General historical background
In contrast to various other small countries Liechtenstein was able to maintain its sovereignty over the years. Important steps in this direction were the admission to the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806 as an independent state and to the German Confederation in 1815. In 1862 Liechtenstein adopted a new constitution that still placed the governmental powers with the Reigning Prince but stipulated that the Parliament could not be ignored anymore in law making.
In 1918 the first political parties emerged: the Christian-Social People's Party (Christlich-Soziale Volkspartei) and the Progressive Citizens' Party (Fortschrittliche Bürgerpartei). The following years saw new negotiations between the Prince and the Parliament which resulted in a new constitution that came into force in 1921. This constitution is still in force today with essential direct-democratic instruments like initiative and referendum. After the collapse of the monarchy in Austria Liechtenstein changed its orientation of foreign policy towards Switzerland. The custom's agreement with Austria was terminated in 1919. The following years and decades saw an ever-growing network of agreements negotiated with Switzerland, the most important one being the custom's agreement of 1923 that still forms the basis of a close partnership up to these days.
1938 saw the first governmental coalition of the two parties in Liechtenstein, this step was followed by proportional representation in the following year which was important for internal political stability in Liechtenstein. In 1938 Prince Franz Josef II. took up residence in Vaduz Castle as the first Reigning Prince. In the Second World War Liechtenstein was threatened by war and Anschluss to Hitler's Germany, however it escaped direct war activities and was able to make use of its location advantages. Liechtenstein benefitted, inter alia, from its central position and from the customs agreement with neutral Switzerland, from its tax advantages and from political stability, also there were no casualties among soldiers. The post-war period was characterised by a continuing economic upturn which changed Liechtenstein within a few decades from an agricultural country to a modern society with a diversified economy in the fields of industry and service sector. There was a need for new workers, the Liechtenstein economy relied more and more on foreign employees.
In various situations Liechtenstein strove for potential cooperation and participation in international organisations in order to justify and confirm its sovereignty as a small state within the international community. Starting from the fifties Liechtenstein joined – among others – the following organisations and institutions: International Court of Justice in The Hague (1950), OSCE (1975), Council of Europe (1978), UNO (1990), EFTA (1991), EEA (1995), and WTO (1995). Besides these Liechtenstein further develops the relations to both neighbouring Switzerland and Austria.
The first legal actions regulating Liechtenstein's education system date back to the beginning of the 19th century. The decree of 18th September 1805 released at the Princely Court Chancellery in Vienna may indicate the time of birth of the Liechtenstein education system. The decree to introduce compulsory schooling included seven points: the demand for a suitable teacher in each of the political communes, the regulated appointment and dismissal of teachers, the duration of the school year, the demand for a school fund in each of the communes, regulations concerning the construction of school buildings, compulsory education and the decree of a school plan.
On 31st July 1822 detailed school regulations followed that were incorporated into the school plan and into the school law of 1st August, including the conduct of pupils and students. The improvement of the school plan especially concerned the creation of the post of a countrywide inspectorate. The first proper school law dates of 5th October 1827 and came into force in the name of Prince John I. It included various changes and novelties like the abolition of school fees or the introduction of details on the qualifications and on the service conditions of the teachers.
In 1859 the first full school lawwhich was an effective one at the same time was decreed in Liechtenstein. This notably also meant an increase in school administration at local and at state level, a considerable expansion of the curricula of the elementary school (primary school), an extension of compulsory education to eight years, and further regulations on the service conditions and on the salary of the teachers.
The next fundamental school law was signed by Prince Franz I on 9th November 1929. It included all the relevant aspects of the education system existing at that time. For the first time the secondary schools were generally mentioned as "higher education establishments"; they were described as follows: "Among the higher education establishments are all those education establishments that are already existing or to be built which have to provide education going beyond the intentions and the limitations of elementary school in the fields of higher general or vocational education and training." The school law was changed various times and supplemented with additional laws.
In 1971 the current school law being considered true reform legislation became effective. Essential novelties were the reduction of primary school from six to five years from seven years onwards and an extension of secondary school to four years accordingly, as well as a new vertical structure of the lower secondary schools with Oberschule, Realschule and Gymnasium as types of school, the law also meant institutionalising auxiliary school and special school, and the specification of compulsory education to nine school years. A special feature in the development of the Liechtenstein education system can be seen in in the organisation of authorities with the National School Council as the supreme body. It was presided until 1969 by the education commissioner, then a clergyman of Liechtenstein. He was responsible for the management, the administration and organisation of the entire national education system. The local inspectorate was represented by the local priest. The members of the National School Council and the local priests further had the obligation to hold an annual "examination day" at the end of the school year that should provide a picture of the education of the pupils and students, certainly also of the performance of the teachers. These institutions were replaced by the Office of Education in the School Law of 1971.
Within the context of educational reforms in the sixties and early seventies the field of vocational education and training saw a progressive development as there was, until then, only a rudimentary structure. According to the constitution of 1921 the promotion of domestic and agricultural training and the education in trade were governmental responsibilities. The school law of 1929 obliged the vocational trainers to encourage their apprentices in the attendance of specialised courses, and the Apprenticeship Law of 1936 prescribed binding theoretical education and training.
The Law on Vocational Education and Training of 1976 finally regulated vocational education and training and took a more holistic view. The law covers all aspects of vocational education and training and includes the organisation of the relevant panels and authorities. Liechtenstein started offering its own higher education sector in 1992 when the law on higher technical colleges, on universities and research centres, now law on higher education formally became effective. It is the legal basis of tertiary education and describes the position and duties of the universities and their authorisation, it regulates the courses of study, admission requirements, the rights and obligations of the students, it specifies details of the teaching staff, of quality assurance and of state supervision. With the new law Liechtenstein implements the requirements of Bologna legislation that have been supported by Liechtenstein as a very small country right from the beginning and that have been partly implemented and put into practice before that date.
Adult education and especially its promotion were regulated 1979 with the Law on the Promotion of Adult Education. In 1998 the Adult Education Liechtenstein Foundation was given the permission for planning, coordination and promotion of adult education within the new Law about the Adult Education Liechtenstein Foundation.
A form of pre-school education that was offered and organised by the public sector in Liechtenstein only came about after regulating elementary school (primary school) and after the foundation of the first “higher education establishment” (lower secondary schools). In 1881 the first Kindergarten opened its doors in the commune of Schaan. Further communes only hesitantly followed this example, so consequently the development of the system of Kindergarten took its time until 1965.
A special role in the development of pre-school education since the beginnings can be attributed to Catholic nuns. Over decades they organised Kindergarten settings and considerably contributed towards the development and the preservation of a medical and social supply network in Liechtenstein. Initially the Kindergarten settings were placed in elementary schools, today all the municipalities display their own infrastructure together with an optimum offer of Kindergarten places.
An essential course of development took place regarding pedagogical and organisational purposes. According to reports after the turn of the century Kindergarten was little more than “places to keep the children”. These days Kindergarten is a type of school with its own clearly described pedagogical objectives and didactic specifications embedded in the curriculum. The guidelines of quality assurance and the system of quality development of state schools also apply to Kindergarten.
The new version of the Teachers' Service Conditions Law of 2003 shows a modificated education profile and new appointment conditions for Kindergarten teachers. Similarly to the teachers at primary and lower secondary schools Kindergarten teachers complete their training at a recognised university of teacher education following adequate admission requirements. Kindergarten teachers are civil servants and therefore subordinated to standardised appointment conditions of the state administration (including salary and social services).
The rudimentary information available about the origins of Liechtenstein's education system shows that in 1719, when the County of Vaduz and the Dominion of Schellenberg received the status of an Imperial Principality, a minimum of half a dozen of village schools existed as elementary schools. At the turn of the century of the 18th and 19th century all the political communes had their own elementary school, mostly as one-class schools for several age groups. In 1805 compulsory schooling was introduced; teaching was done by the local priest or by laymen who were appointed by the parish. The educational level of the elementary schools remained a very low one in the first half of the 19th century.
The educational activities of Catholic nuns starting at the middle of the 19th c. resulted in an improvement of schooling. Additionally, prospective Liechtenstein teachers started attending teacher training institutions in both neighbouring Switzerland and Vorarlberg for the acquisition of the necessary methodological and didactic skills. The first school law of 1827 not only described content and structure of the elementary schools, it also mentioned details on the performance progress of the pupils, on the education and the appointment and the pay of the teachers and the teaching nuns, as well as on the available schoolrooms.
Initially, as the curriculum of 1822 shows, teaching was focussing on the main subjects Religious Education, reading, writing and arithmetics for "the necessary knowledge of the peasants". However, as the school laws of 1859 and 1929 show, the curriculum and the requirements of subjects, methodologies and pedagogical contents and competencies found an increasing importance.
In the wake of the introduction of the school law of 1971 primary school was reduced to five years and education was considerably reformed. Novelties included induction classes and pre-school education that facilitated the transition to primary school, or support measures e.g. the teaching of German for children with foreign languages. In 1996 English language education started at the third grades of primary school, in 1999 the previous numeral marks were replaced by the assessment of learning in a goal-oriented mode.
In 1985 beside the state primary schools private Waldorf School was founded in Schaan, and in 1995 this was followed by another private school, the day-care centre Formatio. An overall reason for the changes in education are the increased efforts for and the promotion of a better consideration of the children's and adolescents' individual needs; the same is true for the issue of quality assurance. On this background a new curriculum for compulsory education was decreed accordingly.
At the beginning of Liechtenstein's educational history teaching was done by untrained teachers or by teachers only possessing rudimentary teaching skills. The school law of 1929 still did not attribute higher importance to teacher education which was being treated in a short manner and without any particular qualification profile. The school law of 1971 showed manifestations of an education system that had received a considerably more complex structure. It also revealed more clear-cut qualification profiles of the teachers. Teaching at primary school required a teaching diploma that until recently could be acquired at a teacher-training seminar at upper secondary level. From the nineties onwards Switzerland introduced a coordinated form of teacher training that had been relocated at universities (“tertiarising” teacher education). This included the establishment of new universities of teacher education and the abolition of the traditional teacher-training seminars. Universities of teacher education award the titles of “Bachelor of Arts” or “Bachelor of Science” together with the teaching degree (cf. EDK Switzerland). The all-round education enables the teachers to teach all or the majority of the subjects at primary school. Legislative references: Curriculum of the Principality of Liechtenstein School Law Ordinance on the Organisation of the Public Schools.
General education at lower secondary schools
From the middle of the 19th c. beside primary schools secondary schools were founded based on quite moderate demands but still gradually improving the education system. In 1858 the Landeshauptschule or the Landesrealschule (type of secondary school) was established in Vaduz following a private initiative and based on private sponsoring. This was the starting point for the “Landesschule” (type of secondary school) later on that for the first time admitted girls in 1870. The education level was roughly comparable with an Austrian or German “Bürgerschule” or with a Swiss secondary school. In 1873 the Sisters of the order of Christian Love founded a private secondary school for young ladies at Gutenberg House in Balzers that they operated until 1918. In 1906 the first lower secondary school was opened in Eschen as a “secondary school”.
Particularly it was also religious initiatives that led to a further development of the education system by focussing on the rather poor education of the girls. In 1922 the Adorers of the Blood of Christ from Rankweil (A) founded a school for housekeeping in Balzers, in 1935 the convent of Schaan was founded where they continued their teaching activities for girls. 1974 saw the opening of the Realschule St Elisabeth (secondary school) for girls that is state-run since 1994 and has been open to both girls and boys as the secondary school of Schaan since then.
The education system for the boys was a more integral one. In Balzers Swiss La Salette fathers operated a Progymnasium (pre baccalaureate school) for boys from 1935 to 1939 as a complementary school of their baccalaureate school in Central Switzerland, and additionally from 1954 to 1973 a lyceum for the last two classes of their school. In 1937 the Marist Brothers from German Bavaria founded a private Realgymnasium (baccalaureate school), Collegium Marianum, in Vaduz. Before that young men from Liechtenstein received their baccalaureate education mainly at the baccalaureate school in Feldkirch that was being operated by Jesuits, or in catholic boarding schools in Central Switzerland.
The further development of Collegium Marianum was not without problems. Opponents saw dangers in the new course of education concerning the existing Landesschulen or even in the “surplus production” of future academics. In addition there was a lack of qualified teachers and adequate classrooms, and the Liechtenstein baccalaureate was not yet recognised by the foreign universities, i.e. neither in Switzerland nor in Austria. This irritating development induced the order to operate only a Progymnasium paralleled by an economic baccalaureate school. The state gradually increased its financial support which led to the abolition of the school fees in 1969 and to a bigger influence of the state. An increasing number of secular teachers were appointed at the school that changed the name into “Liechtenstein Gymnasium” in 1969. At the same period also girls were accepted in baccalaureate education. In 1975 Switzerland agreed to recognise the Liechtenstein baccalaureate. In 1976 an agreement was signed between Liechtenstein and Austria that recognised the equivalence of the baccalaureate certificates, an agreement that was extended in 1982. The Conference of the Ministers of Education and of Cultural Affairs of the FRG had already recognised this branch of education in 1952. These courses of development and especially the lack of successors in the order induced the order (in 1981) to finally hand the school over to the state as the responsible body.
A considerable change at lower secondary school was initiated by the School Law of 1971. It was based on progressive international development and brought new structural elements to the education system. According to international practice a new basic classification was made between primary schools and secondary schools. After five regular years at primary school the next steps of the educational career could be made either at Oberschule, Realschule or at baccalaureate school. At the end of 2000 the School Law was changed in order to allow a comprehensive reform of upper secondary school and to facilitate the vocational baccalaureate. Baccalaureate education was somewhat shortened and the overall education was reduced to twelve years.
Vocational education and training
Because of its agricultural focus Liechtenstein's economy permitted trade and small businesses merely as side line jobs well into the 19th century. Relevant education possibilities to this end were mainly offered abroad. It was only after the middle of the 19th c. that vocational training developed in this direction. From 1860 evening courses were organised for workmen and farmhands. Girls attended "Industrieschule" ("industrial school") with compulsory education for school-leavers in needlework and housekeeping at Sunday school, beginning in 1861 boys attended "Handwerkerschule" ("school for workmen"). In addition from 1865 courses in drawing that were especially focussing on the building sector were offered to older adolescents and to men.
The Trade Regulations of 1910 determined an apprenticeship certificate and a two-year period of assistance to be a requirement for self-employed trade activities. In 1925 the apprenticeship committee was set up which arranged apprenticeship positions, certified contracts and took the final exams. From the middle of the twenties until the thirties continuing training courses were offered in the fields of technical drawing, accounting and needlework. In 1929 the school law induced the so-called compulsory Fortbildungsschule (continuation school) for school-leavers after elementary school. It prepared the girls for a life as a housewife and the boys for the work in a trade; it was abolished by the school law of 1971.
In 1936 the first apprenticeship law became effective; it stipulated that the apprentices attend theoretical and specialist education in addition to the training in a host company. This dual vocational education system became the basis for vocational education and training.
In the course of the economic growth after World War II an increased number of apprenticeship positions and lines of training could be found in Liechtenstein. State, industry and trade increasingly promoted this type of education and training that proved to be extremely important for the local economy. Bigger businesses started their own apprentice training departments. And in 1961 the Abendtechnikum (technical evening college) was founded offering advanced professional part-time education in the fields of science education in mechanical engineering, in construction engineering and in architecture (cf. chapter on universities).
1947 saw the creation of a careers advisory service with a part-time position for careers advice which was extended in 1965 incorporating a full-time position. In 1981 the vocational information centre was opened, and in 2006 the careers advisory services merged with the Office of Vocational Training and Career Counselling. Designs for a vocational school failed to become concrete in 1935 and in 1981. Instead, arrangements with vocational schools in Switzerland or rather with the canton of St. Gallen were made; they resulted in a comprehensive agreement in 1971. In the course of developing tertiary education from 1992 the Liechtenstein Office of Education offered a preparatory course to obtain vocational baccalaureate education ("Vorbereitungslehrgang Fachhochschulreife"). After successful completion of this course students were accepted at Liechtensteinische Ingenieurschule (Liechtenstein Ingeneering School, former Abendtechnikum) and at Neu-Technikum Buchs ( technical college Buchs) in the neighbouring village in Switzerland.
The preparatory course for baccalaureate education was incorporated in educational legislation in 1994 as a new type of school and was renamed in Vocational Baccalaureate School in 2001 (Berufsmittelschule BMS). BMS certification entitled the students to access to all universities in Switzerland and in Austria as well as to Swiss universities of applied sciences.
The Law on Vocational Education and Training of 1976distinguished between apprenticeship and basic apprenticeship with lower demands to be accomplished in full-time or part-time vocational schools. This Law additionally regulated continuing professional education and retraining. The Law on Vocational Education and Training of 2008 changed the term apprenticeship into the term Vocational Education and Training (VET). A newly introduced element was a two-year VET programme resulting in a VET certificate. In addition the demands on vocational trainers in the host companies were described in legislation, too.
The Law on Vocational Education and Training promotes – inter alia – transparency and permeability between particular training programmes in the education system, the balance in education opportunities, gender equality; it encourages the abolition of discrimination against disabled persons, and international cooperation and mobility. While young men traditionally had been supported by the education in technical fields young women for a long time only had a very small choice of training programmes. In addition to the rather traditional female occupations as a dressmaker, shop assistant or as a midwife, from the middle of the sixties this limited scale was extended and included professions in the fields of education, commerce and health services. Step by step women were granted similar education opportunities like men and boys.
First efforts for the foundation of a university were made by foreign initiators, German scientists to some extent who apparently wanted to establish higher education institutions in Liechtenstein because they had a sense of foreboding of the political development in Germany.
The forerunner of tertiary education finally turned out to be the Abendtechnikum (technical evening college - the current University of Liechtenstein). Beside offering basic training for future engineers Abendtechnikum also provided continuing professional education in technical fields. In 1963 the departments of architecture and civil engineering were added to the previous department of mechanical engineering. In 1965 Abendtechnikum was renamed Höhere Technische Lehranstalt (higher technical school), and in 1988 Liechtensteinische Ingenieurschule (LIS - Liechtenstein Ingeneering School).
Two years previously, in 1986, private International Academy of Philosophy (IAP) was founded in Liechtenstein which corresponded to the setting up of the first university in Liechtenstein. Additionally 1986 saw the foundation of the Liechtenstein-Institute in Bendern as a university-like institute. In 1992 Liechtensteinische Ingenieurschule LIS was recognised as a university of applied sciences within the framework of the Law on Higher Technical Colleges and on Research Institutes, at the same time the department of business information technology was integrated into the institution. In 1997 LIS was transformed into University of Applied Sciences Liechtenstein as a foundation under public law whose responsible bodies still were the state and organisations from the local businesses and the economy. Because of a strategic realignment in 2002 the two technical departments of mechanical engineering and of civil engineering were closed, and the department of business information technology was transformed into the department of economics with its institutes of Entrepreneurship, Financial Services and Information Systems.
On the background of the changed university system in Liechtenstein changes in legislation seemed to be needed also in connection with the development of the Bologna reforms: that's why the Law of 1992 on Higher Technical Colleges and on Research Institutes was repealed and replaced by the skeleton Law on Higher Education of 2004 (Higher Education Law). It is the legal basis for tertiary education and details the responsibilities and the position of the universities, approval procedures, courses of study and admission requirements; it also regulates rights and obligations of the students, issues of the teaching staff, quality assurance and the supervision by the state. In this way Liechtenstein implements the requirements of the Bologna processes on legislative grounds, requirements that Liechtenstein as a very small country has welcomed from the very beginning and has partly put into practice already at an earlier stage.
In February 2005 the University of Applied Sciences was transformed into Liechtenstein Academy. In July 2008 the government granted Liechtenstein Academy the right to offer doctoral degrees. On 1st September 2009 graduate school was established which brought master's and doctoral degrees together under the same roof. Together with the Law on University of Liechtenstein in February 2011 Liechtenstein Academy was transformed into University of Liechtenstein. Since 2000 postgraduate Private University is existing in Triesen.
The Liechtenstein authorities undertook to offer courses for continuing professional development on an occasional and unsystematic basis from the second half of the 19th century. In most of the cases they were a byproduct of other initiatives. The school for workmen (Handwerkerschule) that had been introduced in 1861 by ordinance, and supplementary drawing courses were open to older adolescents and men beside students of compulsory continuing education.
First mentions of courses for adults date back to 1923. Teachers of the two secondary schools offered evening courses in various school subjects that were paid by the government. At the end of the thirties the newly opened Collegium Marianum in Vaduz (baccalaureate school) organised evening courses in shorthand and in languages for some time.
It was only in 1957/58 that the state authorities organised courses of continuing professional development for adults. They were organised by the careers advisory service, there was therefore no connection to the actual school authorities. In 1974 the Vocational Guidance Centre coordinated its offers with additional courses of a comprehensive programme. Further offers of adult education were made by the Trade Cooperative (Gewerbegenossenschaft), by the employees' association (Arbeitnehmerverband) and by the Women Farmers' Association (Bäuerinnenverband) in technical fields and in personality development. Several big industrial companies organised internal and external courses of mostly technical character. Employees were increasingly encouraged to attend external courses.
Liechtenstein saw a first upturn of general adult education in 1948 in the foundation of an Adult Education Centre (Volkhochschule) which was devised by the parish priest of Schaan, Kanonikus Johannes Tschuor. The Adult Education Centre of Schaan remained one of the main responsible bodies in cultural activities in Liechtenstein for two decades until the last course offered in 1976. At around 1960 there were the Society for Adult Education (Liechtensteinisches Bildungswerk – Verein für Erwachsenenbildung), a catholic education network in Lower Liechtenstein (Katholisches Bildungswerk Liechtensteiner Unterland) that included activities in the fields of adult education and careers advisory services, together with the "Stefanuskreis Liechtenstein".
The first efforts to offer an adult education scheme that was both structured and institutionalised originated from ecclesiastical initiatives which show that from the seventies the Roman Catholic Church increasingly promoted adult education both as an organiser and as a responsible body. Particular catholic parishes along with the Protestant communities of Liechtenstein organised various courses on religious and general adult education.
In 1963 Liechtenstein joined the European Federation for Catholic Adult Education (Europ. Föderation für kath. Erwachsenenbildung). For a better coordination with the Western neighbour Liechtenstein joined forces with several Swiss organisations in the "Catholic Working Group for Swiss and Liechtenstein Adult Education" (Kath. Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Erwachsenenbildung der Schweiz und des Fürstentums Liechtenstein KAGEB).
In 1964 the government set up the Advisory Board for Culture and Young People (Kultur- und Jugendbeirat) that assumed patronage of the so-called hobby courses. At the beginning the organisation of the courses was with this advisory board itself, but later on it was transferred to private individuals. In the middle of the seventies the Vocational Guidance Centre assumed these responsibilities. In connection with preparatory work on the new School Law of 1971 there were considerations to prepare legislation on general and professional adult education and on vocational education and training, but they failed for various reasons. It was only in 1965 that vocational education and training had been regulated along with continuing adult education and training; regulations on the promotion of general adult education only followed in 1979. These regulations proved necessary because of the increasing number of organisations offering courses in this field. In 1979 followed the foundation of the Adult Education Committee (Erwachsenenbildungskommission).
In addition a position for adult education was created which equally became active in 1979 and published its first course programme that autumn. In the following years its activities grew showing an increasingly differentiated number of course offers. Continuing adult education and training offering professional and semi-professional training was now separate from general adult education with its extensive course programme.
There were however a few, but reliable programmes like continuing education courses that were offered by the Vocational Guidance Centre. According to the Law on Vocational Education and Training of 1976 the Office of Vocational Training and Career Counselling was expressively authorised not only to recognise vocational continuing education courses, but to organise such courses if necessary on their own initiative.
In addition to local courses the authorities also published adult education courses from the neighbouring areas. In 1999 the “Adult Education Liechtenstein” Foundation was established by parliamentary decision as an umbrella organisation for adult education. Its responsibilities include the coordination of adult education in Liechtenstein, the allocation of the budgetary means approved by the Landtag according to the Law on Adult Education, and altogether to promote adult education in Liechtenstein.
According to the Law of 1998 the “Adult Education Liechtenstein” Foundation is a foundation under public law, but is an autonomous institution governed by the board of trustees and by the management. The board of trustees is appointed by the government for four years each time. The management of the foundation is appointed by the government at the request and at the application of the board of trustees.
Bilateral and international cooperation in education
On the background of its own limited educational services Liechtenstein has signed various agreements with the neighbouring countries. In 1974 Liechtenstein reached an agreement with Switzerland to evaluate and recognise Liechtenstein baccalaureate certificates based on Swiss criteria. Since 1978 there have been agreements with Switzerland on the participation in education at upper secondary school and at vocational school. On joining the “Inter-cantonal Agreement on the Provision of School Fees for Higher Education” in 1981 (Interkantonale Vereinbarung über Hochschulbeiträge) equivalence of students from Liechtenstein in Switzerland is accepted and financial compensation for students from Liechtenstein is arranged.
In 1977 an agreement with Austria was reached that allowed students with a Liechtenstein baccalaureate certificate to be admitted at Austrian universities. Other treaties followed that regulated equivalence and recognition and which were subsumed in the “Agreement on Equivalence in the Area of Diplomas and Tertiary Education”, treaties that were extended considering actual developments in higher education in both countries.
The school-based components of vocational education and training and the ones of advanced vocational education, and the education programmes at universities of applied sciences were made accessible for students from Liechtenstein with the participation in the “Inter-cantonal Agreement on Vocational Schools” of 1999. Joining the Regional School Agreement of EDK-East (Regionales Schulabkommen EDK-Ost) also led to regulations regarding the access and financial compensation of the Swiss cantons for education programmes at tertiary level (vocational education and training, and supplementary studies at the universities of teacher education of EDK-East for fully trained teachers). Within this framework Liechtenstein also confirms to grant access to students from the neighbouring Swiss cantons to Liechtenstein Vocational Baccalaureate School according to the terms of the agreement.
In higher education Liechtenstein participates in the Bologna process intending to create permeability at national and international level and to maintain mobility in order to strengthen the education system and accordingly to promote competitiveness. In 1994 Liechtenstein joined the UNESCO convention on the recognition of degrees in higher education, of university diplomas and of academic degrees in Europe. Since 1997 Liechtenstein has been a member of the joint convention of the Council of Europe and of the UNESCO, of the so-called "Lisbon Recognition Convention". This convention is the basis of the contracting states to strive for conditions that help to establish as free a study design as possible (registration, credits for semesters abroad, recognition of bachelor degrees, scholarships), and to promote the principle of non-discrimination of foreign students.
By signing the Bologna declaration in 1999 Liechtenstein undertook to participate in the collective process of establishing a unified European higher education area and to adopt the decisions of all the follow-up conferences. The revised version of the Higher Education Law of 2004 included the measures introduced within the framework of the Bologna reform process and declared them binding for all state and private schools as well as for the university-like institutions. The introduction of the instruments that are typical for the Bologna reform process (ECTS, levels, Diploma Supplement) were relatively quickly implemented in Liechtenstein, which was mainly due to Liechtenstein's small size. The decision to develop the National Qualification Framework (NQ.FL-HS) in 2008 made Liechtenstein follow the obligations resulting from the Bergen Conference (2005) committing Liechtenstein to develop national qualification frameworks that are consistent with the comprehensive qualifications framework for European higher education (Bologna framework). Measures for a better recognition of the educational certificates and of the academic degrees are indeed of great importance for a small state like Liechtenstein with its high degree of academic and professional transnational mobility. The national office for issues of academic recognition (Nationale Informationsstelle für akademische Anerkennungsfragen NARIC) counsels and informs individuals as well as institutions in questions of academic recognition. It is in the hands of the respective university to decide on the recognition for the purpose of admission to the study programmes.
Since joining the EEA (EWR) in 1995, Liechtenstein has also been taking part in the EU education programmes Erasmus+ and Education. The Agency for International Educational Affairs (AIBA) as the national agency for Liechtenstein, is the central point of contact for all international education programs. Furthermore, AIBA supervises and coordinates regional programmes in the field of education and is responsible for the international vocational world championships, WorldSkills, the National Qualifications Framework NQFL and the implementation of the EEA Grants Program in the field of Scholarship.