Zurich’s cantonal parliament has ruled that professors at Switzerland’s largest university must report any work they are doing alongside their academic responsibilities.
The unanimous decision is intended to raise the transparency of professors’ alliances and interests outside of their teaching responsibilities, such as in cases when they serve on a company’s board of trustees or advise a health insurance company. It applies to professors at the University of Zurich, Switzerland’s largest university, with nearly 26,000 students.
Zurich’s cantonal parliament decided to allow the university to choose how and whether to make the information about its professors’ activities public, an amendment to a previous version of the rule which required public access.
The decision follows years of public debates over conflicts of interest at universities, highlighted by events such as university sponsorship by the bank UBS and a scandal involving parliamentarian and former University of Zurich professor Christoph Mörgeli.
He lost his job after information from an internal report into the medical history museum was published in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper. In it, the university criticised Mörgeli’s role as curator at the museum.
Mörgeli, a controversial politician from the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, then claimed he was bullied by colleagues and lacked support because of his political beliefs. He was subsequently dismissed from his position at the university, a move later determined to have been made unfairly.
And in April 2012, the University of Zurich and UBS announced a surprise CHF100 million ($112 million) sponsorship deal to fund five university chairs and establish a “UBS International Centre of Economics in Society” at the university’s economics department. Critics were put off by the secretive nature of the arrangement and said the university’s independence had been compromised.
swissinfo.ch and agencies