Little Bits of History

February 7

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 7, 2017

1854: The Swiss State passes a law enacting the establishment of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich). The Swiss Federal State was founded in 1848 and a commission was set up under Federal Councillor Stefano Franscini in 1851 with the goal of establishing higher education opportunities for the citizens. On this day, the law called for a “federal polytechnical school in association with a school for higher education in the exact, political and humanistic sciences”. On October 16, classes began at various sites throughout Zürich and the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich was in business. It, along with its sister school EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) are the basis for the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain (ETH Domain). The two schools are joined by four federal research institutes.

ETH Zürich is consistently rated as one of the top universities of the world, currently holding the 5th spot in engineering and science and technology. It ranks after MIT, Stanford University, Cambridge University, and National University of Singapore. Their most famous alumni is Albert Einstein and he along with 20 other students, professors, or alumni have been Nobel Prize recipients. The school remains known by the diminutive Poly from its original name: Eidgenössische polytechnische Schule. ETH is and always has been a federal school run by the government. This was an issue before its founding as liberals saw this as a way for conservatives, in control of the government, to gain even more power. The University of Zürich remains a cantonal institution run by the local canton, rather than the federal government.

Between 1905 and 1908, President Jérôme Franel restructured the institute and made it a real university with the ability to bestow doctorates and the first were given in 1909. The name changed to the current iteration in 1911. In 1924, further restructuring give ETH 12 departments, but today, there are 16 available. For citizens of Switzerland, the admission process is not by selection and any who wish to attend may do so if they passed the Matura, a high school exit exam. Foreign students are required to pass either a reduced or comprehensive exam but some European applicants are waived.

Each year is divided into two semesters and after the freshman year is complete and before the sophomore year begins, a block examination covering all subjects taken the first year must be passed. They do not offer final exams at the end of the class. Only about half of all students pass this test called the Basisprüfung. Many drop out rather than try again. The structure remains for ensuing years, but with a higher success rate. It usually takes six semesters to receive a Bachelor of Science and three to four more for a Master of Science degree with the final semester devoted to writing a thesis. About 18,500 students attend.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. – Benjamin Franklin

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change. – Carl Rogers

Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death. – Albert Einstein

The foundation of every state is the education of its youth. – Diogenes


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