the promotion of education, research and innovation, in which it takes stock of the ongoing funding period (currently: 2021-2024) and sets out the objectives, measures and funding for the new one to come. The 2025-2028 ERI funding plan is an integral part of the legislative financial plan, which aims to balance the federal budget in the long term, taking the debt brake into account.

The 2025-2028 ERI Dispatch is the first for which a consultation was conducted. The high level of participation indicates broad interest in the ERI sector and its importance for Switzerland. The consultation showed that there is general support for the principal features of the dispatch, although the majority judged the proposed level of spending to be insufficient. The Federal Council report on the results of the consultation is published along with the ERI Dispatch.

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