BM 64 – ESU against raising tuition fees for foreign students in Switzerland

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The Social Democrat Party of Switzerland put forward a motion in March requesting that students studying at the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne would have to pay between two and three thousand Euros of tuition fees per year, depending on their fiscal residence, while domestic students would have to pay just over one thousand. Additionally, a motion of the Swiss People’s Party demands to double tuition fees for foreign students. ESU is very concerned about these recent developments, since it’s severely endangering student mobility in Europe.

The motion is originally concerning only the two federal institutions but there is an agreement between Swiss universities to harmonize student fees on a national level.  Considering this, the acceptance of these motions will not affect only a limited number of institutions, but this initiative may be used to implement a double tuition system in universities overall the country at a time when Europe should be moving in the opposite direction. The aim should be the creation of more opportunities for everyone to study abroad and not the implementation of discriminating and mobility-restricting measures.

The Federal Assembly of Switzerland is expected to debate the proposal this autumn. If the parliament decides to raise tuition fees for foreign students, Switzerland will lose a large part of its international student community. By applying such a differentiated tuition system for foreigners, Switzerland will not make a significant difference in the overall annual budget of the higher education system but will seriously affect the international exchange programs in which Switzerland is taking part. These motions are in complete opposition with the idea of constructing a European Higher Education Area and the efforts taken to increase student mobility throughout Europe. Moreover, we strongly believe that is not acceptable to implement a selection of students based on financial parameters, but stand for free access to higher education. It is inacceptable to select students based on their financial possibilities. For all these reasons, and because ESU has always taken position to enforce education as an universal right and a public good, ESU is strongly against raising tuition fees for foreign students.

A decision to double or even triple the tuition fees paid by students whose parents do not pay taxes in Switzerland would diminish the country’s international student population, reduce cultural diversity and hurt any attempts to attract people from all over the world. Therefore, ESU urges the members of the Swiss parliament to reject the proposition. Additionally, the European Union and the EHEA are required to get involved in the discussion to prevent students from paying these tuition fees and to underline the importance of international student mobility.


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