Aargau is a canton that is strong on education and research: even before the canton as such came into existence, the first secular academic high school in Switzerland was founded in Aarau. Today, about one-third of cantonal government spending is invested in developing and furthering Aargau's innovative education and research structures.
Development of the head, heart and hands is the credo of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi's educational theory. The educational reformer lived for many years in Aargau and is also buried here; true to his spirit, the canton has valued a good education system from the start.
Today's Alte Kantonsschule Aarau came into being in 1802 as the first Swiss academic high school to have a secular teaching force. It counts Albert Einstein, the Nobel Prize-winning father of the theory of relativity, among its former pupils. Modern-day Aargau has six academic high schools in the canton, as well as the for adults. The Neue Kantonsschule academic high school in Aarau and its counterpart in Wettingen have also broken new educational ground for Switzerland with their bilingual dual-major and International Baccalaureate programmes.
The in Aargau begins with two years of compulsory kindergarten followed by six years of primary school, with English taught from the third grade. Three levels of secondary school then round out the compulsory education period, after which students progress to high school or dual .
The canton of Aargau is both sponsor and primary base for the , which opened its doors in 2006. Since then, it has established itself as a strong university centre, thanks to collaborations both within FHNW as well as with the and the (PSI). Close ties to business are typical of the Aargau university scene. Since 2008, Aarau has been home to the , an organisation supported by the town of Aarau, the canton, the University of Zurich and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW). It contributes substantially to research on (direct) democracy and ensures that research results reach the public.
Aargau is also the location of Switzerland's largest research institute: the , a multidisciplinary research centre for engineering and natural sciences, which lies between Würenlingen and Villigen on both sides of the river Aare. With a staff or around 1500, it undertakes cutting-edge research in the fields of matter and materials, humans and health, energy and the environment. PSI develops, constructs and operates complex large-scale research installations. 2500 and more scientists from Switzerland and all over the world come to PSI each year to perform experiments that use the unique systems available here and which would not be possible at other facilities.
Aargau supports other national research institutions in addition to PSI: those include the at the University of Basel, the Competence Center Energy and Mobility at PSI and the in Aarau. Such commitment by the canton of Aargau leads to a concentration of research potential in northwestern Switzerland, especially in basic research and application-oriented fields.
To promote know-how and technology transfer from the universities to the Aargau economy, the canton supports the in Windisch and has established the Hightech Zentrum Aargau. Through the Aargau Research Fund, it promotes cooperation between universities and commercial enterprise. Companies based in the innovation park benefit from its geographical proximity to PSI. This is one of five sites that together constitute the Swiss Innovation Park.
The canton's innovative strength is evidenced by quite a string of private research institutions, notably the in Dättwil and the , which collaborates closely with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland.
Established and new companies based in Aargau stand to benefit from optimal conditions and services for driving innovation. Measures aimed at know-how and technology transfer are at the core of the programme. Aargau businesses, especially SMEs, thus get optimal access to the best technologies around and in this way raise their performance and competitiveness.
With substantial co-financing of the large-scale research facility at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Villigen, the canton is reaffirming its commitment to making Aargau a world-class research hub.
The Hightech Zentrum Aargau is a hub for innovation, promoting exchange and cooperation among companies, universities and research institutions. The experts at the Hightech Zentrum advise and mentor businesses with innovation projects, SMEs in particular. They connect enterprises with the right partners in academia, industry and technology so that innovation projects can thrive to fruition.
A boost to resources earmarked for the Aargau Research Fund is promoting broader-based cooperation between academia and business in Aargau. Commercial innovation projects are thus able to gain crucial impetus thanks to expertise sourced from university partners.
Aargau's university sites have all been brought together at the since 2013. The campus is also the seat of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), which is funded by four cantons. 3200 students and 1000 staff are based at the campus, which specialises in the fields of technology, education and economics. This consolidation and concentration produces better study conditions, as well as synergies with other research institutions and industry.