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Governance 2020+


Which areas did the preliminary project “Strengthening the Management of the University of Zurich: Structures, Processes and Culture” cover?

At the center of the Strengthening the Management of the University of Zurich: Structures, Processes and Culture project was a comparative analysis with the University of Copenhagen and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, as well as an analysis of the existing framework conditions and interests at UZH. Following consultation with the deans, the project also defined benchmark values for the further development of structures and processes at UZH.

In 2018, an application was made to the Board of the University to restructure the Executive Board of the University, in conjunction with the implementation of a package of measures to strengthen faculty management, improve the way in which responsibility is shared between the university-wide decision-making committees, and to optimize various core processes. This phase marked the completion of the Strengthening the Management of the University of Zurich: Structures, Processes and Culture project and the commencement of the implementation project.

What was the "Sustainable UZH Autonomy – Governance 2020+” program about?

At its core, the program aimed to implement a new management system at UZH, based on a systematic transfer of competencies from the Executive Board of the University to the deans and on the realignment of the Executive Board of the University. Further information on all aspects of the program is available here:

Reassigning competencies to faculties

Realignment of the Executive Board of the University


What is special about university governance?

Although academic learning and study are individual pursuits, they both take place in an organized manner and require the use of resources. The same principles that apply to companies and public institutions therefore also apply to universities: Good governance requires clear management structures, efficient processes and professional administration. The specific task of governance is based on the nature of a university’s core business. Academic learning cannot be managed top-down.

The new UZH management system is copying with this field of tension by widening the basic UZH management structure. The bottom-up component is expanded through the elevation of the dean’s office and the transfer of responsibilities and resources to the faculties. The Executive Board of the University will focus more heavily on the cross-faculty frameworks and university-wide strategic development.

What were the aims of the program?

The Executive Board of the University…

  • …shares a common understanding of the new management system at UL level.
  • …has clear management lines for each of its tasks. UL members perform their roles in line with the newly defined tasks, authority levels, and responsibilities.

regulation is in place for the Executive Board of the University (Organisationsreglement der UL), covering the tasks, authority levels, and responsibilities as well as the management organization.

The deans…

  • …have access to clear information on their new management tasks.
  • …are supported via clear interfaces to the Executive Board of the University.

How did the program help to ensure that UZH is equipped for the future?

The Executive Board of the University (UL) level (cross-faculty frameworks, responsibility for cross-faculty functions, and university-wide development) and the faculty level (core business of teaching and research; continuing education and services) are each strengthened to enhance UZH’s ability to adapt its strategy in an international competitive environment. These changes are based on the principle of university autonomy; both levels are empowered to take greater responsibility for the management of their own business.

Who was directly affected by the program?

The following parties were directly affected by the program:

  • The Executive Board of the University as a committee, plus each UL member and their support organization.
  • The deans and their management support in the dean’s offices.

Indirectly, the faculties and departments will notice that strategic deliberations will start to play a larger role; it will become more important to get involved in faculty development as there will be significantly more freedom for each faculty to shape its own development.

All employees will notice that the question of “Where is UZH headed?” will be tackled from a wider perspective.

Where is the program located within the strategic landscape of UZH

Excerpt from the UZH's Mission Statement:

2. The University of Zurich’s goals and responsibilities

UZH has successfully positioned itself among the world’s foremost universities.

3. Governance

UZH endeavors to achieve a spirit of shared responsibility and self-management when pursuing its goals and carrying out its responsibilities. The University acknowledges the specific demands placed on management structures at knowledge-based institutions.

Excerpt from the UZH's Leadership and Management Principles:

The University of Zurich (UZH) is a knowledge organization, which independently regulates its academic and organizational business with the relevant management structures. It aims to achieve a high degree of self-organization and to ensure joint responsibility on the part of its members.

Which topics were not covered by the program?

The following topics were not generally covered by the program:

  • Evaluation and accreditation
  • Governance of affiliated institutes
  • Governance in continuing education
  • Compliance

Governance topics that fall under the areas of individual UL members or are managed within their lines are only covered by the program if interfaces are required (from either a program or line management perspective). This includes, in particular, the appointment of Vice Presidents Medicine and Real Estate and Facility Management.

Why did UZH reform its management system?

  • The University has developed: Following the introduction of the University Act in 1998, UZH was granted greater autonomy. In 2006, the intermediary system placed the focus of the Executive Board of the University on management tasks at faculty level. Since then, the faculties have developed much more professional structures and are now ready to take greater responsibility for their own development.
  • The university environment is changing: The Kanton Zurich has given the University new responsibilities in the areas of Real Estate and University Medicine, and topics such as digitalization, globalization, diversity and equal opportunities, sustainability, and lifelong learning require more strongly focused strategic powers.

Will the new autonomy gained by the faculties weaken cohesion in the University as a whole?

The new management system is subject to the appropriate checks and balances and involves ongoing exchange between deans and members of the Executive Board of the University as part of the annual management cycle.

There are also strong centripetal forces at play,

  • including the shared desire to belong to an internationally leading university. The challenges associated with these forces generate scale and synergy effects, and can only be overcome through significant university-wide effort.
  • focusing the Executive Board of the University on cross-faculty tasks also creates a powerful framework that gives inter-faculty topics more weight than the previous system.

In the new model, will the deans become the managers of the professors?

Guidelines have been drafted to define the deans’ responsibilities in terms of managing professors. These guidelines incorporate progress meetings with the junior faculty and regular orientation meetings with associate and full professorsThese meetings ensure that faculty management and professorial staff engage in regular communication and help to promote strategic and quality development at faculty level.

The guidelines also set out the procedures in the event of breaches of rules, failure to uphold obligations, and conflicts.

Can a person still hold the role of dean of a faculty as a supplemental post?

The role is becoming more demanding. To account for the changes, the new University Statutes increase the term of office to four years. However, deans should still be able to maintain their professorships. The Executive Board of the University will ensure that the appropriate frameworks are in place.

Did dean’s offices require additional staff to fulfill their future role?

Yes, in some cases. The Executive Board of the University has made the relevant resources available. Support from cross-faculty services in the UL areas is also important; this will include planning tools and training.>

UZH has elevated the role of dean to a higher level of importance. Will this create a more hierarchical structure in the faculties?

Academic organizations can only be managed in a participatory way. The deans are aggregators of bottom-up forces. They respond to comments and ideas from faculty members and turn them into organized measures. They reflect the faculty’s understanding of itself to create a shared vision.

Why does the UL have a say in the appointment of the dean?

This is part of the system of checks and balances incorporated into the new management system between the faculty level and university management. The deans must uphold not only the interests of their faculty, but also the interests of the University as a whole.
However, the Executive Board of the University only plays a role in the Selection Committee. The deans will continue to be selected at the Faculty Assembly.