The ZHAW is one of Switzerland’s leading universities of applied sciences. It offers teaching, research, continuing education, and services, taking a practical and academically rigorous approach. In research and development, the ZHAW focuses on key societal challenges, with an emphasis on energy and social integration. With its expertise in sustainable development and digital transformation, the ZHAW imparts forward-looking knowledge and actively shapes digital and ecological transformation. Located throughout the Zurich area, the ZHAW is firmly integrated into the local region and collaborates with a large number of international partners. Around 14,100 students are currently enrolled in 33 bachelor’s and 19 master’s degree programmes.
In the words of EELISA Governing Board: “This is an important moment for EELISA and its enlargement strategy. This new partnership with the ZHAW means a further step to expand cooperation within European Universities and brings a clear complementarity to the alliance”. Furthermore, increases the chances to have a true impact beyond the Alliance’s higher education institutions and countries, and contribute to the European Commission’s ambitious vision “of an innovative, globally competitive and attractive European Education Area by 2025, in full synergy with the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area”.
In this interview, President Jean-Marc Piveteau and Dirk Wilhelm, Dean of the School of Engineering at ZHAW, share the keys for taking this new endeavour and how they expect to contribute to Alliance.
Q. Mr. Piveteau, what was your motivation for joining the EELISA Alliance?
A. As a Swiss university, membership in EELISA gives us the opportunity to work with high-ranking universities from the EU region and to strengthen partnerships within Europe. The participating universities vary in size; some are very rich in history, and they also differ in their disciplines. What they have in common, however, is the goal of changing higher education in Europe. This and the other goals of the alliance correspond very well with the strategic orientation of our university. The ZHAW stands for a transformative understanding of science. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research through collaboration in networks plays a key role in this. Digital transformation and sustainability are major topics at the ZHAW, as are lifelong learning and open science. Here, too, there are many points of contact with the EELISA programme.
Q. Mr. Wilhelm, what contribution does the ZHAW want to make as part of EELISA?
A. The ZHAW will participate in all Work Packages (WP) of Phase 2. However, we will focus on the topics ‘Employability and Partnerships’ (WP7) and ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ (WP10). As a university of applied sciences, our research and teaching activities are closely linked with business partners and associations. We place great emphasis on the professional qualifications of our graduates. I am confident that we will make a significant contribution to this and benefit from the collaboration with the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, in addition to the dialogue with the other members of WP7. In the area of entrepreneurship, we launched a university-wide initiative at the ZHAW some time ago to promote entrepreneurship and the creation of start-ups. I look forward to working with Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg on these issues, building on our experience and insights.
Q. And how does the membership of EELISA affect the ZHAW?
A. Mr. Piveteau: Switzerland is part of Europe in terms of history, culture, economy and educational background. In this sense, collaboration with other European universities is very important to us – in both research and teaching. One of the things we hope to achieve through the alliance is simplifying student exchange programmes, and we are interested in setting up joint degree and doctoral programmes with the participating universities.
A. Mr. Wilhelm: We are particularly interested in access to materials and best practices in the field of entrepreneurship education. Research collaborations within the framework of EU projects and access to exchange platforms are also of great benefit to the ZHAW. Staff exchange programmes offer exciting prospects. As the Dean of the School of Engineering, I look forward to helping shape the education of a new generation of engineers who is able to reconcile smart technologies with sustainable needs to meet current global challenges.
Prof. Dr Jean-Marc Piveteau, ZHAW President.
Mr. Piveteau studied mathematics and obtained his doctorate at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. His research mainly focused on cryptography and network security. In this context, he was responsible for several projects in close cooperation with business and industry partners. In addition to his role as President of the ZHAW, which he has held since 2011, he is a member of various bodies, such as the Foundation Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the ORD Strategy Council. He heads the Teaching and Open Science Delegations of Swiss universities.
Prof. Dr. Dirk Wilhelm, ZHAW Dean of the School of Engineering
Mr. Wilhelm is a professor and Dean of the ZHAW School of Engineering. After studying mechanical engineering at the University of Göttingen in Germany, he completed his doctorate in mechanical engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich in Switzerland. He worked as an engineer at Alstom Power Systems and then headed a development department at the biomedical company Bruker BioSpin. Since 2013, he has been working at the ZHAW School of Engineering, where he has been Dean since 2019. He is also a member of various boards, including the Digitalization Initiative of the Zurich Higher Education Institutions (DIZH, Innovation Board) and the STEM Initiative of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences.