Strategic management & Strategic controlling

The ETH Board is responsible for the strategic management of the ETH Domain in compliance with the Federal Council’s strategic objectives (formerly: “performance mandate“). On this basis, and in dialogue with the institutions of the ETH Domain, the ETH Board prepares the strategic planning and supervises its implementation. The ETH Board issues controlling directives and carries out strategic controlling in the ETH Domain.

ERI Dispatch and strategic objectives for the ETH Domain

The Federal Council’s dispatch on the promotion of education, research and innovation (ERI Dispatch) is the Confederation’s key planning tool in the field of education. The ERI Dispatch comprises all national measures regarding vocational education and training, the ETH Domain, cantonal universities, universities of applied sciences, the promotion of research and innovation, and international cooperation.

The Federal Council’s strategic objectives for the ETH Domain also form part of the ERI Dispatch.

Strategic planning for the ETH Domain

In the ETH Board’s strategic planning for the ETH Domain, the ETH Board formulates the ETH Domain’s strategy for a performance period. Thus, the strategic planning is the central tool for defining the key areas in teaching, research and knowledge transfer, as well as science policy objectives and prioritised large-scale projects for the whole ETH Domain. The document also provides information about the necessary resources and serves the ETH Domain’s institutions as a guideline for their activities and development plans.

Development plans and target agreements

In keeping with their autonomous status, the ETH Domain’s institutions compile development plans, which are subject to the approval of the ETH Board. The latter ensures that these plans are in line with the Federal Council’s strategic objectives and the ETH Board’s strategic plan for the ETH Domain.

Based on the approval of development plans, the ETH Board enters into target agreements with the institutions. In these agreements, the requirements of the Federal Council’s strategic objectives and of the ETH Board’s strategic plan are broken down into objectives for the individual institutions. Alongside the basic mandate, the target agreements define the objectives and requirements for fulfilment of the strategic objectives.

According to the ETH Act, it is part of the ETH Board’s mission to issue controlling directives and to carry out strategic controlling in the ETH Domain. In the context of strategic controlling, the ETH Board primarily applies two instruments: firstly, a periodic exchange of information with the managements of the institutions of the ETH Domain; and secondly, various types of evaluations of institutions or parts of institutions of the ETH Domain. The results of the ETH Board’s controlling activities are also a component of its reporting to the Confederation and thus of the annual report and the intermediate evaluation (peer review).

Dialogue meetings

Every year, the members of the ETH Board conduct talks regarding the status of mission fulfilment (dialogues) with the managements of both Federal Institutes of Technology and the research institutes. The most important objectives of the dialogues are

  • reporting by the institutions on the extent to which the targets defined by the target agreements have been fulfilled (reporting part), and
  • an open exchange of information and thoughts concerning topical issues and strategic development initiatives (strategic part). 

One particular debating point of the strategic part is the positioning of the individual institutions in the ETH Domain, in the Swiss university and research landscape, and in the international competitive environment. 


Evaluations conducted by independent groups of experts enjoy a high status in the world of research. The ETH Board makes use of this instrument in three different forms:

I. Evaluations of individual units of the institutions (departments, faculties and research units) or of research institutes. The executive boards of the institutions carry out such evaluations roughly every eight years; the ETH Board takes cognisance of the results and raises certain points from them in the context of a dialogue.

II. In special cases, the ETH Board may itself commission evaluations as part of its supervisory function. This may be the case with cross-institutional areas or issue-centred evaluations for important strategic decisions.

III. Once half of the performance period has elapsed, the ETH Board compiles an “intermediate evaluation“ on behalf of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) to verify achievement of the strategic objectives. This evaluation and the ETH Board’s comments on it provide a basis for the strategic objectives in the subsequent performance period. The evaluations in the ETH Domain are part of the strategic controlling and quality assurance function stipulated by the ETH Act.