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Representative Bodies

A Say in Shaping UZH

On 24 May, UZH staff get to vote for their representatives on various UZH bodies. Applications can be submitted until 10 May. The delegates make an important contribution to shaping the university.
UZH Communication


Delegates work in 400 university-wide, cross-faculty and intra-faculty/department bodies. (Image: Frank Brüderli)

As per the University Act, anyone who works or studies at UZH can get involved in decision-making: the delegates of the four bodies represented on the Extended Executive Board of the University work in numerous university-wide, cross-faculty and intra-faculty/department bodies. They include, for example, the Senate, the Extended Executive Board of the University, the Board of the University, and the Faculty Assemblies. In addition, the delegates sit on university commissions dealing with matters ranging from occupational safety to sustainability and continuing education. The faculties and departments also have commissions with university body representatives. The delegates on these bodies play an important part in academic self-governance and in the further development of the university.

From 24 May to 11 June, elections will take place for three of the representative bodies to elect delegates to serve on all university committees. The delegates will be elected for the term from 1 August 2024 to 31 July 2026. The election concerns the representative bodies for junior researchers (VAUZ), senior researchers and teaching staff (VFFL), and administrative and technical staff (V-ATP). The next elections for the representative body for students (VSUZH) is scheduled to take place in 2025.

Three current delegates talk about what they do, what’s in it for them, and how their work benefits the university.

Tessa Consoli
Tessa Consoli
PhD candidate at the Institute of Education

Bringing a fresh perspective

“I’m involved in both the Commission for Education and Student Affairs and the Sustainability Commission. My involvement in the latter is particularly motivated by my desire to drive sustainable development in our university’s operations, research and teaching.  As an educational researcher, I’m interested in how higher education development works and bring my expertise in teaching, educational technology and media literacy to the table. These topics are also very important in the Commission for Education and Student Affairs.

I think it’s also important for a higher education institution to be aware of the views of junior researchers and to understand how its decisions impact us. As a junior researcher myself, I can bring a fresh perspective. To me, universities are strongly hierarchical organizations.  That’s why it’s so important to utilize the available opportunities to have a say, in order to promote a participatory and democratic culture. In my role as university body representative, I get to experience up close how a university works, and network not only with other junior researchers but also with professors and other UZH staff.

I see myself as the mouthpiece for junior researchers. Last year, reducing air travel was one of the main concerns of the Sustainability Commission. The opinions of junior researchers were collected, and I then discussed the matter in the Sustainability Commission. At the same time, I regularly bring matters from the commission’s work to the VAUZ meetings. I try to incorporate not only my own experiences or those of other junior researchers, but to stay abreast of the interests and situation of junior researchers more broadly.  

 As a member of the Commission for Education and Student Affairs, I sat on the award committee of the <Open_Innovation> UZH Teaching Fund program and got to help decide which innovative teaching projects received support at the module and course level. This experience was very rewarding for me as an educational researcher. A few months ago, I also played a part in the successful application for funding of UZH’s participation in the Una Europa Joint Bachelor in Sustainability. I think this is an important step towards the inclusion of more sustainability topics in teaching.”

Marc Winter
Marc Winter
Adjunct professor, liaison librarian Chinese studies

The principle of self-governance is important

“It was by sheer chance that I got the seat on the Library Board. The former delegate was leaving UZH and asked me whether I would be interested in succeeding her. That was in 2017. I’m now in my third term of office. As a librarian, getting involved in this commission was an obvious choice for me. I’m also the elected deputy delegate on the Career Development Commission of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, but I’ve yet to be called on there.

To me, UZH’s principle of self-governance is very important. For this self-governance to work, people have to get involved in all the different bodies. The Library Board convenes twice a year. I read the agenda beforehand and the minutes afterwards. So for me, the time and effort involved is reasonable.

The Library Board is primarily an information body,  which means decisions have usually already been made beforehand. So this means we have to accept that our influence is limited. That said, it’s possible to address the concerns of the body and to be persistent about pushing them. As an example, many senior researchers and teaching staff don’t work full-time at UZH. However, they need to be able to access the library collections. It was therefore important for database licenses to be designed in such a way that senior researchers and teaching staff can also access them from home via a VPN.  I’m also working to minimize cuts to libraries’ acquisition budgets.  

What I like about working on the commission is getting to know people from other faculties.  UZH members with very different backgrounds and information needs work together to allow a consistent and wide-ranging supply of information. The Library Board is based on consensus, which I like a lot.”

Barbara Degenhardt
Barbara Degenhardt
Managing Director of Irchel Campus Usage Management

Gaining a broader horizon

“I got involved in the Occupational Safety and Health Protection Committee because it is closely linked to my work at UZH. I deal with new working environments and how to optimize the use of space. I proposed to the commission that we submit a request to the Executive Board of the University to analyze the causes of the work interruptions reported in the employee surveys and put in place any necessary measures. We know from research that it’s very stressful for employees if they are constantly interrupted in their work. This needs to be taken seriously by UZH as an employer.

My decision to stand for election to the Senate was also partly driven by curiosity: I was keen to find out how such a parliamentary body works and what is discussed there. I try to contribute the perspective of my representative body – the ATP (administrative and technical staff).

I stood for the Faculty Assembly for the Faculty of Science, because otherwise the ATP would have been underrepresented there. I thought I’d just go for it rather than waiting for the seat to become vacant. I’m no stranger to getting involved in things. For example, I used to be residence hall spokesperson and I’m a member of the UZH-ETHZ Crisis and Suicide Network working group.

To me, it’s important that these representative bodies have a voice, as it allows those at the highest strategic levels to find out what really matters to staff in their day-to-day work.  The time I devote to the roles varies. It depends on whether I’m particularly involved in a specific issue. Sometimes it’s three hours a month, while in busy times it might be 20 hours.

Being a delegate requires vision, grit, and a certain degree of frustration tolerance. What matters to me is that my arguments are objective. I appreciate the fact that as a delegate, I can look beyond my own position and make a positive difference at UZH.”