Confederation’s scope for action

Leverage opportunities vary according to funding area

The way in which education, research and innovation are regulated in Switzerland is strongly determined by the federal system. Subsidiarity, autonomy and partnerships are the key principles at all levels. The following table sets out the Confederation’s main leverage opportunities in education, research and innovation.

ERI field Leverage opportunities
Education Confederation and cantons have a general obligation to coordinate and cooperate in field of education (Federal Constitution, Art. 61a).
Compulsory Schooling Compulsory schooling is the sole responsibility of the cantons. Federal powers are restricted to issuing regulations to ensure the cantons strive to achieve harmonisation of their school systems (Federal Constitution, Art. 62 para. 4).


  • Co-funding of costs met by public purse  
    (approx. 25%).
  • Up to 10 per cent of federal funding for projects and special services (Confederation can suggest themes).
  • Steering role in VPET partnership.

Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training: Confederation sets strategic goals and assumes related financing.

ETH Domain Confederation sets strategic goals and assumes related financing.
Cantonal universities and universities of applied sciences

National coordination of Swiss higher education: Swiss Conference of Higher Education Institutions director and executive management (in close cooperation with the cantons).
Co-funding by cantonal universities and universities of applied sciences:

  • Basic contributions: share of total reference costs (20% for universities; 30% for universities of applied sciences).
  • Contributions to cover construction and use of buildings: max. 30% eligible expenditure.
  • Project-linked contributions: Funding for higher education projects of national importance.
Continuing education and training Funding for organisations offering courses and for cantons (promoting core competences).
The Confederation funds continuing education and training in accordance with various laws and via the social insurance system (e.g. labour-market measures) to the amount of approx. half a billion francs a year. Not all of the laws are mentioned in the ERI Dispatch.
Grants and student loans The cantons are primarily responsible for grants and student loans. The Confederation awards the cantons a fixed amount for grants and loans at tertiary level; this measure encourages harmonisation between the cantons in this area.
Research and innovation

Service level agreements with corresponding funding:

  • Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)
  • Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
  • Research institutions of national importance

Innosuisse: Confederation sets strategic objectives and assumes all corresponding funding

International cooperation in ERI Swiss participation in accordance with various agreements.