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University Politics

101 tuition fees

Everything you need to know about the current tuition fee discussions

Feeling confused or downright overwhelmed? Curious about the (very) vibrant purple and orange VSETH campaign posters? Looking for explanations on the upcoming Swiss parliament vote that proposes tripling tuition fees for foreign students under the ETH Law? Well, you’re in the right place! Step into my (virtual) office, and let me tell you a tale involving budgets, missing millions, and an unhappy student association. Maybe you should sit down… Are you ready? Alright, let’s dive in!

To understand the whole situation we are in, we need to go back in time to autumn last year. At this point in time the federal council presented within their general budget discussions a first draft of the “BFI-Botschaft 2025-2028”, which amongst other things sets the budget of the ETH-Domain for the next years. These budget discussions were led under enormous financial pressure coming from various sides, mainly also due to inflation and the pandemic leaving a substantial financing deficit in the federal budget for 2022. The Swiss Federal Council was thus tasked with meeting financial obligations while adhering to the stringent “Schuldenbremse” (debt brake), resulting in substantial budget cuts across various sectors, including the ETH Domain. Specifically in this draft of the “BFI-Botschaft” it was revealed that the ETH Domain would receive less funding than required to sustain its previous growth rate. In Addition to this, in January 2024, the Federal Council announced a 100-million-franc budget cut for the ETH Domain in 2025. 

Now we are at the beginning of this year and ETH is facing huge budget cuts and also ever growing political pressure to cover costs by different means, i.e. increasing tuition. Here there was one obvious (and also politically pressured for) option for the ETH Board: According to the “ETH-Gesetz,” ETH can charge foreign students at most three times the fee paid by non-foreign students. Now we (i.e. VSETH) comes into play: When we found out about the discussion going on in the ETH board regarding the tuition increase, we set out to stop this increase from happening. We began to meet with the members of the ETH Board to explain to them why such an increase was unacceptable, sought contact with the students at EPFL and wrote a letter to the Federal Council. We did this with support from the heads of the ETH and EPFL schools, who gave a series of media interviews and loudly criticised the lack of federal funding in the ETH Domain. We fought and we won! On 7th March 2024, the ETH Board decided against an increase in tuition fees for foreign students. 

So how come we are now yet again discussing this threefold increase? Well this time it is not the incentive of the ETH board but actually directly coming from the confederation. In the past weeks the finance committee and the committee for science, education and culture of the Swiss parliament decided with a majority to propose to parliament to change the ETH law and make it obligatory for newly enrolling foreign students to pay at least triple the amount of tuition than Swiss students. This change of the law is now part of the discussion this coming Wednesday in parliament, when the whole “BFI-Botschaft” is supposed to be passed.

So now you might be thinking (and quite rightly so): Well shit. Going against the ETH board and getting them to change their minds: possible (and it obviously worked), but the Swiss lawmakers?! And this Wednesday?! Is the battle not lost already? To be frank: Yes, it is an enormous uphill battle and it is not clear if we can actually stop this from happening. But it is incredibly important to make ourselves heard in Bern and to resist this direct intervention of the Swiss parliament in ETH’s affairs! Also it is time to get the media and the public talking about this more diversely and to get our side of things represented more in this matter. VSETH strongly believes that students shouldn’t bear the brunt of symbolic acts or become pawns in political maneuvers and have to literally pay more because of these. The increase disproportionately impacts financially vulnerable students, and VSETH asserts that ETH should remain accessible to all, not just the financial elite.

Also we do have options. If it is decided on Wednesday that the law should be changed, then this is a long process and we would have the right to start a formal petition against this change of the law. This would need 50’000 supporting signatures in 100 days, so again not a minor task but we as VSETH have managed a successful petition before (and okay it was in the 1960s but still…). 

So, what’s the key takeaway? If you’re already enrolled as a foreign or non-foreign student at ETH, congratulations – this change (probably/hopefully) won’t affect you. But don’t let that fact dissuade you from voicing opposition! It is now of the utmost importance to make ourselves heard in Bern; that we won’t be played with like pawns or used as financial band-aids and that we don’t want ETH becoming a place for the financial elite, but to stay the diverse and internationally welcoming place it is!

Now that we’ve (hopefully) unraveled some of the confusion (perhaps replaced by a touch of indignation), it’s your turn to weigh in. Tell us how you feel about the Swiss parliament deciding over our heads how high tuition should be; sign our (informal) petition against the tuition fee increase; tell us how you would be affected by such an increase; post about this topic on social media, etc. The louder we are the better chances we have fighting this change of law.

Thank you for helping us! 

Categories
University Politics

What is PAKETH?

PAKETH stands for “Prüfungen und Akademischer Kalender an der ETH” which translates to Exams and Academic Calender at ETH. The project was initiated by Günther Dissertori and has the goal to reform teaching at ETH in a sustainable manner.

The main ideas of PAKETH are a week of vacation during autumn semester, shorter study phases in order to offer more vacation as well as making the system of exam blocks more flexible.

All details and all updates can be found on the official PAKETH website of ETH: https://ethz.ch/staffnet/en/teaching/projects/paketh.html

Categories
University Politics

We’re back!

We’re back! After we had forgotten this blog for two years, we decided to bring it back to life.

We plan on posting short blog entries regarding topics in university politics and updates regarding everything that’s going on in VSETH here.

Categories
University Politics

Christmas Time

The quietness on the blog here is a consequence of the very busy Christmas period at VSETH. Apart from appointments such as ETH Day, IDEALiStiC, the Budget MR or the VSS DV (blog articles will hopefully follow in January), Christmas means that we, as the board, say thank you to many people and organisations who have supported us over the past year. What sounds nice at first (and it is!) means a considerable organisational effort: 311 cards were written, signed by each board member and distributed together with 143 bottles of wine, 66 small and 49 large Samichlaussäckli (bags filled with chocolates). Our evenings were filled with wonderful Christmas dinners, even if that means that by the fifth fondue (or in the case of Mara and Nils already by the first) you can no longer see any cheese. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people we had the pleasure of meeting and working with during the past semester. A very big thank you goes to the Study Associations and committees whose board members made our day with their visits to our office in CAB. Merry Christmas and we look forward to seeing you next year!

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University Politics

Looking back on the Hopo roundtable of 4.11.2021

Last Thursday evening, on November 4th, we met with 35 other students interested in university politics in the HG. After a short round of introductions with name, study program and expectations for the evening, we gave a short introduction to our daily life as Hopo board members. In order to be able to discuss more freely in a smaller setting, we then divided into discussion groups on the following topics; 

  • Student participation
  • General Think Tank
  • Mental Health
  • Beyond Covid
  • Performance elements and testing
  • Soft skills, marketability

Accompanied by vegan sushi and drinks, we exchanged views on what the respective status quo is and what the areas for action are. From this, concrete measures were then formulated, which were then presented in plenary. These were, for example, the demand to revise the academic calendar, one of our projects with the new rector, and making it easier to do an internship outside the academic framework. After that, there was the opportunity to exchange ideas independently of the groups and to get to know each other in a relaxed setting. In the final feedback session, we were particularly pleased to hear that even the participants who were only attracted by sushi were involved in interesting discussions and were themselves positively surprised by the evening. Due to the overwhelming demand, we will hold another Hopo round table this semester on December 13th (register for it here), where we will, among other things, discuss the academic calendar.

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University Politics

Looking back on the FR on 02.11.2021

This Tuesday (02.11.) the third meeting of the Associations’ Council (Fachvereinsrat – FR) this semester took place. Unlike other FRs, this time the joint program started with a guided tour of the site development on the Hönggerberg, where we were introduced to the new construction projects, in particular the upcoming student center HIC, and the sustainability strategy on campus. After an aperitif (Apéro) in the alumni lounge, we headed to the HIL for the actual meeting. In the following three hours the agenda was worked through; after organizational matters and the announcements of the Chair of the Associations’ Council, it was time for the exchange of the student associations. This time information was exchanged about who can lend what, e.g. a slushie machine from VMP or fondue caquelons from APV. Due to a request to change the agenda, the board came next with VSS announcements, this time consisting of an information about the initiative “animal and human experimentation ban” and an update on Erasmus+. Afterwards, in the general board announcements a motion on the sustainability of the ETH Board was presented and feedback on wiegETHs measures in the departments was collected.  For the board statements the board left the room to allow delegates to gather questions for the board anonymously. The following discussion with everyone began with a round where each board member reported what had been on her or his mind the most over the past few weeks. The Treasury was pleased to report that the board now has access to its bank accounts. The two communication board members (Kommus) reported on the open day and shared that our common room no longer smells like curry sausage. After a short break, the last hour was devoted to revising the bylaws. The ARA (AGO Revision Consulting Board, AGO stands for the General Rules of Procedure) presented the most drastic changes to the bylaws, to which the student associations could then react. After the meeting there was the possibility to exchange outside and to drink a cup of mulled wine.

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University Politics

FR – Small legislature of the VSETH

In the Associations’ Council (FR – Fachvereinsrat) 1-2 people (delegates) of the 17 student associations of VSETH meet, having one voting right per student association. In addition, the VSETH board has 1 voting right and is represented most of the time by at least one person per office. We will introduce the individual offices in a future blog post. As needed and wanted, certain Consulting Boards and committees participate without voting rights. The FR meets approximately every 3 weeks, alternating between the Center and the Hönggerberg. The meetings are conducted by the Chair of the Associations’ Council (FR-Präsidium), currently Julia Fähnrich and Leonard Knirsch, who also collect the agenda items (Traktanden) and organize the meeting. In order for the delegates to get to know each other and to exchange informally, the FR-Präsidium also organizes a common dinner (Znacht) before the meeting, as well as a wind-down afterwards. During the meeting strategic and university-political decisions are made, such as how to deal with Covid or a preliminary discussion of the ETH Store strategy. In addition, tasks between the Delegates’ Council (MR – Mitgliederrat) are undertaken, such as interim elections, i.e. provisional elections and appointments of persons who are then confirmed at the next MR, or the review of the work of the Executive Board. Also, the FR is a way to have a say in VSETH as an association and promotes cooperation among the student associations. This includes the provision of money in the FR-pot (FR-Topf) to support joint projects or the discussion of topics that affect all student associations, e.g. purchase of a coffee machine for the student associations on the Hönggerberg or the procedure in grade conferences.

The graphic below shows an overview of the structures in VSETH and may still seem a bit confusing. Therefore, we will take time in the coming weeks to bring you closer to the different bodies and connections in VSETH.

Categories
University Politics

++ 04.11. Upcoming university politics roundtable ++

We are pleased to announce the first university politics roundtable of this semester on November 4th, starting at 7:00pm in Zentrum. You’ll have the opportunity to meet other like-minded and unlike-minded people and discuss current university politics issues. Food (minor spoiler, there will be vegan sushi) and drink will be provided free of charge. The exact location and topics will be communicated in a confirmation email next week. Participation is possible in English and German. We look forward to seeing you there! Click here to register.

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University Politics

Looking back on the university politics weekend

From the 22nd to the 24th of October, we were in Pizol, St. Gallen, with 33 motivated and university-politically interested students from different student associations and committees for a weekend full of workshops, games and good food. Maybe some of you still know the old name, FRUKDuK, which is an acronym of the different committees (FR – Fachvereinsrat, Associations’ Council; UK – Unterrichtskommission, Teaching Committee; DK – Departementskonferenz, Department Conference) of student participation. The weekend is organized by the FR presidency with the aim of exchanging ideas and thoughts on various current university politics issues. This time, different workshops took place on the topics of participation culture in VSETH, future of digital platforms for teaching (Moodle, Ilias, …) as well as new projects such as a Festival of Nations or a VSETH Student Helpdesk. We are now taking the ideas generated there into our daily work and are trying to implement as much of it as possible in a timely manner. Apart from the content, the weekend was accompanied by the finest food (Indian paneer, crepes, scones, cheesecake, dumplings, vegan doughnuts, …), here again a big thanks to the kitchen team! Fun and fellowship were not neglected either; on Friday evening there was a torch run with stations where we solved various tasks, Saturday afternoon part of the group enjoyed the view during a hike and on Saturday evening a game in a medieval setting challenged the improvisation skills of the participants. If you are now also interested in university politics, you can already make a note of the 18-20.03.2022, because the next Hopo weekend will take place there. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please contact us at hopo@vseth.ethz.ch.

If you want to know more about the weekend, you can read a detailed article in the next issue of Polykum (No. 2, 2021/2022).

Categories
University Politics

VSS – Student representation for the whole of Switzerland

The VSS (Association of Swiss Student Bodies) is the voice of the students in Federal Bern. Various sections (student bodies) from all over Switzerland are part of it, including us as VSETH. Once a month, one delegate from each section meets in the small legislature, the Section Council, in Bern and exchanges ideas about various concerns that affect all student bodies. At the beginning, the quorum is determined, which means that it is checked that enough sections from the French-speaking area are present. This is due to the fact that the VSS wants to live the diversity of the Swiss languages and therefore in all meetings people are free to raise their concerns in German or French. At the last Section Council, these included a position paper on the application of the Covid certificate requirement and a discussion on promoting commission work and student engagement. Twice a year, the large legislative body, the Delegates Assembly (DV), meets, where the number of voters depends on the size of the section. There, the proposals of the Section Council as well as topics of the association as a whole, such as the budget and the accounts, are discussed and approved.

In addition, there are four thematic commissions which prepare position papers and political statements. In the CIS (Commission for International Affairs and Solidarity), Erasmus+, a petition in support of students from Belarus and perspectives on studies were discussed most recently. In the CodEg (Equal Opportunities Commission), workshops on racism and studying with disabilities were recently planned. In the HopoKo (Higher Education Policy Commission), scholarships, third-party funding at universities and sustainability in canteens were discussed. In the SoKo (Social Commission) the last time the topic was affordable housing for students.

If one of the topics appeals to you and you would like to get involved, you are welcome to contact us (hopo@vseth.ethz.ch). The commissions are happy to welcome participants who are not only from the boards of the sections.