Stabilisation programme threatens stability of education and research in Switzerland

26/Jan/2016

The federal government aims to implement approximately 20% of the spending cuts envisaged in its stabilisation programme in the education, research and innovation (ERI) sector - this is clearly disproportionate and a sign of short-sighted policy-making. These cuts will weaken the education and research sector in Switzerland and reduce its competitiveness in the global arena. As the ERI sector is crucial to innovation and prosperity in Switzerland, these cuts are clearly a step in the wrong direction. The SNSF is therefore calling for the cutbacks to be limited to a maximum of CHF 200 million.

The SNSF accepts that the education, research and innovation (ERI) sector has to bear a fair share of the spending cuts to be implemented by the federal government. However, according to the stabilisation programme 2017-2019, this portion will amount to CHF 555 million or approximately 20% of the overall cuts.

Commitment to research or lip service?

Given that the ERI sector comprises about 10% of the federal budget, this reduction in funds is clearly disproportionate. As a result, funding in the area of education, research and innovation will grow by merely 1.9% on average between 2015 and 2019, whereas federal expenditure will increase by 2.7% on average. This is in stark contrast to the commitment expressed by financial policy-makers to continue prioritising the ERI domain as a crucial pillar of the economy and society at large.

Setting the wrong priorities will weaken the economy

The substantial spending cuts in the ERI domain will have a strong bearing on the Federal Council's dispatch on the financing of education, research and innovation (ERI Dispatch 2017-2020) and will weaken the international competitiveness of the Swiss education and research sector. The SNSF view is that federal government is setting the wrong priorities by pursuing this policy. By increasing competitiveness, encouraging private investment in R&D and raising education levels, ERI investments play a significant role in creating favourable economic conditions, especially in periods when the Swiss franc is at a high. In addition, meeting the current political demands to fight the shortage of skilled workers at all levels comes at a cost. The estimated total costs of additional measures to promote young scientists - particularly talented individuals in Switzerland - amount to CHF 420 million between 2017-2020.

Knowing that it would have only limited financial resources at its disposal, the SNSF had already decided not to implement various important measures in its multi-year programme, e.g. a scheme to facilitate the return of established researchers to Switzerland or a scientific incentive programme for researchers with innovative and ambitious ideas. With the stabilisation programme, further sacrifices will become unavoidable and young researchers, among others, will again be affected.

Contact

Swiss National Science Foundation
Wildhainweg 3
Post office box 8232
CH-3001 Berne
Tel. +41 31 308 23 87
E-mail com@snf.ch