The system-oriented natural sciences unite

Emergence and dissolution of the S-ENETH

  • Besondere Ereignisse

The School Domain of Earth, Environment and Natural Resources (S-ENETH) was established with the intention of building a leading international academic institution to promote new research approaches to the problem area of sustainable development.

2000 – “Green area/environmental systems” project plan

At the beginning of the new millennium, the university management launched the “Green area” project plan with the departments of Agricultural and Food Sciences, Forestry and Environmental Sciences. The central requirement was that 20% of the financial resources must be “flexibilised” and made available for new things. The overall project goal was to ensure the longer-term success and international competitiveness of teaching and research in the subject areas concerned. In the course of the process, the Department of Earth Sciences joined the project plan; this thus became the “Environmental systems” project plan.

2005 – the S-ENETH as a highlight of ETH

The School Domain of Earth, Environment and Natural Resources (S-ENETH) was established on 1 April 2005. It combined extensive expertise in research and teaching in this subject area. It also provided a structural environment suitable for jointly formulating and addressing research questions as well as jointly designing and implementing lessons. The research topics were found, on the one hand, in the core areas of the individual departments and, on the other hand, in new, strategically prioritised fields of activity. In the annual report, the new institution was presented as the “highlight” of ETH in 2005. At the end of 2005, Professor Ernst Hafen was elected as the new ETH President. He considered the question of structure to be very important for the further development of ETH and gave the S-ENETH the task of providing its structure with a professional dean.

2008 – dissolution of the S-ENETH

Within ETH, however, there was a lack of acceptance for organisational restructuring in the direction of school domains. Having two different structures – a large school domain alongside comparatively small departments – was also out of the question. At the end of 2008 already, the university management dissolved the S-ENETH. As quickly as the organisation had come into being, it had disappeared again. However, the impact on the content of the system-oriented natural sciences far outlasted the organisational unit. The interdisciplinary cooperation between research groups of the departments involved in the S-ENETH was continued for years in the Competence Center Environment and Sustainability (CCES) set up by the ETH Board. In teaching, a uniform basic education in mathematics and natural sciences was established, which provided students with great expertise in terms of content and a high degree of flexibility in choosing subsequent study programmes. This standard was also maintained in subsequent amendments to the study regulations.