Contemporary challenges for the Swiss – and the continental European – university system

LW Challenges, Chapters and other contributions, Missions & Responsibilities

Antonio Loprieno, University of Geneva

These are very interesting times for university education at the world level, and Switzerland is indeed no exception to this generalization.
The importance of higher education in our societies and our economies is being constantly stressed, universities enjoy a higher level of institutional autonomy worldwide than was the case even a few years ago, and a more intense dialogue between academia and society at large causes a higher number
of stakeholders to take an interest, and sometimes even to make an investment, in our institutions. In Switzerland, the 12 research universities — a definition which includes the 10 universities supported by the Cantons and the two federal Schools of technology in Zurich and Lausanne — have generally
seen their budgets increase in the last 10 years to a much higher degree than other state-funded institutions; they have gained a substantial degree of decisional autonomy from their respective political governance; and they have been the object of sometimes very substantial private donations (the energetic EPFL more than any other Swiss university, but the recent investment of
CHF100 million by the UBS bank in the School of economics at the University of Zurich shows that private involvement in institutions of higher education can be seen as a more general national reflection of a global trend.

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