Among its areas of responsibility, the Confederation works with the cantons to coordinate and support projects that are relevant for national higher education policy. Below we present the initial results of the special programme in human medicine. Other topics covered in this article include federal funding of Swiss participation in the 'European Universities' initiative as well as the inventory of usable floor space at cantonal universities and universities of applied sciences.
In the project funding budget for 2017–2020 (see box), the Federal Council and Parliament have allocated CHF 100 million for the special programme in human medicine. The aim is to increase the annual number of medical graduates from around 900 in 2016 to at least 1,300 per year by 2025. This measure is intended to reduce Switzerland’s reliance on foreign doctors. Judging by the final report from swissuniversities and the subsequent evaluation conducted by econcept AG (Zurich) and its partner company Strategos SA (Lausanne), this objective seems to be within reach.
In particular, cantonal universities, ETH Zurich and EPFL have expanded the number of enrolment slots for their Master's degree programmes, from a maximum quota of 1,055 slots in 2016 to 1,445 in 2021 (+390; a further increase to 1,460 slots has been announced for 2023). The objective of achieving an annual figure of 1,300 graduates in human medicine from 2025 onwards is thus feasible. The number of enrolment slots were increased for existing study programmes at the University of Basel, the University of Bern, the University of Geneva, the University of Lausanne and the University of Zurich. At the same time, new study programmes at Bachelor's degree level were introduced at ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich (St. Gallen Track and Lucerne Track) as well as at Master's degree level at various locations (University of Fribourg, Joint Medical Master UniSG-UZH, Joint Medical Master UniLU-UZH, Università della Svizzera italiana). These measures have resulted in a clear diversification of the education landscape for human medicine.
Two overarching priorities were set with the special programme in human medicine: Interprofessional collaboration, on the one hand, and family medicine and primary healthcare, on the other. Specific measures will be taken to support these priorities.
|Campus / study programme||Field of study|
|University of Geneva and University of Lausanne / Joint programme||Biology, biotechnology, Big Data|
|ETH Zurich / Bachelor’s degree||Molecular biology, medical technology|
|University of Zurich and University of St. Gallen / Joint Medical Master’s degree||Healthcare management, interprofessional collaboration, primary healthcare|
|University of Zurich and University of Lucerne / Joint Medical Master’s degree||Health economics, management, medical practice management|
|University of Fribourg / Master’s degree||Family medicine|
|Università della Svizzera italiana / Master’s degree||Clinical training, leadership, interprofessional collaboration, personalised medicine|
Measures to encourage interprofessional collaboration:
- Events involving students from different healthcare fields
- Training to develop the skills needed for interprofessional collaboration (e.g. working in groups, communication, management and organisational skills in healthcare)
- Innovative projects involving teachers and healthcare professionals (e.g. simulations, interprofessional communication and collaboration, mandatory internship in nursing)
Measures to encourage family medicine and primary healthcare:
- Teaching family medicine/primary healthcare as a cross-cutting topic
- Organising internships with general practitioners, in some cases over extended periods and at weekly intervals
- Establishing a minimum number of days that need to be devoted to doing an internship with a general practitioner
- Getting general practitioners involved in teaching activities
- Establishing mentoring arrangements between general practitioners and students
The external evaluation found that the measures taken thus far have had an impact and that the special programme in human medicine has helped to raise awareness of the importance of primary healthcare and family medicine as well as interprofessional collaboration. The desired level of diversification of the training landscape in human medicine has been achieved and should continue to progress. According to the final report drafted by the Swiss Conference of Rectors of Higher Education Institutions (swissuniversities), Swiss tier-one universities will continue their projects under the special programme in human medicine. In the future, these projects will be financed through the usual university funding channels, i.e. sponsors, intercantonal subsidies and core federal subsidies under the Higher Education Act (HEdA). swissuniversities will continue to monitor developments, in particular increases in the number of medical degrees awarded between now and 2025.
The Confederation can use project subsidies to support activities that are relevant for national higher education policy. The Higher Education Council of the Swiss Conference of Higher Education Institutions (SHK) decides which higher education projects should receive funding. This decision is taken in consultation with the Swiss Conference of Rectors of Higher Education Institutions (swissuniversities).
The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) commissioned the consulting firm econcept AG (Zurich) and its partner company Strategos SA (Lausanne) to evaluate four initiatives from the period 2017–2020: the previously mentioned special programme in human medicine; the strategy to address shortages of skilled workers in the healthcare (P-3); the biocatalysis innovation space (P-14) and the concept and implementation of a Swiss centre for accessible communication (P-16). The evaluation confirmed that all of the objectives set for the special programme in human medicine were reached. For the other three projects, however, successes were more mitigated. Nevertheless, evaluators stressed that despite failing to reach established objectives, the projects did encourage cooperation between higher education institutions, which brings significant intangible added value. The experts formulated recommendations for future optimisation such as the need to set more realistic and reachable project objectives, improving project monitoring or reducing the risk of deadweight effects.
Sonja Henrich-Barrat, SERI (SPHM project)
Higher Education Division
Diego Nell, SERI (Evaluation of project subsidies)
Core and Project Subsidies in Higher Education
Sonderprogramm Humanmedizin (in German)