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definition - ETH_Zurich

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ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Established 1855
Type Public
Budget 1.36 billion CHF (1.72 billion USD)
President Ralph Eichler
Rector Heidi Wunderli-Allenspach
Admin. staff 10,040
Students 17,187 [2]
Location Zurich, Canton of Zurich, Switzerland
47°22′35.10″N 8°32′53.17″E / 47.376417°N 8.5481028°E / 47.376417; 8.5481028Coordinates: 47°22′35.10″N 8°32′53.17″E / 47.376417°N 8.5481028°E / 47.376417; 8.5481028
Campus Urban
Affiliations CESAER, IDEA League, IARU, TIME
Website Website (English)
ETH Zurich is located in Switzerland
ETH Zurich
Location: ETH Zurich, Switzerland

ETH Zürich (German: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich) is an engineering, science, technology, mathematics and management university in the City of Zurich, Switzerland. Like its sister institution École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), it is an integral part of the ETH Domain that is directly subordinate to Switzerland's Federal Department of Home Affairs.

ETH Zurich is consistently ranked among the top universities in the world. It is considered the best university in continental Europe by the Shanghai Ranking ARWU, the Times Higher Education Ranking[1] and the QS World University Ranking. It is currently ranked 7th best university in the world in engineering, science and technology. Twenty-one Nobel Prizes have been awarded to students or professors of the Institute in the past, the most famous of is Albert Einstein in 1921, and the most recent is Richard F. Heck in 2010. It is a founding member of the IDEA League and the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). It is a member of the CESAER and Top Industrial Managers for Europe networks.

The school was founded by the Swiss Federal Government in 1854 with the stated mission to educate engineers and scientists, serve as a national center of excellence in science and technology and provide a hub for interaction between the scientific community and industry.[citation needed]



  Polytechnikum in 1865
  ETH Zürich Zentrum

ETH was founded in 1854 by the Swiss Confederation and opened its doors in 1855 as a polytechnic institute (Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule). It comprised in the beginning six departments: architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, forestry, and a catch-all department for mathematics, natural sciences, literature, and social and political sciences. It is locally still known as Poly, derived from the original name Eidgenössisches Polytechnikum "Federal Polytechnic Institute".

ETH is a federal institute (i.e., under direct administration by the Swiss government), whereas the University of Zurich is a cantonal institution. The decision for a new federal university was heavily disputed at the time, because the liberals pressed for a "federal university", while the conservative forces wanted all universities to remain under cantonal control, with the goal of giving liberal thoughts no refuge.[citation needed] In the beginning, both universities were co–located in the buildings of the University of Zurich.

In 1909, the course program of ETH was restructured to that of a real university, from its early, very schoolish agenda, and ETH was granted the right to award doctorates. In 1911, it was given its current name, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule. In 1924, another reorganization structured the university in 12 departments. However, it now has 16 departments.

  Interior skylights in the main building

Since 1993 ETH Zurich, the EPFL, and four associated research institutes were joined and administered together as the "ETH Domain".


ETH Zurich is regularly ranked among the top universities in the world. Typically, popular rankings place the institution as the best university in Switzerland and on the main European continent, among the top 3-5 European universities, and among the best 15-20 of the world (e.g., in 2010, rank 15 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranking and rank 23 in the 2011 Shanghai ranking, see Ranking Overview).

Historically, ETH Zurich has achieved its reputation particularly in the fields of chemistry, mathematics and physics. There are 21 Nobel Laureates who are associated with ETH. The most recent Nobel Laureate is Richard F. Heck who was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2010. Albert Einstein is perhaps its most famous alumnus. Other distinguished alumni include Har Gobind Khorana and John Von Neumann.

In a comparison of Swiss universities by swissUP Ranking and in rankings published by CHE comparing the universities of German-speaking countries, ETH Zurich traditionally is ranked first in natural sciences, computer science and engineering sciences.

In the survey CHE ExcellenceRanking on the quality of Western European graduate school programmes in the fields biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics, ETH was assessed as one of the three institutions to have excellent graduate programmes in all considered fields, the other two being the Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge. To support its cutting edge research, ETH Zurich has a budget of 1.36 billion CHF (approx. 1.72 billion USD) in the year 2011.

In 2011 the QS World University Rankings[2] placed ETH Zurich at 18th overall in the world, and 1st in mainland Europe, while only four UK universities performed better than it in Europe. In the 2010 Times Higher Education World University Rankings ETH Zurich ranked 15th overall, 7th in the field of Engineering & IT and 11th in Physical Sciences.

According to the 2011 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), the ETH is ranked 23rd in the world, the 4th best university in Europe, and 1st in Switzerland. It is also ranked 5th in the field of Chemistry and 9th in the broad subject field of Natural Sciences and Mathematics worldwide.[3]

  Admission and education

Swiss federal institutes of technology and research (ETH domain)

Budget 2012 (CHF mil.)

ETH Domain


Federal Institutes of Technology


Federal Laboratories




  Students and locals in ETH front courtyard

ETH is not selective in its undergraduate admission procedures. Like every public university in Switzerland, ETH is obliged to grant admission to every Swiss citizen who took the Matura. It also grants entry to foreign students with certain qualifications, such as A-Levels with GCSE, but only in specific combinations. Most applicants from foreign countries are required to take either the reduced entrance exam or the comprehensive entrance exam; an applicant can be admitted to ETH even without any verifiable educational records by passing the comprehensive entrance exam.[4]

There are no obligatory examinations during the first academic year which is divided into two semesters. However, the actual selection process takes place in the summer shortly after the second semester. Students have to pass the block examinations of courses of the first year, called the Basisprüfung. If the weighted average score is not sufficient, you are required to retake the entire Basisprüfung which usually means that you have to resit through the first year. About 50% of the students fail the Basisprüfung on first try and many of them choose to drop out after the failure. The structure of examinations in higher academic years is similar to the Basisprüfung (Basis examination), but with a higher success rate. The regular time to reach graduation is six semesters for the Bachelor of Science degree and three further semesters for the Master of Science degree. The last semester is dedicated to writing a thesis.

Education at ETH tends to be theoretically oriented with a high amount of mathematics involved throughout the courses. The main language of instruction in undergraduate (Bachelor) studies is German and English, while most Master's programmes and doctoral study are in English.


  ETH Hönggerberg with the new HIT building

ETH Zurich has two campuses. The main building was constructed in the 1860s in the heart of the city. As the university grew, it spread into the surrounding quarters. As a result, the Zentrum campus consists of various buildings and institutions throughout Zurich and firmly integrates the ETH in the city. The main building stands directly across the street from the University of Zurich.

Because this geographic situation substantially hindered the expansion of ETH, a new campus was built from 1964 to 1976 on the Hönggerberg in the outskirts of the city. The last major expansion project of this new campus was completed in 2003; since then, the Hönggerberg location houses the departments of materials science, architecture, civil engineering, physics, biology, and chemistry.

  Main building

  Main building as seen from Polyterasse

The main building of ETH was built 1861 to 1864 under Gustav Zeuner; the architect, however, was Gottfried Semper, who was a professor of architecture at ETH at the time and one of the most important writers and theorists of the age. Semper worked in a neoclassical style that was unique to him. It emphasized bold and clear massings with a detailing, such as the rusticated ground level and giant order above, that derived in part from the work of Andrea Palladio and Donato Bramante. During the construction of the University of Zurich, the south wing of the building was allocated to the University until its own new main building was constructed (1912 – 1914). At about the same time, Semper's ETH building was enlarged and also got its impressive cupola.

  Science City

In the year of ETH's 150th anniversary, an extensive project called "Science City" for the Hönggerberg Campus has begun with the goal to transform the campus into an attractive district based on the principle of sustainability.

  ETH Hönggerberg from the south, looking at the five "fingers" of the HCI and behind the high HPP building.

  Student life

ETH students were found to be the busiest students of all institutions of higher education in Switzerland.[5] The undergraduates' tight curriculum consists of as much as twice the number of lectures as comparable courses of other Swiss universities.[citation needed]

ETH has well over 100 student associations. Most notable is the VSETH (Verband der Studierenden an der ETH) which comprises all department associations. The associations regularly organize events with varying size and popularity. Events of the neighboring University of Zurich are well-attended by ETH students and vice versa. The VSETH organizes events of greater public attention, such as the Polyball, the Polyparty (does not exist any more) and the Erstsemestrigenfest, the first two housed in the main building of ETH. Sometimes, the annual Erstsemestrigenfest takes place at extraordinary locations, for example the Zurich Airport. All freshmen enjoy special treatment at that event.

ETH's junior enterprise ETH juniors ranks top 5 within Europe. ETH juniors[6] is a student association that offers consulting services to companies and gives ETH students a chance to gain work and project experience next to their studies.

The Academic Sports Association of Zurich (ASVZ) offers more than 80 sports. The biggest annual sports event is the SOLA-Stafette (SOLA relay race) which consists of 14 sections over a total distance of 140 kilometers. More than 760 teams participated in the 2009 edition.[7]


The annual Polyball is the most prestigious public event at ETH, with a long tradition since the 1880s. The end of November, the Polyball welcomes around 10,000 dancers, music-lovers and party animals in the extensively decorated main building of ETH. The Polyball is the biggest decorated ball in Europe.

The amicable rivalry between ETH and the neighbouring University of Zurich has been cultivated since 1951 (Uni-Poly). There has been an annual rowing match between teams from the two institutions on the river Limmat.

There are many regular symposia and conferences at ETH, most notably the annual Wolfgang Pauli Lectures, in honor of former ETH Professor Wolfgang Pauli. Distinct lecturers, among them 24 Nobel Laureates, have held lectures of the various fields of natural sciences at this conference since 1962.

  Notable alumni and faculty

  Albert Einstein, 1921
  John von Neumann, graduated in chemical engineering, ETH Zurich 1925.[8]

The names listed below are taken from the official record compiled by the ETH. It includes only graduates of the ETH and professors who have been awarded the Nobel Prize for their achievements at ETH.[9]

  Nobel Prize in Physics

  Nobel Prize in Chemistry

  Nobel Prize in Medicine

Other Nobel Laureates directly affiliated with the ETH include

ETH Zurich has produced and attracted many famous scientists in its short history, including Albert Einstein. More than twenty Nobel laureates have either studied at ETH or were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work achieved at ETH. Other alumni include scientists who were distinguished with the highest honours in their respective fields, amongst them Pritzker Prize and Turing Award winners. Academic achievements aside, ETH has been Alma Mater to many Olympic Medalists and world champions.


  Main Polytechnics in Europe

  See also


  External links



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