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Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich

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Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich

"ETH" redirects here. For other uses, see ETH (disambiguation).
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich
Established 1855
Type Public
Budget CHF1.47 billion (US$1.62 billion)
President Ralph Eichler
Rector Lino Guzzella
Admin. staff 10,242 (headcount 2012), 7,662 (full-time equivalents 2012) [1]
Students 17,781 [2]
Location Zürich, Switzerland
Campus Urban
Affiliations CESAER, IARU, IDEA League
ETH Zürich
ETH Zürich
Location: ETH Zürich, Switzerland

ETH Zürich (German: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich) is an engineering, science, technology, mathematics and management university in the city of Zürich, Switzerland. Like its sister institution Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), it is an integral part of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain (ETH Domain) that is directly subordinate to Switzerland's Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research.[3]

ETH Zürich is consistently ranked by all major World University rankings among the top universities in the world.[4] It is considered the best university in continental Europe by the Shanghai Ranking ARWU, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings Ranking[5] and the QS World University Ranking. It is currently ranked 8th best university in the world in engineering, science and technology and 2nd in Europe after the University of Cambridge.[6] Twenty-one Nobel Prizes have been awarded to students or professors of the Institute in the past, the most famous of which is Albert Einstein in 1921, and the most recent is Kurt Wüthrich in 2002. It is a founding member of the IDEA League and the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) and a member of the CESAER network.

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.[7]


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 Eidgenössische polytechnische Schule[8] "Federal polytechnic school".

ETH is a federal institute (i.e., under direct administration by the Swiss government), whereas the University of Zürich 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. [9] In the beginning, both universities were co-located in the buildings of the University of Zürich.

From 1905 to 1908, under the presidency of Jérôme Franel, 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 1909 the first doctorates were awarded. 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.

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


ETH Zürich 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 European continent, among the top 3-5 European universities, and among the best 10-20 of the world.

Historically, ETH Zürich 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.

In 2013 the QS World University Rankings[10] placed ETH Zürich at 12th overall in the world, and 1st in mainland Europe, while only four UK universities performed better than it in Europe. In the 2013 Times Higher Education World University Rankings ETH Zürich ranked 14th overall, 8th in the field of Engineering & IT and 12th in Physical Sciences.[11]

According to the 2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), the ETH is ranked 20th in the world, the 4th best university in Europe, and 1st in Switzerland. It is also ranked 5th in the field of Chemistry and 8th in the broad subject field of Natural Sciences and Mathematics worldwide.[12])

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

In the survey University of Cambridge. To support its cutting edge research, ETH Zürich has a budget of 1.47 billion CHF (approx. 1.62 billion USD) in the year 2012.

Admission and education

Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH) Domain

2012 budget (millions of CHF)

ETH Domain



Federal institutes of technology


Federal research institutes


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.[13]

As at all universities in Switzerland, the academic year is divided into two semesters. Examinations are mostly not held at the end of the semester, but in an examination sessions immediately before the beginning of the next semester. After the first year of study, Bachelor students muss pass a block examination of all courses of the first year, called the Basisprüfung. If the weighted average score is not sufficient, a student is required to retake the entire Basisprüfung which usually means having to re-sit the whole 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 or four further semesters for the Master of Science degree. The final semester is dedicated to writing a thesis.

Education at ETH Zürich is theoretically oriented with a high amount of mathematics involved throughout the degree programmes. The main language of instruction in undergraduate (Bachelor) studies is German, with an increasing amount of courses in English in higher semesters. Most Master's programmes and doctoral study are in English.


ETH Zürich 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 Zürich and firmly integrates the ETH in the city. The main building stands directly across the street from the University of Zürich.

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 architecture, civil engineering, biology, chemistry, materials science and physics.

Main building

The main building of ETH was built from 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 architectural 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 Zürich, 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 Zürich's 150th anniversary, an extensive project called "Science City" for the Hönggerberg Campus was started with the goal to transform the campus into an attractive district based on the principle of sustainability.

Student life

ETH students were found to be the busiest students of all institutions of higher education in Switzerland.[14] The undergraduates' tight curriculum consists of as much as twice the number of lectures as comparable courses of other Swiss universities.

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 Zürich 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 Zürich Airport. All freshmen enjoy special treatment at that event.

ETH's junior enterprise ETH juniors ranks top 5 within Europe. ETH juniors[15] 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 Zürich (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.[16] The 40th edition of the SOLA, held on May 4th 2013, had 900 enrolled teams, of which 893 started and 876 were classified.[17]


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 Zürich 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

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.[19]

Nobel Prize in Physics

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Nobel Prize in Medicine

Other Nobel Laureates directly affiliated with the ETH include

ETH Zürich 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 Fields Medal, 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

Notes and references

See also

External links

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