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ETHistory 1855-2005 | Sightseeing | Times | 1973-2005 |

1973-2005: Retooling the Entrepreneurial University

Some dates

1976 Project-oriented teaching (POST) in the Department for Natural Sciences
1981 Founding of the Departments for Computer Sciences and Material Sciences
1985 Analysis of the ETH by Hayek Engineering AG
1987 Introduction of Einvironmental Sciences
1989 Founding of the Department for Scientific Management
Reorganisation of the ETH according to a matrix structure
1993 New ETH law in force
Old adiminstrative units are replaced by departments
2004 Revised ETH law introduces budgetary autonomy

The book on the history of the ETH


The last quarter of the 20th century saw a dramatic increase in the flexibility of economic structures as well as individual life plans. It is the age of computerized data processing and of globalization. Every institute of higher education was affected by these processes - almost every one was involved in the changes and benefited from them.

Keeping fit to face the challenges of the future. Fitness training in the ASVZ  (Academic Sports Association of Zurich) in the 1980s.
Keeping fit to face the challenges of the future. Fitness training in the ASVZ (Academic Sports Association of Zurich) in the 1980s.

At the ETH in Zurich, the development was carried out in three steps. First of all there were the institutional reforms and experiments of the 1970s, which tried out a process of making the normal study plans more flexible. Then - which initially came as a shock to many in the 1980s - analogies were made between schools of higher education and business companies. Finally, a new ETH law that came into force in 1993 made it possible for the gradually acquired budgetary autonomy of the school as a whole to be passed on in stages to the individual departments.

The studies carried out by the firms Hayek Engineering AG and Häusermann + Co. AG had a catalystic effect on this process of increasing the flexibility of the organisation. As a result, the ETH was newly integrated into a matrix structure that was also common in industry at the time. New departments, which organized research, were combined with the existing administrative units, which were responsible for the teaching. This made for a more flexible system of assigning the Chairs to the different departments. It was an innovation which reflected the growing importance of research in academic culture as well as in the budget of the School.

Inside the building for Computer Science, 1988.
Inside the building for Computer Science, 1988.

But it was precisely in the 1980s that there was also an increase in the organizational requirements in teaching. Three new courses of study (computer science, materials science, environmental science), several post-diploma courses and further education courses, a reorganization of the Natural Sciences Department, together with the reforms in the normal studies syllabus, made it clear that in higher education, too, people had to adapt to change management in teaching.

Although the matrix structure started to be abolished in 1993, its introduction in 1987 led to major changes in the power structure in the ETH, and it had a lasting effect from the standpoint of flexibility.

© 2005 ETH Zurich | Credits | March 31, 2005 | !!! This document is stored in the ETH Web archive and is no longer maintained !!!