ETH Board, 11 March 2016

In its latest meeting, the ETH Board focused on the financial planning for the ETH Domain in detail after the Federal Council had announced the financial resources earmarked in its
2017–2020 ERI Dispatch. It is positive that the Federal Council has stipulated important focal points for education, research and innovation policy. The ETH Board, however, considers additional investments in the reinforcement of the innovative power in general and the ETH Domain in particular to be necessary. Nonetheless, severe cost-cutting measures at the two Federal Institutes of Technology and the four research institutes remain inevitable, as do salary measures and a socially compatible increase in tuition fees from autumn 2018.

At its meeting of 9/10 March 2016, the ETH Board allocated the financial resources for 2017 to the institutions and the large-scale strategic projects and discussed the funding of the ETH Domain for the new performance period of 2017–2020. This discussion took place after the Federal Council adopted and submitted to Parliament the Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation 2017–2020 (ERI Dispatch).

Inadequate resources for the ETH Domain

Owing to the upcoming parliamentary debates both on the ERI Dispatch and on the 2017–2019 Stabilisation Programme, the definite amount of financial resources available to the ETH Domain in 2017 has not yet been defined. For the time being, deliberations are based on an amount of CHF 2,489.1m. The major part of these funds will be employed for the basic mission and the operation of the two Federal Institutes in Zurich and Lausanne, as well as the four research institutes PSI, WSL, Empa and Eawag. In addition, however, the institutions will have to be able to invest in national research infrastructures and pioneering fields of research in order to safeguard the innovative power and competitiveness of the Swiss national economy in the long term.

The funding as planned according to the ERI Dispatch entails that in comparison with the ETH Domain’s own financial planning for 2017–2020, there will be a total shortfall of federal funds to the tune of CHF 830m. Whereas the ETH Domain provided evidence of an annual increase in strategic resource requirements of 3.5%, the Federal Council’s ERI Dispatch allows for merely 1.5%. This is the smallest growth rate for all ERI actors. This strikes the ETH Board as incomprehensible, nor is the funding earmarked for the ETH Domain adequate. The ETH Board will therefore seek the necessary corrections to be made by Parliament. Irrespective of this, the institutions of the ETH Domain will already have to initiate severe cost-cutting measures, for instance with regard to planned construction and renovation projects and current teaching and research activities.

Salary measures and a socially compatible increase in tuition fees

To ensure that the ETH Domain will be able to pursue its strategic objectives in spite of scarce resources, the numerous cost-cutting measures will mean that the area of human resources will inevitably be affected too. In view of the salary increases that have to be specified on an annual basis in the ETH Domain, the ETH Board’s plans for 2017 provide that the percentage of the corresponding wage bill will be reduced from 1.2% to 0.6% for the individual wage control of employees in the salary system of the ETH Domain.

With regard to tuition fees, the ETH Board is planning a socially compatible increase from autumn 2018. At less than CHF 1,300 p.a. the tuition fees at both Federal Institutes of Technology are relatively low in comparison with other Swiss universities and have not been increased in real terms for 20 years. Before definitively specifying the type and extent of the increase in tuition fees, the ETH Board will conduct a hearing of the university assemblies and student associations. Also, it will wait for the current reform of the ETH Act, which will be debated by the Federal Parliament in the current year.

Restrictions on immigration: research institutes and ETH particularly affected

The ETH Board is facing a strict quota system in connection with the implementation of the immigration initiative with misgivings. Swiss science depends on highly specialised experts from home and abroad. The research institutes of the ETH Domain such as Empa and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) alone employ specialists from more than 50 nations. The ETH Board thus calls for a separate solution for foreign researchers and students. Furthermore, the proposed Immigration Commission should also have representatives of Switzerland’s education and research sector among its members.

Quick approval of the Croatia protocol

The ETH Board welcomes the signature of the protocol for the extension of the EU’s free movement of persons to Croatia. It now counts on an expeditious approval of the protocol by the Federal Parliament in order to prevent Switzerland’s impending exclusion from Horizon 2020 in ten months. EU support monies, which amount to far more than CHF 100m p.a. for the ETH Domain, constitute a significant source of funding. It is at least as important, however, that Switzerland safeguards its access to knowledge and innovations in this way and that the country’s industries and SMEs do not suffer any disadvantages vis-à-vis international competitors.


For the appointment of professors by the ETH Board, see the ETH Board's separate press release (publication on 11 March 2016 at approx. 2 p.m.).