Equal Opportunity – Scholarships: How Switzerland Holds Social Progress – News


Low contribution, strict legislation: Scholarship deficiencies hit smart children in low-income families.

“I’m grateful, but also angry. Because that’s not enough.” Mahela has a split relationship with her scholarship. He needs it to survive, but it is not enough to survive.

Mahela, 22, is a potential drawing teacher and a scholarship holder from Scaffhausen Canton. He gets 400 francs a month. Her parents – she’s an automation technician, she’s a nurse – rarely support her. That’s why he does three jobs in addition to his full-time studies.

“When I see students who are driven entirely by their parents, I see a different world,” Mahela said. A world where there is ample time for learning, studying and socializing. Meanwhile, Mahela is behind a bar in the old town of Zurich. He works long hours, sleeps little. “At times you broke down and you can’t do it anymore.”

The same amount of money for more people

According to the Federal Bureau of Statistics (BfS), 50,000 people in Switzerland receive scholarships. One third of them study, one third of them are apprentices. The rest are in high school, vocational school or other training courses.

Scholarship spending has not changed much in real terms in the last 50 years. At the same time, more and more people are learning. Result: Proportionately less and less scholarship. In 1978 it was still training 16 percent of the people. In 2020 it was 7 percent.

The scholarship pot remains the same size, but more should be able to eat from it. A calculation that can’t be added – and becomes a problem for Switzerland.

Original instead of performance

“We have a potential for skilled workers here that is not just being exploited,” said Katharina Mag Markey, an academic at the University of Zurich. In Switzerland, more so than in other countries, it is the family background that decides what one trains – not the performance.

Scholarships can change that. But not everyone who needs a scholarship gets it. According to a BfS survey, less than half of all students who submit applications are accepted. This also applies to non-academic children.

Instead of smoothing out the differences, the grant system creates new ones: between cantons. In Shaffhausen, the average scholarship for students is twice as low as in Vaud’s Canton. Every fifth student in Graubünden receives a scholarship, less than every twentieth student in Zug.

Another problem: lack of planning security. You will need to reapply for the scholarship each year. “It’s always in the same hole you’re threatening to fall into,” said Mahela, a scholarship holder. “No, that means more work, less study.”

Or quit your studies at some point: According to a BfS survey, financial problems are a cause of every tenth dropout and every fifth person needs to go to work.

Strict Law: Debt Trap Scholarship

Open box
Close the box

“I inadvertently went into debt”: Biologist Andrea received a scholarship while studying. Now he has to pay back 20,000 francs. Reason: He has done too much. Andrea needed money: she did it only through her studies to earn extra money at Cope Checkout. But the Slothern Canton Scholarship Act leaves no room for tactics.

Andreas Fall points to a common problem. “Cantonal Scholarship laws are basically very strict,” said Brigitte Ortega, a study adviser at the University of Zurich. As a result, the students repeatedly got cracked. “Students in financial trouble are an everyday reality for us.”

For Mahela, the scholarship is an investment that pays off: “I am a potential teacher and I will give a lot back to the state and society. Investing in our future is much more important than saving money and giving it back. “

Currently, however, contributions are small and cantonal differences are large. Many requests are denied. Equal opportunity remains a myth in Switzerland.

The cantons say the same thing

Open box
Close the box

Asked if anyone could survive on one’s contribution, Canton of Schaefhausen wrote: “Grants have a helpful function. We assume that it is not possible to make a living from donations alone in any canton. If someone is not in a position to pay for their education and livelihood with their own funds, their parents’ funds and scholarships, Canton can still offer the option of getting a loan. ”

Canton of Solothurn writes about the loan repayment of the Canton Scholarship: “It is not Canton of Solothurn’s goal to punish or employ people who are profitably employed during their education. There is an incentive for profitable employment. ” Scholarship laws are currently being amended in this regard.

In an interview with “Kassensturz”, the conference of education directors commented on the common shortcomings of the Swiss scholarship system.

Leave a Comment