The annual report highlights our year 2018 in pictures, text and figures.
Leadership and expert organisation
The ten-person Executive Board is responsible for the operational management of the ZHAW.
The Executive Board consists of the President, the Managing Director and the Deans of the eight Schools. The President heads the university, chairs the Executive Board and represents the ZHAW externally. To ensure that the university is run on uniform principles and to encourage cooperation, individual members of the Board are also responsible for transdepartmental affairs.
In 2018, the Federal Council appointed Martina Hirayama, Dean of the School of Engineering, as the new State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation. Dirk Wilhelm took over ad interim to manage the School of Engineering, and Daniel Perrin, Dean of the School of Applied Linguistics, succeeded Martina Hirayama as Head of International Affairs.
Facts and figures
In 2018, there were 13'298 students enrolled at the ZHAW with 4'852 being first-year students. The students were distributed over 28 Bachelor's and 18 Master's degree programmes and 2'959 students successfully completed their studies. The ZHAW employed over 3,100 people.
We have interactively compiled the most important facts and figures of the ZHAW for you.
Editorials Annual Report 2018
Tackling challenges together
The world tends to become more and more complex, though this has probably always been the case. Yet in times of globalisation and digitisation, we feel as if we are witnessing this ever-increasing complexity first-hand.
Particularly in times of change, education – and therefore universities – assume an important role. After all, education can and should ensure that everyone is able to manage this complexity more easily. In the same way, universities can and should encourage fundamental discussions such as how a digitised society ought to evolve in the future. Because of their traditional proximity to business, industry and society, universities of applied sciences are almost predestined to contribute in a significant way.
Zurich as a university centre encompasses a vast variety of excellent academic institutions, which is why networking is of great importance. Individual universities have to combine their specific knowledge in order to create added value.
However, universities of applied sciences do not only network with one another; it is also their responsibility to help bring together education, science, society and the economy.
Upon completing their studies, graduates of our universities of applied sciences transfer their knowledge directly to society and the economy. As experts in their field, they play a key role in future innovations in our economy, society and state. The excellent opportunities they have in the job market show how successful our graduates are in doing so.
The universities of applied sciences make a substantial contribution to the Swiss success model since they function as an important link between academia and professional skills. In view of the increasing complexity, we will continue to depend on them in the future. Their practice-oriented degree programmes and applied research and development have proven their worth once more in 2018. The success story continues!
Dr. Silvia Steiner
Government Councillor and President of the Council of the Zurich Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts
Quality and participation
“Quality means doing the right thing, (even) if no one is watching.” This quote by the German-Canadian merchant Willy Meurer succinctly captures the notion that good quality requires a corresponding mindset and corresponding actions – and from everyone, no less. Without participation, in the very narrow definition of the word, there is no quality.
When applying this general idea to a university, we have to clarify some questions. What does it mean to do the right thing? How can we raise awareness about quality among everyone? How is participation encouraged in the day-to-day life of the different university groups, both employees and students?
The ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences has engaged intensively in these questions and has developed a quality strategy for 2015-2025 based on an existing quality culture. The quality strategy not only covers the areas of activity of the ZHAW, such as academic programmes, research and development, continuing education and business services, but also governance and resources. In order to concretise the contents of the quality strategy, 20 quality requirements and 70 quality criteria have been defined.
We would like to mention here one of the quality criteria set for academic programmes, which exemplifies the quality strategy: “Studies are research-based and, in terms of content and personnel, linked to both research and development as well as practice.” This criterion illustrates that the quality strategy is implemented in a customised and decentralised manner within the ZHAW Schools. The Schools themselves determine the priorities for their quality work based on their particular features by choosing the appropriate quality criteria and determining how they will implement them. As a result, the interconnection between academic programmes, research and development as well as practice varies from School to School. These differences are also taken into account when the criteria concerning the different Schools are reviewed. The development of the university as a whole, in contrast, is measured by comprehensive indicators in what can be called “the cockpit of our strategy”.
Quality development at the ZHAW derives from a constant interaction between centralised and decentralised activities, and the participation of the Schools is crucial to the university’s success.
Employees and students also participate in activities that are organised in a centralised and decentralised manner. However, participation does not simply happen. Depending on the School, the different ways in which participation is organised can be a challenge, or students may lack possibilities or motivation to become involved in university activities. Therefore, like many other universities, the ZHAW is currently considering if and how student involvement should be recognised. Should it be by payment, ETCS credit, a mention in the diploma, or all of the above? One thing is clear: participation should not be compensated through money alone. Good overall conditions and appreciation are also important, which is why – as in previous years – the Council of the Zurich Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts is pleased to take note of the fact that there are many people at the ZHAW who are doing the right thing, even if no one is watching.
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Andrea Schenker-Wicki
Member of the Council of the Zurich Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts, ZHAW consultant
Dr. Matthias Kaiserswerth
Member of the Council of the Zurich Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts, ZHAW consultant
Transformation to a digital and sustainable society
Digital transformation is at the heart of the ZHAW's future development. Our entire educational mandate will be affected by digital transformation, both in terms of content and in the way in which we impart knowledge and skills. This is the reason why in 2018 the ZHAW established a partial strategy on education and digital transformation, which forms the foundation of a master plan for the next ten years. With a combined top-down and bottom-up approach, the ZHAW aims to pursue infrastructural, strategic and exploratory projects.
As part of our concept for strategic initiatives, which enables us to respond quickly and flexibly to new issues and challenges, we launched the strategic initiative on digital transformation in 2018. Within our university, we seek to develop a network-like organisational structure so that we can react in an agile manner and meet the challenges of the digital transformation. Over the next few years, two ZHAW specialists will be co-managing the project within the ZHAW and making it more accessible to the public.
Apart from implementing the partial strategy on education and digital transformation mentioned above, we are also intensifying collaboration with other universities, in particular with the University of Zurich (UZH), the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) and the Zurich University of Teacher Education (PH Zurich). Another important topic is the impact that digital transformation has on research activities. This does not concern the research content itself, but rather how the general conditions for researchers will develop. The dissemination of knowledge and the manner in which we present data and knowledge are changing. The focus now is on Open Science, which aims to make publicly financed research findings and data more accessible.
The digital transformation has a multitude of consequences, and it calls for an open, differentiated and critical discourse. It is part of the mandate of a university to participate actively in such an important discourse. Our focus, however, is not just on digital transformation. In keeping with the spirit of our university strategy as well as the research areas on energy and societal transformation, we are striving for a sustainable society. I would go even further and say that we are promoting a convergence of the two transformations: the transformation towards a digital society and a sustainable society. Such a convergence would release undreamt of innovative forces, as both transformations are based on common principles: solidarity between generations, participatory generation of knowledge, the development of individual and collective skills, and the promotion of a comprehensive understanding of innovation. We as a university want to actively help shape this.
Prof. Dr. Jean-Marc Piveteau
Research Highlights 2018
High-tech ski wax debuts at 2018 Winter Olympics
ZHAW researchers have developed an innovative ski wax that was used at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Thanks to a designer molecule, the wax adheres to the ski for longer than existing products.
For now, it is still a closely guarded trade secret: the research partner will not reveal how well the skiers performed at the Winter Olympics in South Korea thanks to the new ZHAW ski wax. However, tests performed in the lead up to the games showed that the time gain in cross-country skiing amounted to a saving of between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds in 20-second downhill runs as compared with conventional high-performance ski wax. This equals an improvement in performance of up to 1.5 per cent. “This exceeded the improvement we had hoped for,” says Konstantin Siegmann, project manager at the ZHAW School of Engineering.
Designer molecule forms chemical bond
The more water-repellent the surface, the faster the ski. However, even high-performance ski waxes with highly fluorinated carbon compounds rub off quickly. “The reason for this is that ski surfaces are made of an extremely unreactive synthetic material that hardly forms any chemical bonds,” explains Siegmann.
Sponsored by Innosuisse, ZHAW researchers teamed up with the company TOKO to develop a wax to solve this problem by building a new designer molecule through a chemical reaction. When this synthetic molecule is irradiated by a mercury-vapour lamp, the wax forms a tight bond with the ski surface, allowing it to remain in place for longer. Abrasion tests performed in the laboratory demonstrated that this photoreactive ski wax rubbed off twice as slowly as conventional high-performance ski wax.
Midwives increasingly confronted with poverty in families
Midwives practising independently are increasingly confronted with families facing hardship and support them accordingly. A ZHAW study shows that these services are unrecognised and unpaid.
A study conducted at the ZHAW’s Institute of Midwifery investigated how midwives identify social burdens, how they support families and how they seek assistance when a young family’s living circumstances require it. Interviews were conducted with about 400 independent midwives who provided postpartum care in 2016.
Poverty, trauma, violence, isolation or mental illness can make it difficult for some families to provide their newborns with the conditions necessary for their development. As midwives provide care for 80 per cent of young families at home for two months after hospital discharge, they can recognise very early on if families are in difficult situations. Giving families support at an early stage is the most important form of prevention to ensure that children can develop in a healthy manner. The study also shows that making sure families are provided for and building appropriate support networks is very time-consuming. Midwives respond to emergencies around the clock, seven days a week, and they spend many hours working on finding solutions. For the leaders of the ZHAW study, this makes it all the more incomprehensible that these services are not recognised.
Network of midwives reduces pressure on hospital
In a separate project, the Institute of Midwifery evaluated the services of the non-profit organisation Familystart in Zurich. Every year, Familystart brings together over 3,000 women and self-employed midwives who provide post-natal care at the mothers’ homes after their return from hospital. Nowadays, women are discharged from hospital only a few days after giving birth. Midwives in Zurich came together to form the Familystart Zurich network in 2015 in order to make sure that every mother receives this care and nobody falls through the health system’s safety net. According to the ZHAW, this substantially reduces the pressure on hospitals, and vulnerable families are among those who benefit the most.
“Schaffhauser Haus”: Adding local value and strengthening the regional building culture
The intended purpose of “Schaffhauser Haus” is to encourage construction companies to innovate more and extend the regional value chain by using local building materials.
In the canton of Schaffhausen, craftsmen and manufacturers strove to build what they called a “Schaffhauser Haus”, a type of vernacular house. The objective was to source and process the necessary building materials locally and then use them to build a house with the architectural assistance of craftsmen from Schaffhausen. The ZHAW Institute of Urban Landscape investigated which criteria had to be considered in order to plan and create such a “Schaffhauser Haus”. Thire research project shows how architecture and building culture can be used to achieve sustainable construction by drawing on forgotten or neglected construction methods.
Making knowledge accessible
Publicly funded research results and data are to be made more accessible in the future. How this will affect the ZHAW is currently being assessed.
If scientific information were accessible to everyone, research data could be located and verified more easily, and funding could be utilised in a more efficient way. This would allow researchers to benefit from already existing data, methods or results, and therefore synergies. For this reason, the ZHAW is actively involved in Open Science as well as Open Innovation and is addressing specific questions concerning data preparation, infrastructure, data protection and security, as well as costs and benefits.
Open Data pilot projects
The ZHAW’s Open Access policy, which was adopted at the end of 2015, complies with the requirements of both the EU’s research funding programme Horizon 2020 and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). Under this policy, the ZHAW is committed to making scientific findings freely available to a broad public, provided no legal restrictions apply. Since the intent is also to make more research data publicly available, the ZHAW has developed a guideline and is looking into infrastructural solutions. As part of the Scientific Information programme, which is sponsored by swissuniversities, the ZHAW is also participating in establishing uniform processes and standards throughout Switzerland for accessing, processing and safeguarding research data. For example, together with the University of Geneva and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland, the ZHAW is reviewing the publication of data. In addition, ZHAW researchers are testing active data management with the help of an Electronic Laboratory Notebook, which was developed by ETH Zurich.
Swiss young adults under the microscope
Two ZHAW studies were conducted on young adults in Switzerland. One examined the spread of three forms of extremism, while the other one investigated the way in which parental violence influences how young adults think and behave.
In 2018, two studies were conducted as part of a research project at the ZHAW School of Social Work. The first study examined the spread of politically extreme attitudes among young adults in Switzerland and found that agreement with the ideological aims of extremism is stronger than support for violence. In addition, agreement with extremism varies according to gender, the type of school attended and social status; this can be seen in the fact that young male adults, young adults attending vocational schools or those from socially deprived backgrounds are more likely to have extremist views. The countrywide survey on the extent of right-wing extremism, left-wing extremism and Islamic extremism was conducted by the ZHAW together with the Haute École de Travail Social Fribourg. Over 8,000 young adults aged 17-18 from 10 Swiss cantons took part in the survey.
Innovative batteries store energy in liquid
Researchers at the ZHAW School of Engineering are advancing the development of energy storage methods as part of the EU project FlowCamp. Redox flow batteries (RFB) are used in one of those methods.
If we are to produce more electricity from renewable energy sources such as the sun or wind, then we will need efficient storage methods to absorb any fluctuations in electricity production. Redox flow batteries, which convert electrical energy into chemical energy, have a special function here because they store the energy in liquid electrolyte. This approach is now being further developed by FlowCamp, a project funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme under a Marie Curie grant. Nineteen universities and organisations from nine countries are participating in the project.
Simulations instead of experiments
The ZHAW Institute of Computational Physics specialises in creating physically based computer models. Jürgen Schumacher, who heads the FlowCamp project at the Institute, and his team are working on modelling and characterising electrochemical cells. “Our goal is to develop the cell models in such a way that we can simulate not only the electrochemical processes but also the transport properties in the cells. In this way, we hope to gain a greater understanding into charging and discharging behaviour.”
A focus on different material concepts
The researchers hope that the FlowCamp project will help them determine which electrochemical material concepts are best suited for the stationary storage of large amounts of energy. As such, several battery manufacturers are also participating in the project. However, as Jürgen Schumacher explains, it is not yet possible to say with any degree of precision which material concepts will prevail and be suitable for industrial production, as the researchers are currently investigating a large number of new organic redox species for use in non-toxic, cost-effective, widely available electrolytes. Nonetheless, the ZHAW researcher is convinced that innovative redox flow batteries will be used in the future to store energy and absorb fluctuations in energy production.
Fewer bicycle accidents thanks to virtual reality
ZHAW researchers have developed a project to improve road safety by training cyclists with the help of virtual reality video clips.
The biggest road safety problem in the City of Zurich is bicycle traffic. More and more people are switching to bicycles as their main vehicle, and with this increase the number of bicycle accidents has also risen sharply, namely by 50 per cent in recent years. In 2017, 460 cyclists were involved in accidents, 96 of whom were seriously injured. According to safety researcher and ZHAW professor Markus Hackenfort, two-thirds of all accidents could be prevented if cyclists were to recognise risks earlier. In order to better prepare cyclists for the road, ZHAW researchers supported a pilot project on behalf of the City of Zurich’s traffic service department and the virtual reality content studio Bandara. In this project, virtual reality video clips were shown to 12-year-old children as part of their traffic education in school.
Immersive and educational experience
While half of the children watched the video sequences projected onto a screen, the other half immersed themselves in various traffic scenarios through VR headsets, which allowed them to experience the dangers of traffic up close. The realistic nature of this experience taught them, for instance, that it can make sense to forego one’s own priority in certain situations in order to prevent accidents. According to ZHAW psychologist Christian Cordin, the children reacted positively to the videos: “The experiment with the 360-degree prevention videos shows that children are more motivated and learn much faster thanks to the use of virtual reality in traffic education. It allows them to react immediately to the situation, for example by looking over their shoulder when turning.” The bottom line of the project is that the emotional and realistic experience has a positive effect on both the perception and the behaviour of the children. The City of Zurich plans on testing and further developing the use of this new type of road safety education.
First global database on vegetation
The first global vegetation database will make it easier to predict the consequences of climate and land use change in the future.
In order to describe the diversity of global vegetation, only a few traits of each plant species must be known. This is the conclusion of an international study in which researchers from the ZHAW, the Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and the University of Zurich were involved. In the study, which was published in the science journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, the researchers presented the first global vegetation database comprising over 1.1 million complete vegetation records for all mainland ecosystems. The aim is to grow the database and help better predict the consequences of global climate and land use change.
Plants live in communities
All plants have to cope with the same challenges. “On the one hand, they must photosynthesise efficiently in order to supply themselves with energy. On the other hand, they compete with neighbouring plants for water or nutrients from the soil,” says Jürgen Dengler from the ZHAW School of Life Sciences and Facility Management. So far, research has focused at the level of individual plant species, but, in reality, these hardly ever occur alone because plants live in communities. With what are known as vegetation surveys, scientists instead use defined sample areas to list which plant species occur in which proportions.
Given the lack of a superordinate database, the first global vegetation database was built at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research. In extensive work, the existing data sets were standardised and merged under the coordination of ZHAW vegetation ecologist Jürgen Dengler.
Academic Programmes Highlights 2018
The digital classroom
The ZHAW is participating in the new online platform Swiss MOOC, through which it can offer various course formats.
In 2009, renowned American universities launched the first MOOCs, which stands for Massive Open Online Courses, granting people all over the world open access to study different subjects through online courses. Even though the applications and forms of these digital educational programmes have changed since then, their popularity has not. Today, more than 500 universities worldwide offer MOOCs – and the trend is growing.
Several ZHAW courses planned
Since this year, the ZHAW has been participating in a national MOOC service called Swiss MOOC Service. Launched last year by various Swiss institutions of higher education and led by the EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne), the project offers a digital infrastructure through which Swiss universities can securely offer their online courses to a broad public in compliance with Swiss data protection legislation. The ZHAW is an early adopter of Swiss MOOC and will test the platform in a two-year pilot phase, during which time the university can use the platform free of charge. The ZHAW will soon be making its first courses available on the platform. Various ZHAW institutes are currently working on courses, which will be offered on the platform in the coming months.
Why are MOOCs important to the ZHAW? According to Lisa Messenzehl from Academic Affairs, the university can use MOOCs to connect its students via open online courses to external students or experts. In addition to academic programmes, continuing education programmes could also benefit from the platform by digitally expanding their range of courses. "Today, MOOCs are a collective term for various formats of online courses. Through Swiss MOOC, courses can generally be offered as open or restricted, free or paid,” explains Messenzehl. She is the head of the Blended Learning Support Unit, which is responsible for coordinating Swiss MOOC at the ZHAW.
New partial strategy on education and digital transformation
This year, the Executive Board adopted a partial strategy on education and digital transformation, which allows students to be more flexible in terms of when and where they want to study.
The ZHAW has been discussing the matter of digitisation for a long time now. In order to make this process more dynamic and make use of existing collaborations, the Executive Board adopted a 10-year partial strategy on education and digital transformation in August 2018. In doing so, the ZHAW intends to pursue strategic, infrastructural and completely new experimental projects. The purpose is to create programmes that enable a more flexible and individually structured form of learning, which should ultimately prepare students for a digitised work environment.
Evolving strategy: Flexibility rather than fixed targets
“It is difficult to predict which technologies will evolve and succeed and how relevant they will be in the higher education system,” says Head of Higher Education Development Elena Wilhelm, who led the development of the partial strategy. She says that this is why the project is evolving continuously over the long term rather than following fixed targets. Nevertheless, Wilhelm believes that the ZHAW should focus on certain aspects, for example on promoting digital transformation through interdisciplinary teaching. During the test phase, ZHAW students and students from other European universities will work together on interdisciplinary and intercultural projects, such as blended mobility projects.
A master plan for the years 2019 to 2029 shows the most important areas of development. Some funding programmes are based on existing funding projects (bottom-up approach) and include topics such as augmented reality in the classroom or computational thinking. The latter stands for methods in which problems and their solutions are expressed through what is colloquially known as computer language. The top-down approach aims to promote pilot projects from different areas such as learning spaces, Open Labs or a platform for digital educational programmes called ZHAW Open School. The strategy also plans to introduce a learning platform that will allow students to be more flexible in terms of when and where they want to study. In order to pursue this new strategy, more FLEX degree programmes are to be established, such as the ones that already exist at the ZHAW School of Management and Law. The goal of implementing these programmes is to decrease the number of contact hours in class and increase the number of online learning elements. Elena Wilhelm emphasises, however, that the university will not become obsolete and professors will keep their jobs despite these new and upcoming approaches.
Campus Highlights 2018
New campus for the School of Engineering
The Canton of Zurich plans to construct two new laboratory buildings and a park for the ZHAW School of Engineering on the Winterthur campus. The aim is to complete the first phase of construction by 2026.
The ZHAW campus at Technikumstrasse represents the historical core of the former Technikum Winterthur, and the main building, built in 1879, is located in the centre. According to the ZHAW’s site strategy, the School of Engineering will be restructured over four phases to become the new “Campus T”. In November 2018, the Building Department of the Canton of Zurich announced the project competition winner for the first stage. With entry their “Belo Horizonte”, architecture firm Graber Pulver and construction management company Takt Baumanagement triumphed over 14, in some cases international, competitors to be awarded the contract.
New park next to the Eulach River
In the first stage, two new laboratory buildings along with a public park will be established next to the Eulach River. The heart of the new facility will be a five-storey building with a large cafeteria on the first floor, laboratories, workshops, offices and student workplaces. The rooms are multi-purpose to ensure high flexibility and an interactive work environment. According to the competition committee, the winning project “Belo Horizonte” lays an outstanding foundation for the further development of the entire campus. It creates two new key elements on the site, resulting in a reorganisation of the connection between Technikumstrasse, the existing buildings and the river.
Canton to decide in 2021
Under the direction of the Canton of Zurich’s Office of Planning and Architecture and in cooperation with the ZHAW, the project is now in the development phase, which includes a detailed preparation of projected costs and deadlines. The goal is to present the Cantonal Council and Federal Council in 2021 with a construction project that can be approved. If they agree to the project with no further reservations, the first stage should be completed by 2026. Stage two will be developed in parallel in accordance with the “Campus T” master plan.
Studies for each and everyone
In simple terms, the term “barrier-free studies” means that all students can have unrestricted access to studies. The ZHAW has made this its motto.
The UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities came into force in Switzerland in 2014. It stipulates that universities should provide all students with equal and non-discriminatory access. Yet even in 2018, studying with a disability or chronic illnesses is not a matter of course. For this reason, the ZHAW has decided to launch several initiatives, all with the goal of allowing equal access to and independent participation in university studies.
ZHAW leads network on barrier-free education
Since 2018, the ZHAW has had the lead in a university network on barrier-free education in Switzerland (Studium und Behinderung Schweiz), which is supported by the federal government. The network, which brings together experts with operational responsibility for societal integration at Swiss universities, provides a framework for professionals to exchange knowledge and exploit synergies. The network deals with important issues such as compensation of disadvantages, barrier-free didactics and barrier-free buildings. Compensation of disadvantages is an especially important instrument for achieving barrier-free studies, as it offers educational institutions the opportunity to compensate for disadvantages related to illnesses by changing existing structures. For example, students affected by a chronic illness can take their exams in a different format than originally planned.
Second conference on barrier-free communication
In collaboration with the University of Geneva, the ZHAW School of Applied Linguistics established the first Swiss centre of excellence for barrier-free communication. The centre is a contact point for information on all aspects of barrier-free communication. After a first major conference in Winterthur, the centre hosted the second Swiss conference on barrier-free communication in Geneva on 9 and 10 November 2018. Another project in which the ZHAW School of Engineering is involved is developing guidelines with suggestions as to what universities can do to ensure equal opportunity for researchers and lecturers with disabilities. Called “Teaching and researching at university – barrier-free!”, the project was launched in 2018. Both projects are supported by the federal government, and the ZHAW has the lead in the first.