Published: 09.10.13

Uniting universities 

Arnaud Monnard
Building bridges between universities: Arnaud Monnard, representative of External Affairs, AVETH. (Photo: Arnaud Monnard, ETH Zurich)
Building bridges between universities: Arnaud Monnard, representative of External Affairs, AVETH. (Photo: Arnaud Monnard, ETH Zurich) (large view)

As an AVETH representative of external affairs I have much to do with Actionuni, which is why I am interested in the current changes about to take place. This organisation represents young researchers as well as the associations of non-professorial academic staff of the Swiss universities and Federal Institutes of Technology on a national and international level.

In a nutshell, Actionuni’s objectives are to improve the career tracks of academics and to coordinate activities for Swiss associations representing non-professorial academic staff. It looks to establish and promote cooperation between the national associations of young researchers. It also represents Swiss universities at a European level within the European association, Eurodoc.

In 2015 a new law will be introduced at a Swiss national level to coordinate communications among universities and it will also include the universities of applied sciences, which was not the case until now. Currently, the Universities of Bern, Fribourg, Luzern, Neuchâtel, ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne are officially represented in Actionuni. With the new law, Actionuni will extend its reach to represent the technical institutes on all levels of academic research.

This will pose a serious challenge in terms of coordination and implementation in a country where almost each canton has its own set of academic institutions. Adding universities of applied sciences to an already well-established association will take some time, which is why the integration of the first institutes will begin at the end of this year.

There is a lot of work to do. For one thing, staff associations will have to be created for each university of applied sciences in parallel to integrating them into Actionuni. While the concept of staff associations is a tradition at universities, it is uncommon at universities of applied sciences as research staff and the amount of research conducted is minimal compared with universities.

With a clear focus on staff, Actionuni intends to implement something similar to what already exists at a Swiss national level for students: VSS-UNES, the umbrella organisation of the representative student bodies of most of Switzerland's higher education institutions. It represents the interests of students on a federal level, coordinating the requests of its members and cooperating with national and international organisations with the overall aim to promote democratisation and equalisation.

In my opinion, this change is positive. In a global world where we must be able to compete at an international level, and where science is the fruit of coordination and competition between groups spread around the globe, it is an absolute necessity to promote dialog at a national level. Actionuni would be one of the means to reach this achievement.

Moreover, as one of the oldest Swiss research institutions, ETH Zurich has an important role to play in this significant transition. Its long tradition of encouraging participation and supporting organisations like AVETH could certainly serve as an example of how to strengthen dialog within a university. Being responsible for external affairs, it will be my task to ensure that good communication takes place and that I create bridges between the different universities.

About the author

Arnaud Monnard studied Life Science at EPFL where he obtained a degree in Engineering with special focus in Neuroscience. In September 2012, he started his Ph.D. studies in Human Nutrition at ETH Zurich, working on micronutrient deficiencies under Professor Michael Zimmermann. Since February 2013, Arnaud Monnard has been an active representative for External Affairs within the organisation AVETH.

Reader comments: