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Underpaid students Swiss doctoral students complain of being short-changed

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The top Swiss university has faced negative headlines in recent months.

(© Keystone / Walter Bieri)

Doctoral students at Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) have complained of being underpaid. The university is investigating the claims and has paid some of the money that students say they are owed.

The issue follows hard on the heels of the recent - yet unrelated - scandal of doctoral students being bullied at ETH. The latest complaint is not connected to that problem and appears to be confined to the university’s Basel campus.

According to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, doctoral students in Switzerland should earn between CHF47,040 and CHF70,300 ($48,000-$72,000) in their first year, and up to CHF80,320 in their third year.

However, some of the affected students say they have been paid considerably less, despite working full-time. The worst case revealed by the newspaper is of a student being paid CHF26,400. The article says at least half a dozen other students feel short-changed.

ETH Vice-President Ulrich Weidmann admitted that there was an issue. “This is clearly illegal and must not happen,” he told NZZ am Sonntag. He added that CHF150,000 had so far been paid to students to make up the discrepancy, although some CHF200,000 has been claimed.

The university is also conducted an analysis of all part-time contracts ranging back to 2015. That probe should be completed by the end of the autumn.

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