This paper analyses the formation and development of educational research institutions within the educational administration using the example of four research institutions in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The analysis gives insight into the institutionalisation process of education research outside the university with special focus on the formation process, actors involved and goals defined. Since the end of the 1950s cantonal parliaments and later the Swiss Science Council requested educational research to remain competitive in a changing post-industrial world. The study strengthens the assumption that educational research conquered a place in the world of relevance as scientific approaches became a necessary precondition for legitimising political and administrative processes. The transnational scientific discourse was of indirect and direct importance although the modus of influence often remains covert. The empirical material shows that certain collective and individual actors played an important role during the years of institutionalisation.