ETHistory 1855-2005

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1968-1973: Problems of Participation

The events of 1968 and the ensuing crisis in the years up to 1973 affected the ETH on several levels. Disciplinary orientation, institutional growth and academic structure were called into question. New forms of teaching, and new contents for courses of study were items on the agenda, as were new regulations and laws.

In 1968, the Federal Councillors passed a new ETH law that paid due regard to the takeover of the Lausanne Ecole Polytechnique by the federal government. However, as the wording of the law left much of the question of participation in abeyance, the students resorted to the referendum. In June1969 the bill was rejected at the polls.

In the Department of Architecture, there were intensive discussions around 1968, for example with the writer Paul Nizon.
In the Department of Architecture, there were intensive discussions around 1968, for example with the writer Paul Nizon.


The result of the election had many consequences for the ETH. It brought to the fore the backlog of reforms that Max Imboden had diagnosed as the “Helvetic Malaise” in 1964.

The very launching of the referendum campaign by the students was regarded as a blatant insult by the political-academic establishment of the day. The students’ victory showed that the position “of the ETH” in no way coincided with that of the School Council. Instead it became clear that participation was a problem. Furthermore, after the surprise rejection of the law, a whole series of provisional regulations was necessary just to ensure that the federal institutes of higher education remained operative. The federal policy on education broadened its scope and abandoned its hitherto exclusive fixation with the ETH.

This series of crises was followed by a realignment that was marked by both the desire for and frustration with discussion. Nevertheless, new ideas were quickly adopted, albeit under extremely difficult conditions from the point of view of staffing policy. The general cutbacks on staff imposed by the Federal Council in the early 1970s meant that structural problems could only be solved by redistribution rather than growth.


Some dates

1968 October 4: The Federal Councillors pass the new ETH law. The students resort to the referendum
1969 June 1: The ETH law is rejected by 65.5% of those who voted
1969
The Ecole Polytechnique Universitaire de Lausanne becomes a Federal Institute of Technology
1970
The provisional regulations for the ETH come into force
1973
Heinrich Ursprung becomes President of the ETH Zurich

The book on the history of the ETH

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© 2005 ETHistory 1855-2005 | Last update: March 31, 2005 |
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