UZH is overhauling its governance structure, redefining the remits of the Executive Board and the deans and assigning more direct responsibilities to the faculties. We sat down with Josef Falkinger, head of the Governance 2020+ reform program, to find out more about the goals and aims driving the reorganization effort.
No other university in Switzerland is quite as diverse as UZH, which is home to almost the entire spectrum of academic disciplines. In order to accommodate this diversity even better in the future, the seven faculties at UZH will be given a greater say in their own affairs starting in August 2020. At the same time, the Executive Board of the University will be granted more scope for developing university-wide strategies. “We’re establishing a wider basis for governance at UZH,” says Gabriele Siegert, President ad interim.
The question of how to best lead an organization as complex as UZH is anything but trivial. How do you balance diversity with the need for organizational unity? The solution, which has been crafted as part of the Governance 2020+ reform program, is structured on a precisely defined distribution of roles between the Executive Board of the University and faculty leadership. The faculties are given independence and control over their core responsibilities: research, teaching, continuing education and services. The Executive Board of the University is responsible for developing a framework for the entire University.
“Our University is a bit like Switzerland’s federal system in the way it's set up,” says Siegert. In this comparison, the country’s 26 cantons are like UZH's seven faculties, each with distinctly different field-specific cultures and a large degree of autonomy. The Governance 2020+ program seeks to reform and develop the historical structures of UZH while strengthening the governing principle of subsidiarity. According to this principle, the faculties will take on a high degree of autonomy when it comes to their internal dealings, such as appointing professors, planning resources and managing staff. The intersection between the faculties and the Executive Board of the University will also undergo changes. Previously, the vice presidents represented the interests of the faculties on the Executive Board. Going forward, the deans of the respective faculties will take on this role themselves. With vice presidents no longer filling this representative role, they will be free to focus on issues that cut across the different faculties. “This will free up more capacity for the Executive Board to focus on developing strategies for the University as a whole and on tackling issues like digitalization, diversity, infrastructure, internationalization, sustainability and open access – issues that are highly significant for the future of our institution,” explains Siegert.