Four Questions for the President

The President explains why the University of Zurich should increase its international visibility.

David Werner

Michael Hengartner, UZH ranks among the best research universities in the world. Is this also reflected in how UZH is perceived on the international stage?

Michael Hengartner: Our university has a very good reputation internationally, but in terms of our achievements and quality, we should be getting even more global exposure. Looking at specific measurable criteria such as the proportion of most-cited academic publications, UZH is up there in the international champions league on a level with Oxford and ETH. But in terms of reputation, UZH is lower down the international rankings.

Why is that?

One of the reasons is that we have paid too little attention to how we are perceived internationally. In typical retiring Swiss fashion, we relied on the quality of our work speaking for itself, and haven’t done enough to make our achievements known on the global stage. This lack of action will now be remedied.

How do you plan to do this?

We want to significantly increase the number of student exchanges and will continue to step up international cooperation in all areas of the university, from teaching to research. And this means building on our partnerships and networks. For example, we want to make the most of the opportunities that our current strategic partnerships provide for exchange and cooperation in the future. We also want to take a more active role at international forums and work more closely with international organizations on research projects. And not least, we need to present ourselves more effectively – and thus draw more attention to UZH’s achievements in research and teaching. To significantly raise our global profile, we must have a clear plan of how to position our university with a clear, recognizable and distinctive image.

Why are you so committed to promoting the internationalization of UZH?

Academic learning is about exchange – across all kinds of borders. International networks are indispensable when it comes to doing excellent research, and the same goes for excellent university education. Studying means broadening your horizons. This includes gaining international experience. I strongly recommend all our students to study at a university abroad, if not for a whole semester, then at least as part of a summer program.