History in Brief


"Universitas Turicensis" founded. The Canton of Zurich combines its existing colleges of theology, jurisprudence and medicine into the "Universitas Turicensis" and supplements these three areas of study with a faculty of arts. This is the first university in Europe to be founded by a democratic state instead of by either a monarch or the church.

161 students, 55 lecturers. In the first year 16 theology students, 26 law students, 98 medicine students and 21 arts students enroll. The handbook of courses is published in German and Latin. Great hopes for the future. The founders hope ultimately to turn the cantonal university into a national Swiss university. In a letter to a friend the spiritual father of the Zurich University, Johann Caspar von Orelli, wrote: "We had to found a Zurich university just to achieve something. But it, and it alone, can, and should become the Swiss University." The dream never came true.

Title page of the first handbook of courses


Polytechnic for rent. The newly created Federal Polytechnic is accepted for the time being as a guest of the University in the "Hinteramt" in Zurich's Augustinergasse.


Division of the humanities. The Faculty of Humanities is divided into a Department of Arts - Philosophy, Languages and History (phil. I) and a Department of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (phil. II).


University in the Poly building. The University takes up residence in the southern wing of the Polytechnic building, newly built by Gottfried Semper, on the Polyterrasse.

The first University building "Hinteramt" in Augustinergasse (1833-1964)


A Russian as first woman student. The Russian Nadeshda Suslowa, who has been admitted to medical studies as an audit student since 1865, is retrospectively enrolled for the winter semester 1866/67 and at the end of the year becomes the first woman in the German-speaking world to be awarded a doctorate.


Fiftieth birthday. The University of Zurich celebrates its fiftieth birthday. It now has 463 students and 91 lecturers, of whom 37 are professors.


Second-oldest Facululty of Veterinary Medicine. The Zurich "Thierarzneyschule" (School of Veterinary Medicine), which was founded in 1820, is affiliated to the University as an autonomous Faculty Veterinary Medicine. Although Zurich began to provide academic training for veterinarians relatively late compared with other veterinary schools the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine is the second oldest faculty in the world, after the faculty in Berne was founded a year earlier.


Over a thousand students. The number of students enrolled at the University tops 1,000 for the first time.


Yes to the Main Building. The citizens of Zurich accept the preliminary draft proposal for new University premises. A separation contract between the Canton of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Government stipulates the structure of ownership of the University and the ETH and paves the way for the integration of the two bodies' common collections and institutions.


Einstein appointed as lecturer. Albert Einstein teaches theoretical physics at the University of Zurich for two years.


From Institute of Higher Education to University. The educational authorities decide to officially rename the Zurich Institute of Higher Education, thus making the distinction between the newly designated Federal Institute of Technology, the former Polytechnic, and the University clearer.

Nadeshda Suslova


Alfred Werner receives Nobel Prize. In recognition of his work on the linkage of atoms in molecules Professor Alfred Werner is awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Alfred Werner


Official opening of University premises. The University's Main Building on Rämistrasse is officially opened on the occasion of the Zurich Sechseläuten. Thanks to the commitment of the Aargau architect Karl Moser who oversaw the project from the drawing board down to the last destails of interior design a work of art is created.


"Zürcher Student" rolls off the press. The student newspaper "Zürcher Student" appears for the first time. Throughout all the ups and downs of university and student life the paper has to this day continued to be an important mouthpiece.


Centennial. The University of Zurich celebrates its 100th anniversary. It now has 2,033 students.

Official commemorative postcard of the inauguration


Nobel prize for Paul Karrer. Paul Karrer, Professor for Organic Chemistry, receives the Nobel Prize for his research on vitamins.


University at the "Landi". The University features as part of the patriotic tableau at the National Exhibition in Zurich which takes place in the shadow of the war.


Churchill in the auditorium. On 19 September Winston Churchill gives a speech to the "academic youth of the world" in the auditorium of the University of Zurich. The speech culminates in the famous call "Therefore I say to you: let Europe arise!"

Paul Karrer


Nobel prize awarded to Walter Rudolf Hess. Walter Rudolf Hess, Director of the Physiological Institute of the University of Zurich, receives the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his research into the role played by the interbrain in determining and coordinating the functions of internal organs.


Solidarity with Hungary. The University and in particular the students champion the cause of the Hungarian rebels and later that of the Hungarian refugees.


More students. After years of decreasing student numbers the figure begins to rise once again. In 1960 over 3,000 students are enrolled - just as many as in 1950; by 1963 the number has already risen to over 5,000.


First thoughts of expansion. The University of Zurich is running out of space. The first proposal for physical expansion comes from the Faculty of Science, which suggests moving part of the University to the "Strickhofareal" in Zurich Irchel.

Walter Rudolf Hess

Balzan Prize is awarded to Paul Hindemith. Paul Hindemith, Professor for Music Theory, Composition and Music Education at the University of Zurich from 1951 to 1956, receives the Balzan Prize.


Designated Presidents. The growing University needs stronger leadership. On 29 January the Senate elects a designated president for the first time, who can prepare to take office in the following year and help the incumbent President with his duties.


Students take to the streets. Ongoing student riots erupt following controversy about educational policy and broader social issues: it culminates in the famous Globus riots. Not even the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops can stir up deep feelings at the University: student politics dominate.

University Law founders. A University Law is proposed, however, it does not meet with the approval of the Cantonal Government when presented in 1975.


End of the Uni Ball. Under, at times, tumultuous circumstances the last of the traditional Uni Balls is held. In its place come the Mensa and Uni celebrations.

Disturbances lead to closure. Student unrest at the University reaches a climax when the Main Building is closed for two days in the beginning of July.


University extends to Irchel. The University of Zurich reaches the 10,000 student threshold. Building work begins at the former Strickhofareal at Irchel to accommodate the growing University.


Double professorships with the ETHZ. The University and ETH Zurich begin to conduct research in the same buildings, the first of which is the Institute of Toxicology in Schwerzenbach. In addition, the University and ETHZ establish double professorships.

Paul Hindemith

Audiovision has arrived. New means of communication are needed in response to the rising number of students: a booth with slideshow, soundtrack and headphones is set up in the foyer of the Main Building.


Special Building Regulations. Special building regulations come into force for the Zurich university site.

Sound-slide show


End of the student body. The student body as a public legal entity with compulsory membership is abolished. The right of the students to co-determination is now assigned to the Extended Student Council (EGStR), subsequently the Student Council (StuRa), but will never again achieve the same level of importance.


Irchel the First. The first stage of the University of Zurich Irchel is officially opened.

"Obituary notice"in the University's showcase


Criticism of the Cantonal Government member Gilgen. Opera House riot shakes Zurich. In the summer of youth riots the protests also extend to the University. These are sparked off by a ban on the showing of a video shot by the Institute of Social Anthropology on the Opera House riots. As a consequence, the events reveal the shortcomings of the University's governing bodies and the administrative procedures between the Cantonal Education Department, the Department of Health, the President's Office, faculties and institutes.


Improved management structure. On 25 April the voters of Zurich approve a revised education law. The University vastly improves its management structure by appointing a full-time president (four year period of office) and two part-time vice presidents (two year period of office).

Protest against the Director of Education, Alfred Gilgen


Irchel the Second. The University of Zurich - now with around 15,000 students - celebrates its 150th anniversary. During the anniversary year the second stage of the University of Zurich Irchel comes into operation.


Strengthening the Vice President's Office. The University's new management structure with the President's Office as a full-time department, a Vice President for Teaching and Research and a Vice President for Planning, Finance and Real Estate Management are formed. In 1985 an Administrative Director is appointed. Over the following years the scope of responsibility of the Vice Presidents' Offices will be frequently changed.

«Dies» at Irchel. The Dies academicus is held in the auditorium at Irchel. Up until 1982 the foundation ceremony was held in the Main Building, except for 1983 when, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary, it was held in Grossmunster.

University at the "Phänomena". From May to October the University participates in the popular science exhibition "Phänomena" at Zurichhorn, which seeks to uncover the mysteries of nature.

Ceremony for the 15,000th woman student


IT boom. Student numbers in the field of information technology increase at an above-average rate.


No new student body. The Cantonal Government of Zurich rejects a proposal to once again create a student body constituted according to public law.

Students in the IT suite at the legendary Mac Plus

Nobel Prize awarded to K. Alex Müller. K. Alex Müller, Professor of Solid State Physics at the University of Zurich, receives the Nobel Prize for his discovery of high-temperature superconductivity.

K. Alex Müller

President in rickshaw. To coincide with the exhibitions surrounding the large-scale Swiss event "India in Switzerland" at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich the President, Konrad Akert, undertakes a publicity ride in a cycle rickshaw.


New trends in subject choice. Of the approximately 20,000 students at the University of Zurich a disproportionately high number choose the subjects economics or business administration, psychology or education.

Konrad Akert on his publicity ride

Woman takes command. Regula Herter becomes the first Chief Fire Officer of the University's fire brigade.

Regula Herter


Walter Burkert is awarded the Balzan Price. Walter Burkert, long-time Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Zurich, receives the Balzan Price.


Co-determination for appointments. "Privatdozierende" (lecturers), assistants and students receive a right of co-determination at faculty assemblies for the appointment and promotion of professors.

University at the "Eureka".The University takes part in the national research exhibition "Eureka" at Zurich Allmend and shows a cross section of its work from anatomy all the way to economy. Amongst other things it sets up a fully functional laboratory.


Law and Economics split. The Faculty of Law and Political Science is divided into two faculties: the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Economics, Business Administration and Information Technology. The increasing importance of economics since the second half of the nineteenth century had already prompted the creation of a department of law and a department of economics.

Contact with Eastern Europe. The University of Zurich participates in the European mobility program for students. Participation in European research programs also becomes increasingly important. Special contact is developed with East European universities and results in an East European week.

The Federal Government becomes more involved. The Federal Govenment gradually assumes more responsibility for developing higher education and coordinating institutes of higher education. The University of Zurich and the Paul Scherrer Institute jointly create the Institute of Medical Radiobiology. The ETH Zurich and the University agree to found an Institute of Neuroinformatics. At the same time, however, there is a gulf between expectations and the funds available: The trend is for the University to receive less basic funding. Priority is given to increasingly targeted development initiatives such as specific-project funding or special programs instead.

Decrease in student numbers. The number of students falls slightly, as the baby boom generation of the 1980s complete their studies. Over the coming years the number of students continues to drop. The main reasons are the rise in semester fees and the abolition of reduced health insurance premiums for students.

Walter Burkert


The project uni2000 begins. The goal of the reform project uni2000 initiated by the President Hans Heinrich Schmid is to dispense with the old model of a university administered by the Canton and transform the University into a self-managing body constituted under public law. The funds necessary should be approved as a global budget and be bound to a performance-related mandate. This ensures that the University will fulfill its key role in the provision of teaching, research and academic services.


Stricter regulations. For the first time the secondary employment of University professors and the utilization of inventions are governed by regulations.

Hans Heinrich Schmid

Irchel the third. The third stage of building at the University of Zurich Irchel is completed.


Numerus clausus abolished. The numerus clausus imposed in 1994 by the Zurich Cantonal Government for the study of medicine is abolished by the Federal Supreme Court due to the absence of any legal basis for its imposition.

Search for private funding. As a result o stringent cost-cutting measures the Universtiy and authorities seek new sources of funding.

Right to appoint teaching staff. From now on, the University appoints teaching staff on its own behalf without the interference of the Canton - a first move towards independence.


Stepping towards autonomy. The University takes over the areas of personnel, pay, university policy and financing. A working committee of the University and ETH consider new ways of collaboration.

Opposition to cost-cutting measures. The introduction of general compulsory matriculation causes student numbers to rise once again. At the end of November, students use the Lux Parade to demonstrate against the Canton's cost-cutting measures.


Nobel Prize awarded to Rolf Zinkernagel. Rolf M. Zinkernagel, Professor of Experimental Immunology, receives the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discoveries concerning the specificity of the cell mediated immune defense.


The University of Zurich becomes autonomous. On 15 March 1998 the voters of the Canton of Zurich approved the new University Law and gave the University the status of an autonomous legal entity. Since this date the University has been able to manage its finances independently within a global budget and to organize itself as it sees fit. The new governing body of the University is the University Council, which is made up of leading figures from academia, culture, business and politics.

Joint centers of competence. The University of Zurich extends its collaboration with other universities and the ETH further. Centers of competence for neuroscience, plant science and international studies are created. Research focusing on banking and finance - a project in cooperation with five Zurich banks and insurance companies - commences. Specific focus on national and University research becomes increasingly important from this point onwards.

Rolf Zinkernagel

Against genetic protection. The University of Zurich and its representatives, in particular Ernst Buschor, Director of Education, Hans Heinrich Schmid, President, and Rolf Zinkernagel, Nobel Prize winner, take a public stance against the genetic protection initiative. Ultimately the initiative is rejected by the Swiss voters on 7 July.


Unitectra technology transfer. Unitectra, a limited company set up by the universities of Berne and Zurich and the successor to Biotectra which had been in existence since 1996, is created to promote the transfer of technology from the University to industry and, in particular, provide support for the founding of spin-off companies.


More quality assurance. An independent evaluation unit assesses all the organizational units of the University and ensures top quality at all levels. The assessment exercise is to be repeated in six year cycles.


Cooperation agreement with ETHZ. For the first time, the University of Zurich and the ETHZ sign an official cooperation agreement.

University in Zurich Main Station. The newly established 'Festival Science et Cité' is staged in Zurich Main Station. It becomes a regular feature of the University's public relations.

Ernst Buschor and Hans Heinrich Schmid demonstrating against the genetic protection initiative


"Ada" at the Expo ’02. The University along with the ETH Zurich participates in the National Exhibition 02. The two institutes join together to create a joint interactive project 'Ada - the intelligent space' on the Arteplage Neuchatel.


Digital information. IT makes it happen: new IBIS computer screens come on line in the foyer of the main building.


Distinction for research. As one of Europe's leading research universities the University of Zurich is accepted into the internationally renowned League of European Research Universities (LERU).

New management structure. The University reforms its management structure. The President's Office becomes responsible for questions of strategy, the three Vice Presidents' Offices are responsible for medicine and science, arts and social sciences, and law and economics respectively, as well as the areas of research, teaching and academic services which are also allocated to them. Finance, personnel and infrastructure is the responsibility of the Administrative Director.

Ada - the intelligent space

Zurich North - interim location. After Zurich Center and Zurich Irchel the University opens new premises in the new, but provisional location, of Zurich North.

2007 prize for teaching excellence. The CS teaching award is presented for the first time at the Dies academicus. It is awarded in recognition of innovative approaches to teaching.

Zurich, Basel, Aarau. The University of Zurich enters into a copperation agreement with the University of Basle. In collaboration with the city of Aarau and the canton of Aargau a large new Center for Democracy is founded in Aarau.


175 years of the University of Zurich. The University of Zurich celebrates its 175th anniversary. The celebrations are to be held under the motto "sharing knowledge".

Zurich North

by Heinzpeter Stucki und Michael T. Ganz
adopted from the jubilee brochure "rückblenden | einsichten | ausblicke" 2008