University of Zurich declares third-party donations

The main building of the University of Zurich with the city of Zurich in the background © Keystone / Christian Beutler

The university has announced the publication of a transparency list online of its external funding. Last year the university took in CHF315 million ($316 million) in third-party funds.

This content was published on April 4, 2019 - 12:14

The move - said to be the first of its kind in Switzerland - is the latest in the university’s attempts to offer more transparency, after its sponsorship deal with the UBS bank revealed in 2012 put the spotlight on the private funding of state-run universities.

+ Read more about the case here

The University of Zurich has been publishing a list of endowed professorships and outside interests of professors since 2017. 

“Given the increasing importance of third-party funds, we are also aiming to create more transparency in this area,” university president Michael Hengartner said in a statementExternal link marking the launch of the databank and other sustainability measures on Wednesday.

The list

The new transparency list includes all external funding in excess of CHF100,000. It also details the names of the sponsor, the beneficiary and the project.

Among those included are technology and pharma firms, the Swiss state, and family foundations. Among the biggest donors are the Werner Siemens Foundation, with a total amount of almost CHF10.7 million in 2018, and the Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation from Zug, with a total amount of CHF20 million for a research centre on breastfeeding. The family owns Medela, the leading electronic breastmilk pump manufacturer.

+Our article on the launch of this research centre

Situation elsewhere

According to the Tages-Anzeiger newspaperExternal link, the University of Zurich does not receive as much external funding as other institutions in the country. The top spot is held by the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) – its neighbour in Zurich’s university quarter. It took in CHF367 million in 2017. ETH Zurich is not planning publish a similar list as its neighbour, it told the newspaper, but usually communicates details if requested.

In terms of percentage, the University of St Gallen leads the way at 35% third-party monies. The university is currently under pressure following an expenses scandalExternal link concerning a professor and is also planning transparency measures on third-party funding, the newspaper said.

Universities in French-speaking Switzerland do not currently publish a transparency list for third party funding like that of the University of Zurich, the Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA foundExternal link. The ETH Zurich’s sister organisation, the EPFL in Lausanne, said it had “no legal basis for publishing this kind of list”, while the University of Lausanne, for example, said such information could be obtained on demand.

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