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In an attempt to measure the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Movetia, the national agency in charge of promoting mobility and exchanges in Switzerland, conducted a survey of Swiss tertiary-level institutions on mobility in Europe as part of the Swiss-European Mobility Programme (SEMP) earlier this spring. The results of this survey were published in September.
The findings show that various options for mobility exist despite the pandemic. Blended and virtual mobility were very popular during the spring semester of 2020, as most students had already started their exchange. They preferred this alternative to an outright cancellation of their stay. Considering the exceptional circumstances, the physical mobility of outgoing students decreased by only 4% and those arriving in Switzerland by 3%. Internships, for their part, suffered more substantial decreases, respectively -18% for outgoing exchanges and -22% for those to be carried out in Switzerland, as the organisation of blended or virtual mobility seemed to be more complicated for internships than for study courses.
Furthermore, the study has established that physical mobility remains the preferred option for students. In the autumn 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, the vast majority of students registered for mobility travelled to the host country to attend courses (88% going abroad and 91% coming to Switzerland), despite the continuation of distance learning in most countries. Virtual or blended mobility formats seemed to be less attractive to students, as only 10% opted for this alternative.
Although alternatives were quickly implemented, the mobility of Swiss students travelling abroad since the beginning of the pandemic has decreased by 38% since the beginning of 2020. The number of foreign students coming to Switzerland, on the other hand, has only decreased by 14%. This is due to the considerable efforts made by Swiss institutions to remain open and the fact that restrictive measures were less severe. Switzerland has thus remained an attractive country for mobility.
Finally, if the Covid-19 pandemic had never happened, an additional 35% of students participating in the SEMP 2020/2021 programme would have gone abroad for mobility, and an additional 18% would have come to Switzerland. Despite the pandemic, the interest in experiences abroad is undiminished.