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In Switzerland, education is essentially the competence of the 26 cantons. However, it is the federal government – in collaboration with the cantons – which is responsible for education beyond compulsory schooling. Responsibilities at this national level are to be restructured. At present, powers are split between two government departments – and thus also between two federal councillors. The State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER), which is responsible for higher education, forms part of the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA), as does the ETH Domain, which covers the federal institutes of technology. Meanwhile, vocational education and training and the universities of applied sciences fall within the remit of the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology (OPET), which belongs to the Federal Department of Economic Affairs (FDEA). This will all change in 2013. Responsibility for all forms of non-compulsory education, as well as research, will be concentrated within the FDEA, which will be renamed the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER). It will be headed by Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann.
At the same time, the State Secretariat for Education and Research will merge with the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology to become the new State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). It will be headed by the current State Secretary and Director of the SER, Mauro dell'Ambrogio.
It is hoped that the restructuring will lend greater weight to education overall, and achieve closer cooperation between different education levels. Switzerland's higher education sector has welcomed the fact that the current State Secretary will lead the new State Secretariat and take over responsibility for the country's universities.
Also motivated by the changes in the organisation and legal base of Swiss tertiary education, the country’s three rectors’ conferences (for universities; universities of applied sciences; and pedagogical institutions) have announced the creation of a joint organisation, swissuniversities. The organisation, to be created in November, will form the nucleus of one single rectors’ conference for all tertiary institutions, which is expected to be fully functional in 2015. Until then, swissuniversities will function as a coordination mechanism.State Secretariat for Education and Research Rectors’ Conference of the Swiss Universities (in German)