Co-op Porgrams: Access to Higher Education and Beyond

In our Riva working group on access to higher education it was repeatedly hold, how important it is to see all the options you have in order to make a somewhat informed decision on your educational path. Vocational training? University? University of applied sciences? Which subject?

Once you know about your options, the next problem turns up: you don’t know what it is like to study the subject you have chosen until you have been studying it for certain time. Sneak peeks before you start studying might provide a remedy to some extent. You can for example visit some lectures in the physical or, if available, in the virtual world.

So now you made an informed decision, considering all the options and you found a subject you really like. Well, your time studying eventually ends and you start working. And all the questions rise again. What are the options? What does it feel like to work in a certain job? I recently talked to a friend who was a passionate law student and graduated with an excellent result. For two years now he struggles to find a legal job he likes.

It is important that during your studies you get insights into working in your field. When I did some research on the universities we are going to visit in the US, I found it quite common for American universities to offer co-op programs that provide structured job experience during your studies and you also get credits for that (some basic information and more resources on cooperative education here). I don’t know whether this concept exists at all within European universities. However, I don’t know about any such initiative at the university of Basel or at any Swiss law school. At my faculty, for instance, there are some hesitant moves on integrating the working world. But so far this steps inly go as far as showing you the options.

Thinking about it, this is amazing, since the Swiss vocational training, the apprenticeship, is based on cooperative education and there is widespread consensus that it is for the cooperative approach that the apprenticeship system is such a success. It seems that also this discussion leads to one of the overall Hi Ed questions: What is university for? What should our graduates be able to do? What should the know? What for do we educate?

I am curious to hear your experiences from co-op programs. Further, I ask my european colleagues whether I am wrong. Do we have co-op programs and I just don’t know about them?

ETH Presidents Intend to Increase Tuition Fees

On my way to Boston, I read an article in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung about an institution the Virginia folks have visited and that relates to our general topic (article in german here). The presidents of both ETH have asked the ETH Council to increase tuition fees. The plan is that fees increase incremental up to 1250 (approx. 1300 USD) Swiss Francs a semester in 2016. This means that fees double within four years. Additionaly an administrative fee of 250 (approx. 260 USD) Francs is planed to be charged from students without a Swiss Matura (high school diploma). The additional income is to be used as follows: one third to help students in financial need and two thirds for enancing the quality of teaching and improving the learning/teaching environment.

The background of these plans is that within the last ten years, student numbers at ETH have increased by 50%. In the same time federal funding has only increased by 25%. There is a considerable financing gap in teaching.

The Council, however, will  base its decision not only on the requests by the presidents, but also on a student consultation. This consultation does inquire  what students think about the planned increase but also what their actual financial situation is. A considerable number of students have already participated in the consultation.  So far they seem to strongly oppose the increase.

Student organisation from the whole country have allied in order to fight higher tuition fees at ETH. They argue that the increase jeopardizes equal opportunities. The president of the ETH Council, on the other side, stresses that tuition fees would still be moderate, considering that the ETH was one of the best universities in Europe.

University of Basel Mission Statement

Dear GPP/PFP fellows

A long time ago, I promised to post a translation of the University of Basel Mission Statement. Finally, I accomplished it. I hope the text is understandable. Looking forward to meeting you guys next week in Riva.

The mission statement dates from 1993


1 The University of Basel nurtures the development of tolerant human beings, who are capable of taking criticism, seize initiative and accept responsibility. The University aims at, enabling them to deepen their knowledge and field-based research and training.

2 The University aims at imparting knowledge delivered by teaching and research and creating new insights. Meaningfulness is the guiding principle, not feasibility.

3 The University is conscious of the obligation that arises out of knowledge and fulfills it through critical reflection and providing services. The University comments on its own accord on social issues.

4 The University realizes its goals with respect of the responsibility towards the coming generations, towards society, towards the international academic community, towards the inherited culture.

Guiding Principles

Acting autonomously

5 The University of Basel is, within the framework of legal provisions, autonomous in teaching, research and services. The University is self-administered. Autonomy obliges to self-control.

6 The university sets priorities according to the academic and societal needs.

7 The University delegates the biggest possible responsibility to the smallest possible unit.

8 The university nurtures the willingness of all its members to take responsibility and allows them to participate. All members of the University are involved in designing the University in accordance with their capabilities and competencies.

Encouraging people

9 The University educates people who have the courage and the ability to independently develop ideas and to represent them in public.

10 The University is committed to the principle of equality, in particular gender equality, and is committed to its implementation, including issues relating to admission.

11 The University is committed to the principle of performance at all levels and puts quality before quantity. It has the necessary flexible structure and creates conditions for the development of creativity and idealism. This guarantees high-performance, which is rewarded.

12 The University operates a targeted promotion of young academics.

13 The university’s sports facilities offers contribute to balance and health of students, faculty and staff.

14 The University receives the benefits and opportunities of personal contacts between its members, an overall culture of openness and trust and uncomplicated administration that is made possible by its medium size.

Combing teaching, learning and research

15 The University guarantees the freedom of teaching, learning and research.

16 The University is based on the principle of unity of teaching and research. It allows teachers and students learning through scientific research and independent acquisition of knowledge and methods.

17 All schools provide, albeit in varying degrees, services. These are in close interaction with teaching and research.

18 The University of Basel has an extensive education and training programs, based on the preservation of traditional knowledge areas and is open to new ideas.

19 The University promotes interdisciplinary and cross-faculty teaching, learning and research.

20 The university guarantees the quality of education through teaching and training of teachers and evaluation of the courses.

21 The University contributes to adult education in and outside the university courses.

Creating transparency through information

22 The University of Basel makes its activity public, and thus arouses interest. The University ensures among its members a continuing exchange of information. Everybody working at the University contributes to transparency..

23 The University maintains contacts with the schools that lead to the ability to study, and with the higher technical schools.

Making use of the location

24 The University makes use of the opportunities that are offered by its imbedding in the Basel City and Basel County and its location in the Upper Rhine region.

25 The University promotes the exchange and coordinates its tasks with domestic and foreign universities. This serves at enlarging the potential in teaching and research through sharing of skills. This is especially true for the European Confederation of Upper Rhine Universities (EUCOR).

26 The University maintains and promotes the dialog with economic and cultural actors to the benefit of all. The University uses the chance to have business and cultural institutions of international standing based in Basel.

27 The collections belonging to University, displayed in museums, educate the wider population and create an international reach.

Securing independences through financing

28 The University of Basel is financed from public funds.

29 It is looking for additional financial assistance from third parties. Here too, the freedom of research and teaching as well as the impartiality with which the university takes a position on issues of society, are safeguarded.