01 - Liechtenstein - Historical overview

First endeavours to establish a university in Liechtenstein came from external initiators during the 1930s. Some were German scientists who hoped to found university institutions in Liechtenstein based on the apparent foreshadowing of then-political developments in Germany.

Formally, Liechtenstein only established its own size-compatible university institutions in the tertiary education system in the mid nineteen eighties and introduced a respective law regulating the issues concerning universities of applied sciences, university and research institutions in 1992.

Indeed, the existing universities and university institutions offer a very limited range of studies and study places for Liechtenstein’s youth which is far short of meeting the needs. Therefore, Liechtenstein is heavily dependent on the understanding and goodwill of its neighbouring countries. In connection with the efforts regarding the recognition of university entrance certificates issued in Liechtenstein Matura, agreements to grant Liechtenstein’s students free acceptance to Swiss and Austrian universities have been concluded with Switzerland and Austria.

Of the approximately 700 university students, about 500 students are actually completing their studies at a Swiss university or college. This figure justifies the important step in terms of educational policy taken by the Principality of Liechtenstein to sign the inter-cantonal agreement regarding university-funding in Switzerland (agreement of 1981 and 1992 respectively). As a contract partner, Liechtenstein now has the same rights as the non-university cantons. This university-related agreement grants Liechtenstein’s students free access to all cantonal universities and Swiss institutes of technology.

According to the university agreement, Liechtenstein makes an annual contribution to Swiss universities of applied sciences and universities for every student studying in Switzerland in the overall amount of approximately 3 million Swiss francs per year, similar to Swiss non-university cantons.

Since 1976, several agreements have been in place between the Austrian Republic and the Principality of Liechtenstein. Among other things they guarantee the equal acceptance of students from Liechtenstein to Austrian universities. In the study year 2006/07, 184 students from Liechtenstein studied at an Austrain University. Austria does not require Liechtenstein to make contribution payments towards the running costs. In return, the Principality is supporting the fund for scientific research in Vienna with an annual contribution of 250’000 CHF and is participating in sharing the costs of research projects carried out in Austrian universities if required. Since Liechtenstein established its own higher education institution governed by public law, equal rights apply to Austrian students. Approximately 280 Austrian students (2006/07 winter term) are currently enrolled at the Liechtenstein University of Applied Sciences (40 – 50 percent of the total student population).

A similar agreement has been in existence with the federal state Bavaria since 1971. In addition, an agreement has been in place between the Tübingen university (Baden-Württemberg) and the Principality of Liechtenstein since 1988. According to the preamble, the common objectives are as follows: "In trying to foster and deepen the mutual knowledge and understanding of legal, political and cultural establishments in both neighbouring countries, the government of the Principality of Liechtenstein and the Eberhard-Karls- University have agreed to conclude the declaration on hand regarding the scientific collaboration and the admission regulations for studying."

The law concerning "Fachhochschulen, university and research institutions" from 1992 has been repealed and replaced by the framework law concerning "Higher Education Institutions" from November 25, 2004. It has become the legal basis for the tertiary education system and regulates the tasks and the position of universities, their approval, study pathes, access conditions, students’ rights and duties, questions concerning teaching staff, quality assurance and national supervision. Liechtenstein is hereby implementing the Bologna process guidelines on a legislative level. As a small country, it welcomed these guidelines from the start and has partially implemented them.

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Date: 2009
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