The Confederation specifies the constitutional mandate to run the Federal Institutes of Technology in the ETH Act. This statute also regulates the legal foundations for the operation of the research institutes of the ETH Domain.

The Federal Act on the Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH Act) defines the status, structure and mission of the ETH Domain. The open rules it defines are a key prerequisite in order for the ETH Domain’s two Federal Institutes of Technology and four research institutes to be able to keep pace with technical and scientific developments and with international competition. According to these legislative provisions, the ETH Domain is autonomous and affiliated to the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER). The ETH Board is the strategic management body of the ETH Domain.

Mission and management

According to the principal mission of the institutions of the ETH Domain (Art. 2 ETH Act), both Federal Institutes of Technology and the four research institutes are to do the following:

  • Educate students and qualified staff in scientific and technical fields and provide permanent continuing education.
  • Expand scientific findings through research.
  • Foster upcoming young scientists.
  • Render scientific and technical services.
  • Perform public relations activities and exploit their research findings.

The institutions of the ETH Domain discharge their mission to an internationally recognised standard. They take account of Switzerland’s needs and promote international cooperation.

Strategic objectives and global budget

The ETH Act codifies the autonomy of both the ETH Domain and its institutions, establishing a separation between political, strategic and operational management. The political authorities specify performance standards and key financial parameters while the ETH Domain, as a service provider, is responsible for implementation of the specifications. The latter is also subject to parliamentary supervision.

Definition of policies is the responsibility of the Federal Parliament and the Federal Council: they guide the ETH Domain by way of a four-year budgetary framework, the strategic objectives of the Federal Council (which are matched to the budget, and were referred to until 2016 as the “performance mandate“) and the annual credit allocation. The budgetary framework is part of the Federal Council’s Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation (ERI Dispatch). The annual credit allocation from parliament takes account of the ETH Domain’s performance. The ETH Board’s reporting system is crucial to providing information about financing and goal achievement: in the annual report, the ETH Board indicates how the annual federal financial contribution has been used. In its self-evaluation report after half of the performance period having elapsed, the ETH Board indicates the extent to which the Federal Council’s strategic objectives have already been met. The self-evaluation report by the ETH Board provides a basis for the external evaluation (peer review) of the ETH Domain to be undertaken by the EAER. During this evaluation, external specialists are consulted to assess how the ETH Domain’s strategic objectives are being met. The EAER gives parliament an intermediate report on the degree of target achievement whenever a budgetary framework application is made for the next performance period (Art. 34a ETH Act).

The ETH Board is responsible for the strategic management of the ETH Domain (see p. 19 ff.). Operational management within the ETH Domain is the responsibility of both Federal Institutes of Technology and the four research institutes. They assume all responsibilities which are not assigned to the ETH Board by the ETH Act. Executive management of the institutions of the ETH Domain is the responsibility of the members of the Executive Boards of both Federal Institutes of Technology and the members of the directorates of the four research institutes.