Towards Responsible International Collaborations: A Guide for Swiss Higher Education Institutions


Institutional Communication Service

14 June 2022

The umbrella organisation of the Swiss universities (swissuniversities) publishes a guide for Responsible International Collaborations. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Switzerland and around the world are increasingly engaged in international collaboration. While this offers them unique opportunities to broaden their reach, address pressing global issues and offer their students and staff international opportunities, it also calls for greater awareness and responsibility of all stakeholders involved. They share the need and the responsibility to assess each potential collaboration in the face of values such as academic freedom and institutional autonomy, ethical and legal aspects as well as benefits and limits of knowledge transfer.

Academic freedom is the basis for research and teaching. It consists of “the right to freely define research questions, choose and develop theories, gather empirical material and employ sound academic research methods, to question accepted wisdom and bring forward new ideas. It entails the right to share, disseminate and publish the results thereof openly, including through training and teaching. It is the freedom of researchers to express their opinion without being disadvantaged by the system in which they work or by governmental or institutional censorship and discrimination.” Bonn declaration on freedom of academic research, Adopted at the Ministerial Conference on the European Research Area on 20 October 2020 in Bonn

While these academic values may have a claim to be universal, in reality they are not and increasingly the idea of such universal values is being challenged or interpreted di fferently.
This question should be addressed with the partner.

The purpose of this guide is to support Swiss HEIs, their decision makers and their academic communities – faculty members, researchers, students, technical and administrative
staff – to:

1. assess the benefits, challenges and risks associated with international collaboration,
2. use existing resources and learn from successful practices, and
3. promote greater consistency across HEIs in Switzerland.

The document is intended as a tool for reflection and discussion. It proposes dimensions and issues to consider when planning, preparing, conducting, evaluating or consolidating
collaborative activities with academic or private partners in an international context.

Within their autonomy Swiss HEIs and their respective communities are responsible for their own activities. This guide does not place additional compliance or regulatory burdens on the institutions. The guide is non-exhaustive and offers a complement to the respective policies and regulations of individual institutions.


More information can be found at