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Swiss unis 'may impose quotas on foreigners'

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16:06 CEST+02:00

Swiss universities can limit the number of foreigners who enroll if there is a shortage of available spots at the school, education experts have found. Some had worried that foreign quotas violated international agreements.

The report from the Rectors' Conference of the Swiss Universities and authored by lawyer and vice-chancellor of the University of Lucerne, Paul Richli, says Switzerland is not violating any bi-lateral or international agreements by imposing quotas on foreigners studying in the country's institutes of higher education.

First published by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the expert opinion says Swiss universities are also not required to offer foreigners tuition that is significantly under the real market value. Up to now, Swiss universities were seen as something of a bargain for many foreign students.

St. Gallen University is the only Swiss institution up to now to have put a quota in place, and that program was what sparked the new report.

The quota was a reaction to a large influx of foreigners, mostly from Germany. It was feared that due to various circumstances in Germany, including the end of military conscription, the number this year could be even higher as students turn from overcrowded German classrooms to lecture halls across their southern border.

St. Gallen university "pulled the emergency brake," the NZZ wrote.

The Rectors' Conference did not suggest implementing tougher measures for foreigners overall, the group's General Secretary Mathias Stauffacher told the online news website blick.ch. He emphasized that the report was not meant to be a national strategy for limiting the number of foreign students in Switzerland.

Just under one-fifth of the 132,000 students enrolled in Swiss universities and other higher education institutions are from aboard. Since 1990, the number of foreigners studying in the country has almost doubled.

Politicians from the right-wing SVP party have repeatedly called for higher tuition fees for foreign students.

Romina Loliva from the Association of Swiss Students was highly critical of this mentality.

"Unfortunately many Swiss are of the opinion that we have too many foreign students here," she told the news website Spiegel Online, adding that higher fees for foreigners were "discriminatory and xenophobic."

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