The Confederation specifies the constitutional mandate to run the Federal Institutes of Technology in the ETH Act. This statute also regulates the legal foundations for the operation of the research institutes of the ETH Domain.

The Federal Act on the Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH Act) defines the status, structure and mission of the ETH Domain. The open rules it defines are a key prerequisite in order for the ETH Domain’s two Federal Institutes of Technology and four research institutes to be able to keep pace with technical and scientific developments and with international competition. According to these legislative provisions, the ETH Domain is autonomous and affiliated to the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER). The ETH Board is the strategic management body of the ETH Domain.

Mission and management

According to the principal mission of the institutions of the ETH Domain (Art. 2 ETH Act), both Federal Institutes of Technology and the four research institutes are to do the following:

  • Educate students and qualified staff in scientific and technical fields and provide permanent continuing education.
  • Expand scientific findings through research.
  • Foster upcoming young scientists.
  • Render scientific and technical services.
  • Perform public relations activities and exploit their research findings. The institutions of the ETH Domain discharge their mission to an internationally recognised standard. They take account of Switzerland’s needs and promote international cooperation.

Performance mandate and global budget

The ETH Act codifies the autonomy of both the ETH Domain and its institutions, establishing a separation between political, strategic and operational management. The legislature assumes an effect oriented management model: the political authorities specify performance standards and key financial parameters while the ETH Domain, as a service provider, is responsible for implementation of the specifications. The ETH Domain is also subject to parliamentary supervision.

Political management is the responsibility of the Federal Parliament and the Federal Council. The tools to be used are a federal resolution approved by parliament, which contains a four-year budget appropriation, a performance mandate for the ETH Domain from the Federal Council, which is tailored to the budget, and the annual credit allocation from parliament. The federal resolution regarding budget appropriation over a four-year performance period is based on the Federal Council’s Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation. At the same time, this federal resolution sets out the general federal funding conditions. The annual credit allocation from parliament is provided in light of the ETH Domain’s performance. These political tools are complemented by the ETH Domain’s autonomous accounting system and financial controlling which provide information on the accounts and mission fulfilment. Here, a central role is played by the ETH Board’s three-part reporting system: In an annual report, the ETH Board indicates how the annual federal financial contribution has been used. In a self-evaluation report in each half of the performance period, the ETH Board indicates the extent to which the goals of the performance mandate have already been met. At the end of the performance period, the ETH Board provides a final report on how the performance mandate was fulfilled during the expired performance period. The final report must be approved by the Swiss Federal Assembly.

The self-evaluation report by the ETH Board provides a basis for the external evaluation (peer review) of the ETH Domain to be undertaken by the EAER. During this evaluation, external specialists are consulted to assess how the ETH Domain’s mission is being met. The EAER gives parliament an interim report on the degree of target achievement whenever a budget appropriation application is made for the next performance period (Art. 34a ETH Act).

The ETH Board is responsible for the strategic management of the ETH Domain (see p. 19 ff.). Operational management within the ETH Domain is the responsibility of both Federal Institutes of Technology and the four research institutes. They assume all responsibilities which are not assigned to the ETH Board by the ETH Act. Executive management of the institutions of the ETH Domain is the responsibility of the members of the Executive Boards of both Federal Institutes of Technology and the members of the directorates of the four research institutes.