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Concerns raised over Swiss universities’ growing reliance on corporate funding

Concerns raised over Swiss universities' growing reliance on corporate funding

Experts have raised concerns over Swiss educational institutions’ growing reliance on corporate funding. 

In March, global investment bank Credit Suisse and the University of St. Gallen (HSG), a research university that specializes in business administration, economics, law, and international affairs, announced that they are entering a strategic partnership that will have the school receiving a total funding of CHF 20 million, or about $21.6 million, from the banking giant over the next 10 years. 

“We are proud to be embarking on the largest-ever research cooperation project for the University of St.Gallen with Credit Suisse, and we hope to be able to build on this cooperation as a platform for additional partnerships,” HSG President  Bernhard Ehrenzeller said in a statement announcing the partnership.

Besides HSG, nearly all of the ten universities and two federal institutes of technology in Switzerland now receive money from business sponsorships and other private funding, according to swissinfo.ch.

The report said that Swiss educational institutions increasingly look for alternative funding options because funding from the government is no longer enough for some areas of academia. 

The risks

Although Swiss universities publicly announce the donations they receive from private sources for transparency purposes, University of Bern public law professor Markus Müller, who is also one of the founds of Zürcher Appell that calls for the protection of academic independence, thinks that corporate sponsorships pose risks, such as the long-term undermining of an institution’s reputation. 

“What is written in contracts is one thing, the impression the public gets is something else. For the credibility of research, the latter is crucial,” Müller said.

He admitted that there is not enough public money to support research institutions. Still, he said that this does not justify getting private sponsors that may compromise the integrity of the research area.

On the other hand, Swiss Business Federation lobby group Economiesuisse chief economist Rudolf Minsch sees a potential compromise.

“Private sponsors have to accept that the research outcome cannot be planned and that the researchers are bound by good scientific practice,” he said. “Universities have to accept that their knowledge is important for the innovation in this country which is the basis for our prosperity.”

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