Active collaboration and co-determination are a core part of the identity of UZH, and the staff and students have the right to contribute their views in committees and commissions.
The committees and commissions at UZH address matters such as sustainability, gender equality, research support and teaching quality. The purpose of the commissions is to discuss issues related to the university’s development from as many viewpoints as possible and contribute to decision-making at the university. During the pandemic semester, for instance, it was essential that the views of all UZH members were represented in the governing bodies.
The 14 core commissions at UZH have developed gradually over time. To standardize their procedures and establish norms regarding term of office, tenure of office and composition of elected representatives, the Executive Board of the University and the Extended Executive Board of the University decided in January 2023 to reform the 14 core commissions. (Six further core committees with special legal foundations remain unaffected by the reform).
From 1 August 2024, when the next university-wide elections will have taken place and the new terms of office begun, each of the 14 core commissions will be composed of harmonized representations per representative body and faculty.
The planned harmonization has drawn criticism from several members of VSUZH (University of Zurich Student Association), as the association stands to lose proportionally more seats than other bodies. “With fewer voices, the range of student opinions will no longer be adequately represented in university politics,” said Isaias Moser, student representative on the Extended Executive Board of the University, in the student newspaper Zürcher Studierendenzeitung (ZS).
It must be noted, however, that the student body is currently overrepresented in several commissions – without reason or entitlement. “The participation of representative bodies in university committees needs to be fair and the same for all, providing for equal representation,” said Michael Schaepman, president of the university. According to the Executive Board of the University, the harmonization will enhance democratic processes at UZH and lead to fairer participation for all. The commissions are nevertheless required to consider admitting guests if certain groups are more affected by an issue.
The importance of student viewpoints in university matters remains without question. Students are the backbone of everyday university life, which is why they are incorporated into the commissions’ decision-making processes. New discussion formats such as “Breakfast with Michael”, in which many students have taken part, have also considerably shaped the university’s decisions regarding matters concerning students.