Planned cuts in the ETH Domain affect strategically important projects

At its meeting on 6–7 March, the ETH Board debated the budget cuts and their effects on the projects of the ETH Domain institutions. Several nationally significant research infrastructure projects and a number of strategic initiatives cannot be implemented. In addition, the ETH Board decided how resources will be allocated, and approved the consolidated reporting for 2023.

Federal government budget cuts jeopardise fulfilment of tasks

From 2025, the ETH Domain will have around CHF 100 million p.a. less in funding available to it than originally planned. Owing to a one-off cut of a further CHF 100 million for 2025, the reduction will be as much as CHF 200 million next year. These massive cuts to loosely tied expenditures, which have been proposed as part of the government’s “debt brake”, weaken the ETH Domain and create difficulties for it in fulfilling its tasks on behalf of Switzerland’s economy and society. The reserves are managed actively, and in 2023 they were reduced by CHF 180 million. They are being used to finance teaching and research as well as being invested in urgently needed building-infrastructure projects, e.g. a new-build with auditoria and study places plus the replacement of a new cooling system that was contaminated with quagga mussels, both at EPFL. The cuts are resulting in a structural deficit which in the longer term cannot be offset by the reserves.

Due to the lack of financial resources, the ETH Board has decided not to go ahead as planned with several projects and initiatives. In terms of capital expenditure, priority will be given to upgrading existing research infrastructure, especially in the area of digitalisation. No investment in new research infrastructure – which the Swiss National Science Foundation regards as being in the national interest – can be undertaken at present. One of the proposed projects would have developed innovative solutions for sustainable agriculture, and another was expected to help Switzerland make advances in electron microscopy – a field in which the Nobel Prize for 2017 was awarded to a Professor at the University of Lausanne and graduate of the EPFL. Calls for projects for Joint Initiatives in the ETH Domain’s Strategic Areas of “Human Health”, “Advanced Materials and Key Technologies” and “Responsible Digital Transformation” will have to be shelved because there are insufficient funds at present. Fewer funds are now available for the Swiss AI Initiative than had initially been anticipated.

Resource allocation for 2025

The allocation of resources has also taken place against this background of pressure to save money. The ETH Board has awarded the bulk of the federal funding for 2025 to the two Federal Institutes of Technology, ETH Zurich and EPFL, and the four research institutes, PSI, WSL, Empa and Eawag, partly for their core missions and partly for the implementation of their development plans. Despite the financial constraints, ETH Zurich and EPFL will in 2025 receive a small increase in their basic teaching budget, as teaching remains the core task of the two Federal Institutes of Technology. This short-term increase will not, however, be sufficient to prevent a structural deficit from arising, as it is a one-off measure. All in all, it is probable that less direct federal funding will be available to the ETH Domain and its various institutions in 2025 than in 2024. Parliament will make the final decision about the 2025 budget for the ETH Domain during the winter session.

Work continues on developing the organisation and structure of the ETH Domain

Despite the financial difficulties, the ETH Board is currently working on the organisational development of the ETH Domain in order to make it fit for the future, ensuring that it is better equipped for the urgent challenges now facing it as well as those that lie further ahead. A number of working groups are currently occupied with fleshing out this project. The aim is to develop an optimally structured organisation in which the outstanding capacities of the ETH Domain’s institutions can be targeted on finding solutions to the big societal challenges of our time, such as climate change, new energy sources, biodiversity, digital transformation and cybersecurity. A regularly updated description of the project to optimise the ETH Domain’s organisation and structure may be found on the ETH Board’s website (Link).

ETH Board rejects an increase in tuition fees for foreign nationals who move to Switzerland to study

The ETH Board discussed a possible tripling of tuition fees per semester payable by foreign students who take up residence in Switzerland in order to study. The proposal was aimed at increasing foreign students’ contribution to the cost of their studies. The ETH Board sees the equal treatment of all students and diversity thanks to the presence of international students as a key element in the provision of high-quality education. Given the skills shortage, this is also in the interests of the Swiss economy. Therefore, the plan to implement a differentiated increase in tuition fees was rejected.

Consolidated reporting on the ETH Domain for 2023

The ETH Board has approved the consolidated reporting on the ETH Domain for 2023, which was reviewed and certified by the Federal Audit Office (SFAO). The annual report and the financial report of the ETH Board will now be sent to the Federal Council for approval and then published. In the consolidated reporting and the annual report, the ETH Board records on the extent to which the Federal Council’s Strategic Objectives for the ETH Domain for the period 2021–2024 have been met. The financial report provides detailed and transparent information about the 2023 financial year.

ETH Board pleased with the prospect of negotiations with the EU

The ETH Board is pleased about the positive developments in the negotiations with the EU. The formal negotiations on Horizon Europe are to start in parallel with those relating to the overall package. The ETH Board welcomes the Federal Council’s intention to begin negotiating at the earliest opportunity; it hopes that the consultation round will yield positive results and that conferral of a negotiating mandate upon the Federal Council will soon be approved.

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Contact

Gian-Andri Casutt

Head of Communications

+41 58 856 86 06

E-Mail

ETH Board

Häldeliweg 15

8092 Zurich

Drucken

Contact

Gian-Andri Casutt

Head of Communications

+41 58 856 86 06

E-Mail

ETH Board

Häldeliweg 15

8092 Zurich

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