Meeting with the ETH Board president (French only)

© 2023 EPFL

© 2023 EPFL

Notes of the meeting with Prof. Michael Hengartner, President of the ETH Board concerning the selection process for the next EPFL President.

Date: June 2nd

Location: EPFL CE 5 / Zoom (hybrid)


In person: Approx. 100 attendees, mostly from the teacher body, deans, professors, section directors, platform scientists, IT heads, postdoctoral and doctoral students, as well as student representatives.

Online: More than 300 attendees


This document is a collection of notes taken by several people. The notes are divided into thematic sections and do not reflect the chronological order of the discussion. This document is intended to provide a broad overview of the discussion that took place at the EPFL and, in this sense, does not correspond to the formal minutes of the meeting.


Prof. Hengartner expresses gratitude for the substantial turnout, both in person and online. The purpose of the meeting is to inform the EPFL community about the procedure for selecting the next president of EPFL, and to collect their feedback regarding the expertise profile. He provides an overview of the selection process, emphasizing the importance of transparency, inclusivity, and meritocracy. Prof. Hengartner also outlines the stages of the selection process, including the initial screening, interviews, and final decision-making (by the Federal Council).

Timelines and Communication:

An estimated timeline for the selection process is provided, including key milestones such as the announcement of candidates and final selection.

Attendees suggest regular updates and transparent communication throughout the process to maintain trust and engagement.

Composition of the Search Committee:

Attendees question why not all bodies were represented in the selection committee. Prof. Hengartner responds that Kristin Becker von Slooten is part of the search committee, representing AE (as delegate of ETH Zurich and EPFL school assemblies within the ETH Board). The difficulty of finding completely conflict-of-interest-free members is also discussed.

Selection criteria for the next president of EPFL:

Desired qualities and qualifications for the next president of EPFL are discussed. Attendees emphasize the importance of strong leadership, vision, and a proven track record in academia and research. The ability to foster collaboration, promote innovation, transdisciplinary and advance the institution's strategic goals are also highlighted.

The vision for the ideal governance structure of EPFL is also discussed => Prof. Hengartner believes that it is also the EPFL community who can forge a vision and the future of EPFL.

A question is raised regarding the potential for a female president in the next selection. Prof. Hengartner comments that having a female president would be desirable, as neither ETH Zurich nor EPFL have had a female president thus far.

Attendees express a desire for a balance between a strong leader and a moderate manager in the profile of the next president. It is mentioned that the past two presidents did not display both traits simultaneously.

Some mention that the area of (research) expertise is not that important. A focus on interdisciplinary would be better.

The ideal candidate doesn't have to be Swiss but should know the Swiss higher education system and political context.


Several attendees emphasize the need for thorough candidate evaluation, including assessments of management skills and experience in interdisciplinary collaborations.

Concerns are raised about why shortlisted candidates would not publicly present their programs / be presented to the EPFL community. Prof. Henganter responds that open slection de facto exclude external candidates and that if internal candidates are not selected, it could potentially stigmatize them for future leadership positions.

The question about the procedure if Parmelin declines ETH board candidate is discussed and Prof. Hengartner answers that this scenario is very unlikely.


Attendees voice concerns about ensuring sustainable programs. The challenging period for climate action is highlighted, and the community emphasizes the need to keep the actions on course and intensify efforts. For some, the aspect/vision/prioritization of sustainable development should be assessed in the selection process as well.

Some community members express concerns about the overregulated and complicated structures at EPFL. They call for more streamlined, bottom-up approaches that would facilitate decision-making.

Closing Remarks:

Prof. Hengartner expresses gratitude for the valuable input and engagement from attendees.

He assures the participants that their suggestions and concerns will be taken into consideration as the selection process moves forward. He provides his email address to receive more input. AE sent the info the same day regarding the meeting and slides.

The meeting concludes with a commitment to a fair and rigorous selection process.