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Switzerland - A Case Of Growth Fuelled By Education, Research, And Innovation

The competitiveness of Switzerland in research is corroborated by their expense on research and development in relation to their GDP which is one of the highest in the world.

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The Swiss economic success is reiterated every year with its international standings on a myriad of surveys conducted to assess the growth of the country. Switzerland has the second highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the world. Swiss GDP per capita stood at around USD 81,000 according to a report compiled by International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2017. The reasons behind this high rate of growth can be manifold but one of the key factors is the priority given to the intensive development of human capital in the country. The erudition and skills possessed by the population have a greater impact on the success in the long run than virtually any other factor. The Swiss spend a considerable chunk of the public purse on the development of the intellectual potential, which has, in turn, resulted in the high growth of its industries that contribute to the country’s prosperity. Switzerland came in third overall according to the Global Human Capital Index of 2017 published by the World Economic Forum and their education system was judged to be the best in the world.

The support received from the confederation, a multicultural and multilingual atmosphere, practical nature of the education and the rigorous academic standards from the primary level itself undergird a strong higher education system with pronounced attention to innovation and research. Switzerland currently has a total of 12 state universities; ten of these are cantonal universities, while two of them (EPFL in Lausanne and ETH in Zurich) are federal institutions. Switzerland has a high rate of foreign students in tertiary education including one of the highest in the world of doctoral level students. Prestigious private higher education establishments also hold a special place in the country. These educational establishments are the reason Switzerland can rightfully be named the Mecca of education in the field of international hospitality. 

The competitiveness of Switzerland in research is corroborated by their expense on research and development in relation to their GDP which is one of the highest in the world. Five Swiss institutions were able to make it into the Reuters ranking of Europe’s most innovative universities for 2018. The higher education community has attributed the excellence of Swiss universities to their open culture and large networks. The consistent performance and the central location of Switzerland allow it to attract the best international students and faculty. The presence of the world’s largest particle physics laboratory CERN further augments the impact and influence of the research work carried out by giving the country’s institutions a chance to collaborate with the leading universities in the world. 

Although one could argue that the establishment of these educational institutions and research centers has safeguarded a place for the Swiss education system in the coming years but in this world of competitive education, staying at the top requires constant reinvention. Switzerland, being a small Alpine country with a dearth of raw materials, had to constantly reinvent itself to generate alternative sources of income such as tourism, agriculture and its service sector. The importance given to innovation from the primordial years of education inculcates a habit of developing methods to make use of the present level of modernization in the most efficient manner possible. A quick look at the findings of a survey conducted by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2017 asserts the facticity of Swiss innovation. The small country with a population close to 8.4 million filed a total of 4,491 international patent applications in 2017. Switzerland also topped the charts at the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2017 which is published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the WIPO.

Maintaining your international position in this competitive era require that the necessary conditions for the bloom of education and research stay afoot. Swiss policymakers need to ensure an even greater autonomy for the higher education institutions which would enable them to acquire more private funds. Domestic competition amongst the institutions should play a greater role in forming the education policy of the cantons rather than their regional politics. In addition, the recruitment of international workers and students, including from non-EU/EFTA, should be made as easy as possible to attract the best talent from all over the world. While it is true that the Swiss have always been able to outperform its counterparts, it is also a fact that the global competitors are both stronger and faster than ever before.     

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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