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Higher education  Government shows confidence in EPFL president 

 Martin Vetterli, EPFL president

Martin Vetterli, EPFL president, in front of the Rolex Learning Center at the launch of the 50th anniversary celebrates on March 18, 2019

(© Keystone / Laurent Gillieron)

Martin Vetterli’s term as president of the internationally-recognised Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) has been renewed for an additional four years.

The Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive body, said in a statementexternal link that under Vetterliexternal link’s leadership, the EPFLexternal link “had progressed in its policy of excellence in both teaching and research at the international level, further cementing its position among the world’s top universities”.

One of the country’s two federal institutes of technology - the other is the top-ranked ETH Zurichexternal link - the EPFL was placedexternal link 18th in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and 38th in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. It took joint third place in the THE “most international universities” rankings along with the ETH Zurich.

+ ETH Zurich remains the best university outside US and UK

Last year the EPFL marked its 50th anniversary. 

Innovation motor

Confirming the appointment on Wednesday, the government said that during Vetterli’s first term, the EPFL had developed a strong focus on basic research and had strengthened its activities in the fields of sustainability and energy, robotics, digitisation, imaging and artificial intelligence. This had contributed to innovation in Switzerland, it said.

Vetterli, a professor of communication systems who has held the EPFL top job since 2016, said he was looking forward to leading the EPFLexternal link for a further four years. His mandate starts in January 2021.

According to the THEexternal link, the EPFL “has a particularly strong reputation in engineering with 13 engineering science programmes, and more recently it has become known for its work in the life sciences, as well as having strong computer science programmes”. 

Last year, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported that the EPFL was seeking additional federal funds to support its recent expansion. Its sister institution, the ETH Zurich, currently gets just over half of the federal funding available, the newspaper said.

+ Read more about this story here

Change at the top

Elsewhere there have been some changes in Switzerland’s top academic posts. Earlier this month, swissuniversities, the umbrella body, elected the rector of the University of Geneva, Yves Flückiger, as its president. Among Flückiger’s priorities is cooperation with Europe in the fields of research and education, “particularly the country’s participation in the research programmes of Horizon Europe (2021-2027),” a swissuniverisities statement said.external link

+ Swiss universities fear EU science funding snub

He succeeds Michael Hengartner, who became the president of the ETH Boardexternal link – which oversees both the ETH Zurich and the EPFL (and which recommended that Vetterli continue in the role) - at the beginning of February 2020. The Swiss-Canadian was formerly the rector of the University of Zurich, Switzerland’s largest university.

He takes the post after a turbulent year for the ETH Zurich, which included allegations of bullying against a professor who was later dismissed.

EPFL/Federal Council/Keystone-SDA/swissinfo.ch/ilj

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