Every four years, the Federal Council presents the Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation (ERI) to Parliament containing an assessment of the current funding period and the objectives, measures and budget for the one to come. In late February, the Federal Council approved the Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation for the years 2021–2024. How much importance will the Federal Council ascribe to ERI in the coming years? What priorities has it set for the coming funding period? How much money is it requesting from Parliament for ERI? You’ll find the answers in this article.
Seven questions and seven answers on the new ERI funding period
1. How much importance is currently ascribed to ERI in federal government spending?
In 2020, education and research continue to be a priority for the Confederation. Regular expenditure in these fields constitutes 10.8 per cent of overall spending, meaning it is currently the fourth largest area of federal expenditure.
Expenditure by area 2020
2. What changes have there been in recent years to the proportion of expenditure on ERI borne by the Confederation and by the cantons?
Public funding of ERI is borne by both the Confederation and the cantons; they are each responsible for funding different areas of ERI.
The cantons and communes contribute the lion’s share of public ERI expenditure: CHF 31.8 billion, or 80.3% (2017). This is CHF 4.5 billion more than in 2008.
The Confederation contributes CHF 7.8 billion (19.7%). This is CHF 2.3 billion more than in 2008 (CHF 0.9 billion for education and CHF 1.4 million for research and innovation).
Public expenditure for the entire ERI field in Switzerland in 2008 and 2017, by area and source of funding
3. How much money is the Federal Council requesting for the new ERI funding period?
For 2021-2024 the Federal Council is requesting almost CHF 28 billion, around CHF 2 billion more than in the previous ERI period (2017-2020). Taking inflation into account, this is an annual average increase of CHF 2.2 per cent (nominal), or annual average growth in real terms of CHF 1.5 per cent. A portion of the funds is subject to a credit freeze.
4. Which areas are covered by the 2021–2024 ERI Dispatch?
The ERI Dispatch describes eleven areas in which the federal government will contribute to ERI funding in the 2021–2024 period in accordance with its responsibilities. A Federal Council decision has been issued on each of these areas.
Requested amount in CHF m
In order to provide a complete picture of ERI funding, the ERI Dispatch includes other areas that involve federal funding but for which funding is not requested in this dispatch but instead in the state budget or in a separate dispatch. These are:
- Federal policy research: Funding is requested by the various federal offices and agencies concerned in the regular budget process in accordance with their budgetary responsibility.
- Compulsory contributions for Switzerland’s ongoing participation in multilateral research organisations and infrastructure, for example CERN. Such payments are regulated by international agreements.
- EU research and innovation (Horizon Europe). A separate EU dispatch for these participations and any changes in the form of participation is currently being drafted.
- Association in EU education programmes. Further development of the current Swiss solution is requested in the ERI Dispatch. The Federal Council will also provide a comprehensive assessment (cost-benefit analysis) by June 2020 and if appropriate set out the key areas of a negotiating mandate for possible association in Erasmus. Switzerland’s association in the follow-up programme to Erasmus+ would require commitments and a budget up to 2027, whereas this dispatch covers the period to 2024 only. The Federal Council will therefore need to submit a separate decision to Parliament.
5. What is the credit freeze?
The Federal Council proposes a holistic approach to ERI funding. It is therefore requesting Parliament to freeze part of the funding until the conditions of Switzerland’s participation in the EU programmes (see box) are clear.
This means that if there is more than a three per cent annual increase in the funding set in the ERI Dispatch taken together with expenditure for participation in EU ERI programmes, the increase in the ERI Dispatch would be limited to 1.7 per cent annually.
The Federal Council can release the frozen funding as soon as it is clear that the increase in expenditure on ERI and EU programmes will not exceed three per cent. Up to half a billion francs can be earmarked for participation in EU programmes before the freeze comes into play.
6. What are the priorities in the 2021–2024 ERI Dispatch?
Switzerland will continue to play a leading role in this area, which is so fundamental to the prosperity of the country. It will master current challenges such as digital transformation in the economy and society.
Federal priorities are as follows:
- Vocational Education and Training continues to prepare young people for attractive work and career opportunities.
- The Confederation takes measures to encourage more people to pursue further education.
- ERI policy supports players in all areas in rising to the challenges of and in shaping digital transformation.
- Swiss higher education institutions provide excellence to benefit academia, the economy and society.
- Federal funding agencies promote research and innovation at the highest level.
- ERI policy promotes sustainable development and equal opportunities in all areas.
7. Why aren’t special programmes planned for urgent issues such as climate change or digitalisation?
Climate change, digital transformation and equal opportunities are transversal topics, applying across all ERI areas.
Transversal topics involve long-term tasks lasting beyond the four-year term of the dispatch. In accordance with the principles of ERI funding policy, the Federal Council considers it expedient to address these topics as far as possible within the framework of existing funding instruments and to implement measures using existing structures and processes. This ensures continuity and coherence.
The Dispatch sets out three transversal topics in more detail: digitalisation, sustainable development and equal opportunities. For a complete overview, a compilation of the most important measures is available on the SERI website, broken down by topic.
Dani Duttweiler, SERI
Dep. Head, Communications