The AVETH Survival Guide

The AVETH Survival Guide is designed to help (prospective) doctoral students discover the objectives, possibilities and consequences of being an ETH Zurich employee, researcher and teaching assistant. It will provide you with a lot of information about ETH Zurich and your doctoral thesis, but also offer practical hints and tips about living in Zurich.

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AVETH Survival Guide

1 - Preface and Introduction

Greetings from the Rector and President

A doctorate is research at the cutting edge of science and technology and proves that you can complete a project on your own in a given time. It is also a teaching experience where you learn to explain the basic principles of science and engineering to the next generation of undergraduate students.

While you are asked to excel in science and explore unknown territory – a modern form of adventure – you need a solid foundation to build upon, a private infrastructure, friends and colleagues in a similar situation, and if you come from abroad some help to understand and settle down into the Swiss culture.

The AVETH took the initiative to write this Survival Guide to support you during this challenging period of your life. It offers answers to many questions, points out various pitfalls, and offers practical advice on avoiding them.

ETH Zurich offers excellent working conditions in your field of interest: an innovative and competitive atmosphere, state-of-the-art laboratories, and an environment that promotes access to the world’s best scientists, engineers, architects and mathematicians. Being part of this team is highly rewarding and provides many opportunities to grow.

A career both in academia and, even more importantly, in the business world requires additional capabilities, e.g., social skills, critical thinking, understanding the language of other disciplines, and assuming responsibility for our society. To acquire these skills, there are a plethora of opportunities to attend lectures and seminars in your own field of research, in other areas, and in social sciences and humanities both at ETH and at the University of Zurich. You should also remember the importance of physical fitness and take advantage of the many opportunities offered by ASVZ.

Moreover, Zurich is a great town for music, theater and other cultural activities.

In a few years’ time, you will receive at a graduation ceremony your doctoral degree, a degree that not only proves that you „survived“ ETH Zurich, but also that you were able to understand and solve some of the most complex problems of our world and that you have learnt to work and live in an international culture.

We wish you all the best for this exciting and challenging period of your life!

Lino Guzella
ETH President


Sarah Springman
ETH Rector


Greetings from the AVETH team

Dear doctoral student,

You are starting a new phase in your life. You have graduated and are interested in research – congratulations! And you are considering or have already started a doctorate at ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.The next few years will be packed with thrilling topics surrounding your research, contacts with other researchers, international conferences and new friendships. At the same time however, you may be new to ETH Zurich, Zurich itself or even Switzerland. Things might seem complicated to you. In fact, with approximately 18’000 students and 8’000 employees ETH Zurich may seem like a giant labyrinth at first.

Consequently, the AVETH team has decided to create this Survival Guide. AVETH is the association of scientific staff at ETH Zurich, representing all doctoral students, post-docs and senior researchers. We are responsible for the political representation of rights and interests, organizing social activities and offering consulting services.

This book is designed to help doctoral students discover the objectives, possibilities and consequences of being an ETH employee, researcher and teaching assistant. It will provide you with information about both ETH Zurich and writing your Ph.D. thesis, but also offer practical hints and support.

The survival guide is organized according to the timeline of a typical doctorate thesis, starting with the choice of supervisor, the application and registration process. It provides hints on moving to Switzerland from abroad, finding accommodation and starting your project. It also contains information on how to become involved, be active or free-time activities.

We are very happy to present you the fifth edition of the Survival Guide. The first edition was published in 1998 after a survey revealed the need for a handbook for doctoral students. In only three years, the first edition was out of printed copies. Consequently, it was decided to release an updated version every couple of years. The current AVETH team would like to thank all previous participants and volunteers who put so much work into the guide.

From our side, we would like to wish you all the best for a successful research career and a wonderful time at ETH.

The AVETH board

AVETH Board elected on March 2016

Why choose ETH Zurich?

There are numerous reasons why one would want to pursue a doctoral degree – some of which seem more advisable than others.

It is definitely true that a doctoral degree opens up carrier paths that would not be accessible without a post-graduate degree. The title is essential if one wants to stay in academia on the path to a senior researcher position or even a professorship. It is also useful if one is looking to move into industrial research.

But make no mistake: a doctoral degree usually takes between three and six years of work, during which you are bound to struggle at one point or another. Compared to your previous degrees, you cannot rely on prepared material to learn from and simply pass examinations. Instead, a doctorate takes a great deal of self-motivation and definitely means a lot of work and constant self- reevaluation. Hence, our only recommendation is to choose a subject that you are actually really interested in and a supervisor with whom you feel to have a good relationship. Your field of research should solely depend on your personal preferences. To complete a doctorate requires a high level of personal interest and commitment. Any attempt to foresee what kind of scientific specialization will provide you with an advantage on the job market after your doctorate is clearly legitimate, but often proves difficult. We have included a whole section on career advice after the doctorate in the subchapter titled “Career Services”.

Once you have decided to pursue a doctoral degree, the next step is the choice of the university and research group. Many different factors will contribute to this decision, such as the reputation of the university and the group, the avail- ability of a position, the city and country in which the university is located, and, of course, personal ties with a specific location and the distance from one’s friends and family.

Whereas the last item in the list is not to be ignored, it remains a personal contribution factor. However, it is safe to say that ETH Zurich is a wonderful place to do a doctorate on account of the excellent working atmosphere, working conditions and research, not to mention the city of Zurich as a place to live.

ETH Zurich often features in the top ten or twenty of international university rankings, especially in the fields of architecture, natural sciences and engineering [1-3]. Its many departments, institutes and professors practically cover the full gamut of research in the aforementioned disciplines, allowing for a fluent interdisciplinary exchange and innovative scientific projects.

The city of Zurich is in a prime location on Lake Zurich with the Alps right on the doorstep, allowing for skiing, sailing, hiking and many more outdoor activities. The city itself is also a well-known international financial center. Hence, there is no lack of restaurants, bars, shops and, of course, excellent transport connections via the airport and the world-famous Swiss railroad system. We will provide more details and hints on the city in the chapter following chapters.


Ph.D. Motives and Implications

Reflections on Surviving by Professor Helga Nowotny

How to Become a Researcher: Professional Identities in the Making

Nobody is born a researcher; you have to become one. Studying for a Ph.D. will probably be the last, but most decisive stage in the life of a young person who wants to devote him- or herself to the organized search for a greater understanding of the natural and social world. This includes the ability to produce, control and manipulate new phenomena, instruments and other artifacts.

Prof. Dr. Helga Nowotny

Studying for a Ph.D. is the crucial phase in which a professional identity is formed and when socialization takes place. Up to this point, much of one’s life has already been dedicated to learning. However, the previous experience differs from what happens now. For the first time, Ph.D. students are challenged to actively intervene in the observation and manipulation of a physical reality. In the previous stages of their education, students had to show their mastery of the content of an object world and the appropriate methods for examining it, essentially by digesting knowledge that had been didactically prepared for them. They learned how to put it to use. But in order to do so, the problems had to be carefully defined and purposefully selected by their teachers. In general, solutions were known, the conceptual frameworks of reliable knowledge were given, and methods and procedures were standardized and had only to be learned. Students were introduced to a world of research in which their teachers had laid out for them the pathways through which the known destinations could be reached by well proven and validated means.

Entering the Ph.D. stage means leaving learning through imitation behind. Students are now expected to do research on their own. They are no longer supposed to act within a frame of knowledge which is given, but strive for an active synthesis which includes what is already known, but also what is yet to be found. The method and meaning of learning change. Studying for a Ph.D. means to become an active producer of new scientific knowledge and technological artifacts. It is easy to see why this can be such a frightening experience at times. It marks the shift from the “mere” reproduction of knowledge to production; from dependence on those who have selected for you what you are supposed to know to a state of independence which requires and results in the originality of ideas, finding new approaches or trying out new methods. Students are expected to become similar to those whom they identify with as top researchers. Their most proximate role models are their supervisors. For the students, the supervisors represent at the same time the professional audience and the wider scientific community who will evaluate their future work.

Socialization is a process in which previous experiences and an identity are actively reconstituted. At the end, a different set of attitudes, skills and behavior will emerge, more suitable for the norms and constraints of the professional world, the membership of which Ph.D. students aspire to. Empirical studies on how Ph.D. students internalize their future profession as researchers demonstrate the difference in attitudes between students beginning Ph.D. work and attitudes held by those who are near completion. The most striking change between early vs. late students, one study concluded, was the way in which the students integrated their sense of being an autonomous individual into their overall new identity. Initially, their sense of self was in conflict with a “personal morality” dimension of values. By the end of training, the sense of self became increasingly associated with drive, ambition, competitiveness and willingness to assume responsibility, and less with flexibility and the pursuit of scientific curiosity for its own sake. The students had learned that failure was their own responsibility (Hill, 1995). Another study examined the effects of socialization on male and female students in technology. The results show that while significant differences between female and male students remained, with female students emphasizing caring norms more strongly, students initially emphasized caring-related norms more strongly than junior researchers who had completed their studies. In other words, socialization continues at the work-place, making men and women more alike. This is a gendered process in the sense that masculine values were promoted, while caring values lost out (Sørensen, 1992). However, this must not necessarily remain so in the future.

Changes in Knowledge Production

Working for a Ph.D. is not an aim in itself, despite the intrinsic gratification it may confer. It is supposed to prepare graduate students for what was once meant to be the only desirable career as a scientist: a life dedicated to science and research, preferably within the university or in a comparable research- intensive setting like an industrial lab. But the times in which there was a reasonable expectation that a Ph.D. would open up predictable and secure avenues and in which scientific careers came with the prospect of life-long employment are changing all too rapidly. Only a small fraction of those studying for a Ph.D. will end up in what used to be a traditional university career structure, which itself is undergoing profound change. The vast majority of Ph.D.s will find themselves distributed throughout society across an increasing number of sites where recognizably competent research is being carried out. The interactions among these sites have set the stage for an explosion in possible configurations of knowledge and skills. The result can be described as a socially distributed knowledge production system in which communication increasingly takes place across existing institutional boundaries and where knowledge production takes place in specific contexts of application (Gibbons et al, 1994). Ph.D. students are rapidly becoming part of this new mode of knowledge production and there is a growing awareness that many problems demand a more interdisciplinary or even transdisciplinary approach. If training inside universities, including training for a Ph.D., does not seem to accommodate or encourage more interdisciplinary interaction and communication, it is mainly for the reason that university teaching is still predominantly organized according to disciplinary boundaries. Students are supposed to become socialized into what is still felt to be most important, namely to acquire a professional identity which is discipline-based. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that a cognitive identity rooted within one discipline must be accompanied by a capacity for inter- or transdisciplinary cooperation.

These tendencies have long been recognized within ETH Zurich, although a densely-packed curriculum and severe time constraints do not easily lend themselves to the accommodation of the need or the desire of many students for greater exposure to inter- or transdisciplinary studies. ETH Zurich’s Collegium Helveticum, located in the Semper-Sternwarte, offers an excellent intellectual space for a small group of highly motivated and competent Ph.D. students to continue work on their doctoral dissertation in a stimulating atmosphere where different research cultures meet. If you are looking for more than survival, join us.


  • Gibbons, Michael et al. (1994) The New Production of Knowledge. Sage Publications?
  • Hill, Stephen C. (1995) The Formation of Identity as a Scientist, Science Studies, 8, 53-72.
  • Nowotny, Helga, Peter Scott and Michael Gibbons (2001) Re-Thinking Science. Knowledge in an Age of Uncertainty. Oxford: Polity.
  • Sørensen, Knut H. (1992) Towards a Feminized Technology? Gendered Values in the Construction of Technology, Social Studies of Science, 22, 5-31.

2 - Finding a Position

Requirements for a doctorate at ETH Zurich

The general academic requirement of ETH is that you hold a Master’s degree or diploma (magister) from a university or equivalent institution. Depending on your grades and the background of your institution, the department will require you to attend and pass courses within the first year. Those courses are a kind of entry exam and quality check, to make sure that you are up to the

ETH standard. Your supervisor and the head of doctoral studies of your department will decide on which courses those shall be.

Make sure to discuss this issue with your supervisor and inform yourself about possible courses and difficulty levels from other students and suggest them to your supervisor or ask him to drop one if you hear it’s difficult to pass. Because when the courses are chosen, they cannot be changed and you have to pass them or face expulsion.

For more details:

How to find a doctoral position at ETH?

To successfully complete a doctorate requires a strong personal interest and commitment from your side, an environment that allows you to focus on your work, and a group and supervisor who support you.

Two initial criteria are at the start of the search for a doctoral position: the research field and the supervisor. For the first one some have already a clear idea what they would like to research and to them keeping an open mind and having a plan B is advised. If you don’t know what you are interested in yet, then visit some groups and let them tell you about their research.

The supervisor and people you will work with have a major influence on the quality of work and life your next years. You will be stuck with them and need their support and help during your often demanding research. You will be in a strong dependency on your supervisor. The doctoral supervisor has all the cards in his/her hand and it will be his/her subjective opinion determining when and if you finish your degree. Don’t be discouraged by this statement, most of them are really trying to make a good scientist out of you and it should only help you understand how important the relationship between supervisor and doctoral student is. Therefore it is crucial that you pay attention to the character and personality as well as supervision style of the supervisor of your choice.

A doctorate at ETH Zurich on average lasts four and a half years, including around 20 percent of your time as a teaching assistant (lab courses, exercise classes etc.). Also, attending some lectures is mandatory (more details can be found in the chapter “continuing education”). After writing your doctoral thesis, you will have to defend your research in front of your supervisor, co- examiners and a chairman before you are finally honoured with your doctoral degree from ETH Zurich.

External Thesis Project

Usually, doctoral thesis projects are carried out at an institute at ETH Zurich or at one of the research institutes within the ETH Domain, namely the PSI (Paul Scherrer Institute), the WSL (Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research), the EMPA (Swiss Federal Institute of Materials Science & Technology) and the EAWAG (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology).

However, it is possible to carry out your thesis project outside the ETH Domain. If some or all of the data included in your thesis is obtained outside of ETH, for example at a different university, a research institution or a commercial company, the thesis project must be declared “external”. External thesis projects are only approved under certain conditions. These conditions are described in the “Thesis project outside the ETH Domain” application form, which must be submitted together with an outline of your proposed thesis and your application for a doctorate.

Approval for short research visits outside of the ETH Domain is at the discretion of your thesis supervisor. In any case, your supervisor must have access to the facilities you have used and to your test material at all times. More info here.

Searching for a Supervisor

The path towards becoming a doctoral student starts with finding the right supervisor. This is not only the first step; in many ways, it is also the most important one.

Browse the websites of groups and departments to find information about the different research groups. Don’t be shy to stop by and ask if someone can tell you about the work done in the group. It is also wise to make use of semester projects to scout groups already during your student days and ask also your fellow students about their experiences.

Of course, you should know what field of research you are interested in or what kind of issues you want to tackle: Would you prefer to work mainly in a laboratory designing exciting, complex experiments or on a computer solving important theoretical problems?

As soon as you have some idea of what you would like to do, you should start to look for research groups in that particular area to find a pool of possible groups to work in. Do not be afraid to select different fields if your interests are spread broadly.

Next you need to find out which group on the shortlist actually has a vacancy. Many are posted publicly (Institute billboards, group websites or on Be aware that some groups may not offer their positions publicly as some professors prefer for students to show initiative and approach the group on their own accord. So feel free to contact different groups and ask for information concerning a possible doctoral position. It’s always worth a try.

Initial Contact

For the initial contact with a potential supervisor, it is crucial that you are well informed concerning what the group is currently working on, what their biggest achievements are and what their most recent publications cover. You will find most of this information on the internet and you can always try to contact current members from the group.

For a formal approach, send or, if possible, bring a letter of recommendation from your Master’s supervisor along with a copy of your thesis, because the potential new supervisor needs to evaluate you and this could help you to convince him that you deserve the job. It would also be extremely advantageous if you already have an idea or proposal for a project. Normally, the publicly-announced positions already give the basic description of a project. In this instance, you should gather information about the project. In either case, be well informed about the topic and read some papers about it. If you think you do not understand most of it (which you really don’t have to at this point, don’t worry), read a review paper on the topic to familiarize yourself with the terms. You do not have to understand everything; however, make sure that you have got some insight (e.g. knowing about some important state-of-the-art approaches to the problem such as “the efficiency of a solar cell so far is… but Professor …’s group claims that it could be increased to… with this technique.”). However, be careful when talking to potential supervisors and co-workers: No one likes a show-off and do not be too fixed on your own idea; first, listen to what they have in mind for you. More important, make sure the potential supervisor is aware of your motivation and interest in working on this topic and in his group. Showing interest, initiative and motivation, as well as being well prepared, is always very appealing to a group leader.

Job Interview

You may want to prepare for the job interview:

  • It is perfectly legitimate to ask in advance what kind of questions you will face during your interview.
  • Read papers that have been published by the group (Google scholar).
  • Leave enough time to prepare a nice presentation if requested.
  • If you are in contact with some members of the group, ask what to expect.
  • Prepare a list of questions that you would like to ask.
  • Be honest, you don’t need to pour out your heart but lying or neglecting important facts can be grounds for dismissal.
  • Look your supervisor in the face when you talk, and speack in a strong and clear voice.
  • The interview might be in English (even if the professor speaks your language), prepare accordingly.

If you have followed all the recommendations, you are more or less ready for your future supervisor’s questions. Of course, you also need to make sure that the working conditions and working atmosphere in the group are as you expect.

Do not forget to discuss:

  • Who will be your direct supervisor
  • A general timeline (Milestones and how long the doctorate can/should last)
  • Your project and lab duties
  • Teaching assistant assignments (see Being a Teaching Assistant in section 5 - Being a Doctoral Student)
  • Salary conditions (Are you paid by a fond or directly by the group? How long is your salary guaranteed?)
  • Mandatory entrance examinations
  • Access to Ph.D. networks, Workshops and conferences
  • General questions of a scientific nature

Not all need to be discussed in the first interview, but before signing the contract.

Contract and Salary

Contracts for doctoral candidates are usually issued for one year and extended annually. Please note that there is a general maximum time of employment of six years for positions with temporary contracts at ETH. The contract sets your salary level which is normally defined by the department (or sometimes the professor) and increases after the first and the second year. There are five different salary levels, the lowest one is unfortunately called “standard” but is by no means the standard salary level. In some departments, for example, the salary level can also increase after a year. Salary negotiations are thus difficult, but not impossible. The standard working hours for full-time employees are 41 hours per week, and you are entitled to a minimum of five weeks’ annual holiday. Depending on the group, working hours might vary. However you are not a slave, so if your supervisor presents you with additional conditions to those mentioned above (like minimum work hours of 60h/week, or only 20 days holidays …) please contact us right away. All strictly confidential, it won’t interfere with your life at ETH but it will help us to improve those conditions in the future in such a group.

The salary level evidently determines the amount of money you will be paid. Level 1 and 5 are equivalent to 47’040 and 70’300 CHF gross salary in the first year. For foreign students, that may seem to be a lot. However, keep in mind that the cost of living is also high in Zurich. Doctoral students do not go hungry, but won’t become rich based on their salary.

For detailed question concerning contracts at ETH see the websites below or contact the HR department or the doctoral administration office directly.


Check with the potential supervisor and co-workers whether your proposed research project is realistic in terms of the resources available and the given timeframe. Check which kind of expertise is available in the group to get an impression of how the group will be able to support you and where you may need external support. If you find that little help can be found within the group on your specific topic, make sure your supervisor feels comfortable with you seeking help outside (e.g., thought collaborations).

Do not take the decision to take a position too lightly and make sure that you are not only looking for a potential supervisor but also one that you want to work with for the next few years, the same is true for the group members. Always take your time to visit the group, chat with the members, go for lunch with them and see if you feel comfortable.

The final application can be rather informal via email (including a résumé and references). To be on the safe side, simply ask the group’s or department’s secretary about the formal steps.

The terms and conditions of a doctorate (not the contract however) vary hugely and are quite flexible and collaborations with companies or other institutions are common, as are interdisciplinary projects. Sometimes the group may have no funding available for an additional doctoral position. In this case, you can suggest to your possible future supervisor to apply for funding from different national or European research funds. Such issues should be discussed in detail with your supervisor. You also need to define the topic of your research and the requirements for finishing your doctoral studies. Take notes when discussing this, they will help you formulate a research plan within the first year. Hand in the research plan in time, its purpose is to protect you from erratic topic changes and is an official document outlining the actual professional requirements to finish your project and so protects you from endless and pointless research.

Finally, even if you have chosen your supervisor and group carefully, complications can always arise. Do not let them escalate by not talking about them, communication is essential within a group to avoid tensions. Whenever you feel you cannot talk about or solve a problem, you can contact the AVETH counsellors (see section 7 - Troubleshooting).

A last word of encouragement: ETH has a very low dropout rate of doctoral students; most not only finish but are quite happy here. It is a great university in a beautiful city with fantastic people all around you. Enjoy it!


3 - Welcome to Zurich, Switzerland

During the first weeks in Switzerland, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. There are countless details to be considered when settling into a new job and home. After a few months of some effort and patience, you will feel more settled in your new home and find yourself answering the same questions for other new arrivals that you were asking yourself. A good information source to consult before leaving is the Swiss embassy or consulate , or the federal administration website.

In some cases, consulates may have useful information about resources in and around Zurich, specifically for someone of your nationality – including lists of physicians who speak your language and information about clubs for expatriates. They can be very helpful in addressing specific questions and may have information printed in your native language or in English. In addition to the resources available on the web, there are also reference books which deal with the issues of living and working in a foreign country, some of which are specifically about Switzerland. Some of the key issues you will need to be aware of as a foreigner are addressed here.

Ausländerausweis and Residency Permit

To live and work legally in Switzerland, you must be in possession of a valid residence permit, the Aufenthaltsbewilligung.

On June 1, 2007, the bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the EU on the Free Movement of Persons came into force, the limits on the maximum number of residency permits that can be issued for EU17 and EFTA citizens working as self-employed or employed persons were lifted.

As a future employee at ETH Zurich, you will benefit from the relaxation in the rules if you are citizen of an EU17 or EFTA country. For citizens of all other countries, a request for a work permit must be submitted.

EU17 / EFTA Citizens

For EU-17 and EU-8 (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary) no special conditions apply. Citizens of these countries have to apply for a residence permit and, by law, are treated the same as regular Swiss citizens when applying for a job. They must register with the local authority at their place of residence (Gemeindehaus or Stadthaus) or at the relevant district office (Kreisbüro) in Zurich within fourteen days of arriving in Switzerland. For EU-2 (Bulgaria and Romania) as well for Croatia, special regulations may apply for residency/work permits.

Citizens of Third-Party Countries

For citizens of third-party countries, the Human Resources Department must submit a request for a work permit to the Migration Office (Migrationsamt) or the Office for Economy and Labor (Amt für Wirtschaft und Arbeit) in Zurich. Employment can only commence once your work and residency permits have been issued. The purpose of your stay determines your residency status.

Citizens who need a visa to enter Switzerland in order to get a work permit should not enter the country before the visa has been issued by the Swiss Embassy or Swiss Consulate in their respective countries. The Human Resources Department at ETH Zurich will apply for the visa; you will be informed by your institute when the visa is ready at the Swiss Embassy/Consulate in the town you indicated on the application form. See

Types of Residency Permits

There are different types of residency permits in Switzerland. Visit the homepage of the Swiss Federal Office of Migration for more information:

Most likely, you will get an L- or B-permit. With the former, you might encounter problems signing contracts with a long-term commitment, e.g. housing, credit cards or mobile phones. In case you have questions or problems regarding your permit, always contact the Human Resources instead of dealing directly with the Migration Office. A Zurich residency permit is only valid for the Canton of Zurich. If you intend to live in another Canton, you should contact the Human Resources of ETH in advance and they will help you with the necessary arrangements.


Health Insurance

Swiss law requires every person living in Switzerland to have a health insurance. As there is no state insurance, this must be acquired from a private insurance company. There are three important concepts concerning health insurance and the optimal amount of money to spend on it:

  • The coverage – the cheapest insurance policies offer the basic coverage defined by law. Smaller luxuries, such as fancy therapies (e.g. homeopathies), choice of medication, choice of hospital where you are to be treated or a new pair of glasses every year will, at best, be partially covered. You can pay extra if you want your insurance to cover more. For instance, you might want an additional insurance policy for a free choice of hospital or dental care (dental care is always an additional insurance item so do not be surprised to see your colleagues cleaning their teeth after every coffee-break)
  • The franchise – If you feel rather confident about your health, you can decide to take a share of risk on your own account by telling your insurance that you will pay the first 2500 CHF per year for health issues yourself. The insurance will then only step in after this deductible is exceeded, thus making your monthly rate much cheaper. Some insurance companies offer a split franchise, which is lower for the more costly hospital treatment and higher for the less common ambulance treatment.
  • Selbstbehalt – You will have to bear 10% of the costs for basic coverage exceeding the franchise up to a maximum of 700 CHF per year. After that, the insurance will cover any additional costs completely.

Example: You have chosen a franchise of CHF 1’500 per year and you need hospital treatment that amounts to CHF 10,000. You will have to pay CHF 2’200 (Franchise + 10% of the next CHF 7’000, i.e. 1’500 + 700 = 2’200). If you have any other medical treatment in the same calendar year, your insurance will pay 100% of it. By law, every insurance company must accept you for basic coverage, but they may refuse you for top-up insurance. Some weeks after your registration in Zurich, you will automatically receive a letter from the city of Zurich’s public health office (Städtische Gesundheitsdienste). They want to be sure that you are going to get basic health insurance. They also offer a list of the most common insurance companies. If you fail to obtain basic health insurance or if you do not answer the letter for three months, the public health office will oblige you to take a standard health insurance policy – which will probably not be the optimum solution.

Some of your health insurance fees may be refunded by the city of Zurich in a process called Individuelle Prämienverbilligung (IPV; individual fee reduction), but only if:

  • Your income is low enough (there are several income levels corresponding to several yearly refunds)
  • You are insured by a Swiss health insurance company
  • You move to Zurich from a different Canton as opposed to from a foreign country: IPV is only possible if you have lived in Zurich from January 1 of the current year. To apply for the IPV, write a letter to the public health office stating the expected duration of your stay in Switzerland and which health insurance you are in. Enclose a copy of your employment contract. The public health office will decide whether you are entitled to an IPV, but the IPV will be paid by the social insurance agency of Zurich (Sozialversicherungsanstalt, SVA). Note that you will not get the money directly, but it will be paid to your insurance company, which will subsequently lower your insurance fees by this amount. The regulations for the IPV changes from time to time and thus the way things are carried out in practice might deviate from the routine described above. Insurance prices change frequently and it is a good idea to compare prices and switch insurance companies from time to time. This can be done easily via the internet.

Two very useful website to visit

SUVA Accident Insurance

Accident insurance: Insurance coverage for accidents is provided by the Swiss National Accident Insurance Fund (SUVA, Schweizerische Unfallversicherunganstalt) through ETH Zurich and will be deducted directly from your salary. If you are employed more than eight hours per week, it is valid at all times for accidents that occur both on and off ETH-Zurich premises. The coverage also provides for recreational mishaps; if you are injured while participating in a sporting activity, you are still covered. If your employment contract is for less than eight hours per week, SUVA coverage is only valid during official working hours and not during the weekends. However, you are covered for accidents that occur while traveling to and from work.

Note: If you want to ride a bike with insurance covering accidents with pedestrians etc., you need to have a personal liability insurance. Most insurances offer combined coverage for household and liability for all residents in this household.

Social Security System

Switzerland’s retirement plan is based on a three-tiered pension scheme:

  • 1st Tier: AHV/IV: The AHV/IV is the mandatory state pension and covers basic needs. This is covered on your pay check under AHV-Beitrag. The AHV is the general and compulsory national social security insurance for everybody residing or gainfully employed in Switzerland. Its purpose is to provide retirement pensions and it forms part of the federal insurance network. 5.05% is deducted from the monthly gross salary (excluding care allowances). The same amount is paid by your employer without you noticing it. A share of this AHV fee is used for the invalidity insurance (IV). An additional share covers leave from work for Swiss military or alternative service (which is compulsory for all Swiss men). The AHV will send you an A6-format, grey insurance card with your AHV number on it. You will need this little piece of paper if you ever want to benefit from your insurance fees. Your AHV number serves as an important identifier in many administrative affairs.
  • 2nd Tier: Occupational pensions (pension fund): Together with the 1st tier, occupational pension plans shall allow the continuation of the accustomed standard of living in an appropriate manner. The occupational pension plan is mandatory for employees with a minimum pre-AHV annual gross salary of CHF 20’88021’150 (effective 20112015) and is guaranteed by the pension fund. On your salary sheet, you will find a deduction for the pension fund. Similar as for the AHV, the law requires that your employer pays at least as much into your pension fund as you do (For ETH employees the ratio is 36:64). Every employer in Switzerland is required by law to offer a pension scheme to its employees. This pension scheme is the second pillar of Switzerland’s pension scheme besides the AHV. ETH Zurich’s pension fund is Pensionskasse des Bundes PUBLICA. The salary deduction is calculated on the basis of the versicherter Verdienst (insured income): your gross salary minus the maximum yearly pension AHV pays for a single person.
  • 3rd Tier: Private pension plans (optional). Private pension plans form the third pillar of the Swiss three-tier concept. Tier 1 and 2 pensions may be significantly lower than what you earned before retirement (pension gap). Private pensions or private equity can help expand the pension scheme. Each year a certain amount can be saved for this purpose tax free (pension plan at bank or insurance company). Under tier 3, there are two options: a) the money is tied up for a certain amount of time and the Swiss state offers a tax reduction, and b) the money is freely accessible and no tax benefits apply.
    Tier 3a individual retirement accounts offer several advantages: on the one hand, saving over the long term (wealth accumulation) provides state tax benefits and, on the other hand, private pension plans can also be drawn in the event of death and/or disability. Consequently, it is a good idea to get an early start when laying the foundations for a comfortable retirement by adding another pillar of support. The longer you pay in, the more savings you accumulate.
    Each bank offers their own portfolio for people who want to use the tier 3a. You can invest in funds or simply deposit your money in an account. You can check the most suitable options at under the Finances menu.
Tax Deduction for Tier 3a

The state offers tax incentives to people who pay into tier 3a private pensions. The prerequisite for benefiting from the tier 3a tax relief is to be gainfully employed. If you belong to a pension fund, you can deduct up to CHF 6’768 (2015) per year from your taxable income.


You can receive benefits from your 61st birthday if you are a man or from your 60th birthday if you are a woman and, at the latest, on the day before your 66th birthday if you are a man or the day before your 65th birthday if you are a woman. If you have a third-pillar pension and can prove that you are still gainfully employed, you can postpone the payout of benefits up to a maximum of five years after reaching the official retirement age. An early payout (before retirement age) of the second and the third-pillar pension is possible in the following cases in particular: if you become self-employed, if you buy residential property or if you leave Switzerland for good (only Tier 3a if you settle down in a non EU/EFTA country). Early payout of the AHV pension is usually impossible (only if you have an exotic country of origin you can ask your money back when you leave Switzerland).

Finances and Taxes

Doctoral students find themselves between the worlds of education and work which is reflected in their salaries. Salaries are deposited regularly around the 25th of each month directly into your bank account. For those who cannot afford to live during their first working month in Switzerland while they wait for the salary, there is the possibility of getting an advance payment at the cash desk in ETH Zurich’s main building. Seek advice on the detailed proceedings from your group’s secretary.

You can get your salary from a number of sources: A few doctoral students per professor are paid directly by ETH Zurich, which makes life quite easy for them. If your research project is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), it might be necessary for you to write an application for your funding. Others are financed by industry, which necessitates a special agreement. Some are paid by funds that are tax examined. In this case you most likely are not paying unemployment insurance and therefore are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Whether you have to manage your funding all by yourself or your supervisor or the workgroup’s secretary does all the administrative work for you depends greatly on the style of your professor. According to ETH regulations, doctoral students receive a fixed-rate salary, which rises from the first to the third year of your engagement.

A starting point for questions on income tax, or Quellensteuer, is the Steueramt of the City of Zurich (see addresses). The responsibilities, especially for foreigners, are shared by offices of the Canton and city you live in, and you will have to find out who is responsible for each individual question. As a foreigner, you do not need to worry much about taxes as it is deducted directly from your salary, and you do not have to file a tax declaration.

The only reason you might get a tax refund is if you pay extra money into the pension fund (Pensionskasse des Bundes PUBLICA) or a private pension fund (called Säule 3a). If you have made such contributions, you have to send proof of the payments together with your annual salary statement and an informal letter indicating a bank account to the cantonal tax office (Kantonales Steueramt, Abteilung Quellensteuer) within the first three months of the year following the payments.


Public Transport and ETH-Zurich Subsidization

Switzerland is world famous for its flawless train and public transportation system. Any location in Switzerland is accessible via train or bus. The national railway company is called SBB ( The Zurich Traffic Network (ZVV, gets you around the canton of Zurich. Tickets can be purchased online (browser, app), at a local ticket machine or at the ticket-office. The SBB app is also useful to check the schedule and to see whether trains are on time.

Once you have received your contract from ETH-Zurich, you are entitled to get a free Halbtax – a half-fare card that allows you to get a 50% reduction on any purchased train ticket (chose “1/2” when buying a ticket). Information on this will come together with your working contract.

If you intend to use public transport frequently, you might also consider purchasing a "GA" (General Abonement), which allows you to take any train or public transportation (including some cable cars) anywhere in Switzerland. Once you have received your contract, you can also get a 15% rebate on the GA.

If you plan to stay in Zurich most of your time and want to use public transportation, it might be wise to buy a "ZVV Netzpass" which allows you to use all of Zurich’s public transport at a flat-rate price.

Zurich by Plane

Zurich is well connected thanks to its international airport. The easiest way to get from Zurich airport to the city is by public transport. Tram 10 goes directly to ETH Zurich main building, and trains can take you from the airport to the city center within minutes. You will need a ticket for zone 10 plus a connection ticket as the airport is outside of the inner city zone limits.

Zurich by Car

Be advised that Zurich is not a car-friendly city. Driving through the city center, you will soon find out what the author means. Still, the city is well connected via several interstates. You can enter the Zurich area from the east via Germany or Austria, or from the north via Basel (traffic jams ahead!). Be careful not to drive too fast, there are many speed cameras around and fines are quite high.

Driver’s License

After registering in Switzerland, you have one year to exchange your old driver’s license for a Swiss one. In most cases this costs a small fee and can be done within a few days at the Strassenverkehrsamt. You will need to go there personally and hand it over, together with an eye test from an optician. You can find more information on this website. In special cases you could be asked to take the theoretical or practical or both exams to exchange your driver's license.

Importing a Car to Switzerland

Bringing your car to Switzerland is rather challenging and not cheap. The process exceeds the scope of this guide. For more info, visit this website.

Renting a Car in Switzerland

Renting a car in Switzerland is the same as everywhere else. But there are two interesting benefits you can get as an ETH employee: Europcar offers a significant reduction (around 50%) on car rentals in Switzerland for ETH employees. They operate a rental station on Hönggerberg. However, renting a car from one of the stations in Oerlikon or Altstetten is cheaper. The car sharing company mobility offers a trial subscription of four months for free, and later on an annual fee of 70 CHF has to be paid. That way, you have access to more than 2700 cars all over Switzerland with prices from 0.5 CHF/km and 2.5 CHF/h .For more information:

Parking Space

Parking space is rather limited in Zurich. There is no free parking anywhere in the city at all (and the fees are high!). If you only need to park for a short time, go for a parking lot. If you need a daily parking permit for public lots (indicated by blue marks on the street), you can get it in advance here.
It costs CHF 15 per day and you can buy up to 10 days in a row. If you are looking for long-term parking, you can either get a permit for the public blue zone (same link as above) or use ETH-Zurich parking lots. Information about parking at ETH can be found here.

Settling Down

Housing and Finding a Place to Stay

Do not expect your employer to arrange or provide you with accommodation when you arrive in Zurich. Ask within your group for help finding a short term solution for accommodation to give you time to search for a flat or room to rent. Be prepared to spend some time finding suitable accommodation as the demand for reasonably priced housing in Zurich is high. The most common housing possibilities in Zurich are a room in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft, shared flat), your own flat or a room in a family’s house. It can happen that 50 people or more fight for a cheap and conveniently located flat. Plan plenty of time for the flat-hunt.

ETH-Zurich-Owned Apartments

ETH-Zurich has some studios for Ph.D. students who are coming from abroad and have a contract with ETH Zurich. They also have a bulletin board where you can find WG rooms or flats. You can apply for a studio at here.

Where to Look for Apartments

Check out these addresses and locations

  • ETH Whiteboard, only available in German
  • ETH Wohnen Service
  • The public bulletin boards at ETH Zurich and the University, especially those in the Polyterrasse building, mostly advertise WG rooms
  • You can also search for WGs and single rooms at the student organization WOKO
  • Flat sharing
  • Apartments
  • Apartments and flat sharing
  • You might also consider hiring an agent to look for flats for you. But be aware: you usually have to pay a fee of one month’s rent in a successful deal. The comfort here is that you don’t have to compete with other applicants.

First Few Days

Unless you have already found a flat or made other arrangements, you will probably need to stay at the city’s youth hostel, a backpacker’s or a more expensive hotel. Business or Airbnb apartments are another accommodation option, at least for the beginning of your Ph.D. They are usually cleaned, fitted with a kitchen and bathroom, and fully furnished. Business apartments can be rented monthly and cost somewhere in the range of 1’500 CHF. Try searching directly on the web for “business apartments Zurich” or use this website.

If you are not searching for flats, this will probably be the most quiet and relaxing time in your doctorate life, making it the perfect opportunity to explore the city and your neighborhood. Shops where you can get food are located nearly on every corner in Zurich. In case you arrive late or on a Sunday, there is also a possibility for shopping the bare essentials in the “Shopville” of the Zurich main station which is open 365 days per year until late. In addition, coop has a store next to the main station that is open until ten on weekdays and Saturdays. There are plenty of activities you can do in Zurich. Check the city homepage; for bars and clubs, there are special homepages telling you where a party is happening:

Rental Contracts

In any rental agreement (Mietvertrag), there should be clear rules as to what costs are included in the rent and what is to be paid additionally (e.g. water, electricity, heating). The usual period of notice for vacating a flat (Kündigungsfrist) is three months. If you are not the principle tenant, you will get a sub-contract (Untermietvertrag). Make sure you get this contract from the tenant when you move into a shared flat (WG) to avoid any trouble when you leave. Usually, you have to pay a deposit for your flat or room, which is normally two months’ rent. You can find your rights as a tenant at:, only in German

In most buildings, a washing machine is provided by the landlord. Swiss caretakers are generally very creative in making up complicated reservation procedures for the washing machine. Rules of conduct in the washing and drying cellar can be as strictly defined as any major law.

The Actual Move to Zurich

The application process for renting a flat can be quite tedious: apart from proving that you can pay the rent, you might be asked for an excerpt of the Swiss debtor’s register (Betreibungsauszug). Coming from abroad, you will not be able to provide the landlord with that but you might get something similar in your country of origin that confirms your creditworthiness. If you relocate in Zurich you can get the Betreibungsauszug at the respective Kreisbüro in your district (Kreis) or order it online. For the application you might have to present some additional references from people living in Switzerland, such as your professor or supervisor, vouching for your trustworthiness.

For the actual process of moving to Zurich (or within Zurich), it might be useful to hire Parking-prohibited signs from the city police force to prevent others from parking in the space you need for your car for a few hours. These cost about CHF 60. Simply call the police department of the district you live in. Go to

A low-price alternative for buying household goods are the second-hand department stores called Brockenhaus or the flea-market at Helvetiaplatz every Saturday. If you prefer new furniture at a low price, as always, IKEA is an option.

Radio and Television Fees, Billag

When registering at the Kreisbüro, it is a good idea to pick up the booklet on applying for your radio and television license. You have to pay monthly fees for Swiss radio and television if you own a radio or television or a computer/tablet with internet access. (2014, about CHF 14.10 for radio and 24.45 CHF for television per month). It does not matter whether you watch TV or listen to the radio at all, you still have to pay. If you don’t pay the fees, the fine could be as high as CHF 5’000. You can also make annual subscription. More information:

Swiss Waste Management

Sustainability is important in Switzerland. Hence, waste management is taken very seriously. You will need to separate your rubbish into:

  • Paper, which has to be packed and cored into small piles. These have to be put out on the street at specific times of the month for collection.
  • Cardboard is treated similarly to paper. However, you are also supposed to separate it!
  • Plastic bottles, which can be put into PET collection containers (supermarkets)
  • Glass bottles and metal cans, which go separately into glass and metal containers (found throughout the city)
  • For biowaste, some houses have a green litter bin
  • The rest has to be put into Zürisäcke, which can be bought at supermarkets (Migros, Coop) or in any Post office. See here for details.

Internet at your Apartment

There are two major home internet providers in Switzerland: Swisscom and Cablecom . Both offer various bundles for both internet and television. Please note that the Billag-fee is an independent thing. As an ETH employee you can get a rebate on certain cablecom offers.

Since Switzerland has a very advanced communication infrastructure, you might also consider getting mobile internet only, with either Swisscom, Sunrise or Orange.


Most Zurich households are connected to the electricity grid via the Canton-based energy supplier EWZ ( As an tenant, you can choose between different contracts (depending on your financial situation and environmental consciousness). However, there is not much choice when it comes to the gas supply as this is usually decided by your landlord.

Telecommunications provider

Three major providers exist in Switzerland and have a huge variety of contracts available: Swisscom, Sunrise and Orange. However, you will need to have a residency permit and a bank account to be allowed to sign a contract. Another option (at least for starters) might be, which also offers cheap international calls. In Switzerland three major providers exist offering a huge variety of contracts: Swisscom, Orange and Sunrise. However, you will need to have a residency permit and a bank account to be allowed to sign a contract. Another option (at least for starters) might be prepaid rates (e.g. and which also offers cheap international calls). For internet connections at home the ETH has a special offers together with upc cablecom.

Bank Account

Shortly after your arrival in Switzerland, you should open an account at either a bank or the post office (postfinance). Despite the mystique of the Swiss banks, this is relatively easy. Some banks may hesitate to open an account for you if you only have the Zusicherung der Aufenthaltsbewilligung and not a regular Ausländerausweis. Tell them they are about to lose a future manager as a customer and go to a different bank if they remain stubborn. Some banks have special offers with favorable conditions for students, such as no fees, a free credit card and or other benefits (The ZKB for example pays the student’s costs when using night buses or trains in Zurich, which normally costs a surplus of 5 CHF to the normal ticket). The quality of the Swiss post banking services is comparable to that of ordinary banks. Maestro or Postcard payments are the most widely accepted forms of direct debit payments in Switzerland, but credit cards are almost everywhere accepted as well. However, you will only be issued these cards after some money has been deposited in your account (e.g. the first salary).

Give your account details to the secretary in your workgroup or department as soon as possible so that your salary payments can be made to the right place.

If you are able to save money, you will need to file a simple application form for the tax authorities every two years to claim back the 35-percent tax (Verrechnungssteuer) levied on any interest earned. For Swiss citizens, this form automatically comes with the income tax forms. Foreigners are entitled to the refund if they have been living in Zurich since January 1 of the current year. They need to collect the form from the Formularkanzlei of the Steueramt (the City of Zurich’s tax office). Once applied, foreigners will also receive the form automatically in future. A short, additional word on financial matters: Sooner or later, you will be confronted with an orange or red payment slip (Einzahlungsschein). One will most probably come with your ETH-Zurich admission papers. You can go to a Swiss bank or post office with this form and pay the dues in cash. If you are not in Switzerland, try to ask a group member to loan the money to you and take care of the Einzahlungsschein because it could be extremely expensive to pay the dues from abroad.
Those can also be paid through online banking, now provided in most if not all banks.

Public Holidays

A list of public holidays in Zurich is available online.


4 - First Day at Work

Congratulations, you have almost started! In this chapter, we would like to give you a brief overview of ETH Zurich (so that you don’t get confused by all the abbreviations people love to use) and the things you should do during your first day at work.

Orientation Event

In order to get you started properly, ETH Zurich organizes an orientation event twice a year. It is an introduction to ETH Zurich as a university and as an employer. The intention is to facilitate integration into ETH Zurich’s culture and help new arrivals to meet each other. The subjects covered are ETH Zurich in general (organization and mission, doctoral studies at ETH Zurich), ETH-Zurich specifics (European research programs, equal opportunities for women and men, Language Center of the University and ETH Zurich, ETH Bibliothek (main library), IT Services, Human Resources, Corporate Communications, Doctoral Administration, Educational Development and Technology, Security, Safety, Health and Environment, Psychological Counseling Service). Furthermore, some of the many associations and units that exist at ETH are represented, including AVETH and many others (Alumni, ASVZ, Career Center, etc).

Registration is not necessary. Details can be found on the ETH website.

Organisation Structure of ETH

ETH Domain

Tertiary-level technical research and education is organized on a governmental level in Switzerland through the so-called ETH Domain. There are two such universities, one in Lausanne, in the French-speaking part of the country (École Polytechnique de Lausanne), and one in Zurich, in the German-speaking part (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich).

Apart from these two universities, there are four national research institutes (EMPA, EAWAG, PSI, WSL). The ETH Domain is regulated by the ETH-Zurich Act. There is a board (ETH board) which is responsible for the strategic management of the whole ETH domain. All other universities are governed by the cantons. If you are interested, you can find information via

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich opened its doors in 1855. The official English translation for Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule is Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. ETH Zurich defined excellence pillars in Education, Research and Knowledge Transfer. It has more than 400 professors, over 13’000 Bachelor’s and Master’s students and more than 3’800 doctoral students, 32 percent of whom are female and 63 percent of whom are from abroad. 21 Nobel-Prize laureates have contributed to the success story of ETH Zurich. More than 215 spin-off companies have been created at ETH Zurich. There are two main campuses: ETH Zentrum campus and ETH Hönggerberg campus. In addition to these two, there are other small campuses across Switzerland: Irchel, Basel, Lugano, Oerlikon, Technopark, Rueschlikon, Schwerzenbach, and Atelier Gisel. A wealth of information on ETH is available on the ETH website.



ETH Zurich is governed by the Executive Board (or Schulleitung), which is headed by a President. It enacts decrees and administrative rules, regulates the organization of the school, and decides on the founding, the renaming and the closure of institutes. The Board consists of five members:

  • The President, oversees entire university
  • The Rector, responsible for education, including doctoral studies
  • Vice-President for Research and Corporate relations
  • Vice-President for Finance and Controlling
  • Vice-President for Human Resources and Infrastructure
More information about the Executive Board can be found here.

University Assembly

According to the Federal Act on the Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH Zurich Act), there are four member groups (stakeholder groups) at ETH Zurich. These groups have the right of opinion-forming and participation in the pre-decision process. Doctoral students belong to the scientific staff community at ETH Zurich and are thus stakeholders in the institution. The interests of the groups are represented at political level by different associations, namely:

  • Doctoral students, scientific staff, assistants
    Represented by: AVETH
  • Teaching staff (professors)
    Represented by: Conference of Faculty members (KdL)
  • Students
    Represented by: VSETH
  • Administrative and Technical staff
    Represented by: PeKo

The University Assembly (Hochschulversamlung) is a body where the four member groups are equally represented. Each association elects five members of the University Assembly. The role of the Assembly is to ensure the participation of stakeholder groups in the decision-making processes of general interest at ETH Zurich and ETH-Domain level. The Assembly is thus entitled to express an opinion on all normative acts of the ETH Board and ETH-Zurich Executive Board, and comment on the budget and the planning, the abolishment/ creation of teaching and research units, as well as on annual reports. Depending on the topics discussed, the Assembly may invite guests from the ETH Domain and members of parliament.

Are you interested in the politics and the governance of universities and research institutions? Then the University Assembly is a perfect place for your voice to be heard! Join AVETH and learn more about how to become elected as our representative in the Assembly. More info on the Assembly’s homepage.


ETH Zurich is divided in 16 departments covering five disciplinary areas. eth_executive_board_and_department

The head of a department, who represents the department internally and externally, is elected for a period of two years. In order to ensure participation in decision-making at departmental level, there exists a Department Conference (Departementskonferenz; the highest body of the department). The responsibilities of the Department Conference are diverse and include academic planning, the adoption of study-related regulations, establishment of rules or procedures for the department, and the allocation of resources. Much like the University Assembly, every Department Conference is attended by representatives of the professors, students, administrative personal and scientific staff.

Quite often, important decisions regarding department-specific doctoral study regulations are made at the Department Conferences. Thus, if you wish to change things for the better in your department join the Department Conference and defend the interests of your local scientific staff community.

Other committees usually functioning at department level are:

  • Professor Conference (Professorenkonferenz), which comprises all of the professors and adjunct professors in the department
  • Teaching Committee (Unterrichtskommission), which deals with study-related issues.
Contact your AVETH department association or department secretary for more information regarding the possibilities of participating in internal political life.

The Academic Calendar

Please note that ETH Zurich’s academic calendar is different from those found at many other continental European universities as it rather follows the American system. The updated calendar can be found at on the ETH website.

HR Registration: Employee Status

Prior to receiving your contract, you will have to register with human resources. Your group secretary or human resources will contact you for that purpose. You might receive your contract in advance by post. Information on your employee status can be found on the webpage of the Human Resources.

Together with your contract, you will also receive a book about your rights and duties as an employee in Switzerland. The HR department also has an updated version of this information on their homepage.

Doctoral Registration: Student Status

The doctoral registration is performed by the Doctoral Administration. We urge you to read their webpage carefully as it contains a wealth of important information.

You need to fill out the registration form (available on the webpage) and have it signed by your professor. Your doctorate officially begins with this registration.

If you register between semesters, please note that you will be matriculated starting from the following semester. Please note that the Doctoral Administration is not responsible for processing your visa and employment contract. Your supervisor and Human Resources are responsible for processing these documents.

Once the Doctoral Administration receives your complete application, you will be matriculated and receive an ETH card (Legi) within approximately two weeks after submitting your application (only if you do not have one already).

ETH Card aka Legi

Every student has his personal ETH card. It acts both as visual and as electronic identity card. Outside ETH, the ETH card serves as a proof of you being a student, allowing you to get access to rebates and more. At ETH, it allows you to enter sports grounds, cafeteria, and buildings and it also serves as a library card. The ETH card must be validated (updated) every semester at one of the validation terminals. After validation, its date of expiry is prolonged until the end of the following semester. The letter “S” on the card implies that you officially have student status. Access to buildings outside normal working hours is granted upon request. Just ask the group’s secretary for it. Your personal entrance key to buildings can be set via

myStudies and nethz-account

myStudies serves as a platform to manage your studies, i.e. you can enroll in the semester and courses, register for exams and so on. After having enrolled for the respective next semester (needs to be done every semester!), you can re-validate your ETH card and you will receive a set of matriculation confirmations by regular mail. You will be notified by email if enrolling in the next semester is possible. You will have to login with your nethz-account. Nethz is the central user management system of ETH Zurich; it regulates the access to various user services of the ETH (mystudies, mailbox, vpn, WiFi, printing …). Go to to see what you can do with your nethz-account or if you have to change your nethz-password.


5 - Being a Doctoral Student

Qualifying Exams

Text is taken and adapted from:

After your registration for a doctorate at ETH, the Vice-Rector of Doctoral Studies and the Doctoral Committee of the relevant department will prove whether you are directly eligible for a doctorate or whether you have to take qualifying exams. Note that about one-third of doctoral students are required to take such exams. The exact details of the admission requirements are decided upon by the Doctoral Committee for the relevant department, in consultation with the thesis supervisor. After the aforementioned authorities have taken a decision you will be notified, and in case of examination a fee of CHF 120 will be added to your semester invoice.

Procedure in case of admission requirements

  • On myStudies the qualifying exams you have to take are listed.
  • On mystudies you can also find the dates for your qualifying exams, which are shown on the examination schedule.
  • In case an exam is not based on a course of the course catalogue, you will have to contact the examiner yourself to agree a date for the exam.
  • You must register for the exam at least one week before the agreed date.
  • To register for an exam log into mystudies, click first on “Functions” and then on “Qualifying examinations”. Then you can enter the date and time of the exam.

Attention! Unlike any other student the registration for qualifying exams must under no circumstances be done with the Examinations Office. Please proceed exactly as described above!

It is essential that the examination dates are entered in mystudies to ensure that the processing of the qualifying examinations by the Doctoral Administration Office runs smoothly.

  • As soon as you have registered, both you and the examiners will receive a confirmation e-mail.
  • Your grade(s) will be either recorded in eDoz or at the Doctoral Administration Office (depends on the examiner).
  • Once you have fulfilled all the admission requirements and your grades have been recorded you will receive an official confirmation letter from the Doctoral Administration Office.

This letter also contains your exam results. Note that if you fail your exam(s) you have the chance to repeat it/them once within six months. In case you fail a second time or your supervisor does not allow you to repeat the exam(s) you will be dematriculated and as a result are not allowed to continue with your doctoral studies.

The admission requirements must be met within one year, starting from the date of the admission letter. For more information about deadlines please visit myStudies. Extension of deadlines can be requested using the form “Application to extend the deadline for taking qualifying examinations”. Your request will then be approved (or not) by the relevant department.

Important: You must take your qualifying exams before you can submit your research plan.

Research Plan

Text is taken and adapted from:

All doctoral students must compile a research plan in which they outline the goals and nature of their doctoral thesis as well as their responsibilities as a doctoral student. The research plan has to be submitted to the supervisor and ideally also to a co-examiner, and must be approved by the relevant Doctoral Committee. According to the “Regulations for Doctoral Studies” (Art. 12, Section 4) submission of the research plan must take place within the first twelve months of enrolment. Extension of this deadline requires approval by the relevant Doctoral Committee.

There is no strict format for the research plan, but following key components have to be covered:

  • Research tasks
  • Content-based framework and time frame
  • Scope of research work
  • Other obligations

In case the doctoral thesis project is mainly carried out outside ETH Zurich, this has to be specified and explained in the research plan. More information can be found at on the ETH website.

The research plan must be submitted along with the approval form “Approval of your research plan” to the Student Administration Office in the relevant department. They will then arrange for the form to be signed and approved by the Doctoral Committee and will forward it to the Doctoral Administration Office. After final confirmation by the Vice-Rector you are admitted to your doctoral studies.

Departmental Doctoral Rules

Unfortunately, every department at ETH has its own regulations for doctoral studies. Some even have different regulations depending on your actual program. For specific questions, ask the responsible person at your department.

Doing Research

Plagiarism and Organizing Your Research

It is obvious but the past tells us that it’s actually not: Do never ever copy and paste work. Always be aware of copyright and authorship issues, and assure the integrity of your data and research. The damage that is caused by not obeying to these rules is extensive.

Log whatever you do in detail. You cannot imagine how many times you will need to look up the details of your experiments or analyses and how many of the details you will forget! Label everything, from samples and diskettes to folders and printed data or results, together with the date (sometimes we overestimate our memory…). Store all your data in computer files (lists, databases, text files) as it will be easier to look for something if needed at a later time point. Find a good, consistent way to name your files and print the file’s name on every printed version. Keep duplicate records of all data, ideally in two different places (backup!).

ETH edited a booklet that will provide you with detailed information.

Time Management

During your doctoral studies, you will probably encounter the feeling that there is never enough time for everything. You are supposed to conduct research, read up on your subject, teach and still find time to eat, sleep, meet friends, do sports and have hobbies. It is not easy. However, if you manage to organize your doctoral studies well you will save yourself a lot of time for your private life. There is usually a lot of stress within groups working scientifically. People seem to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Do not believe you are expected to do the same! You can save a lot of time by organizing yourself efficiently and avoiding work or tasks that are not really important. After all, everybody “works” in a different manner and at a different pace. Discover your own working technique and, once it has turned out to be successful, be confident that it is the right one for you. Try to work efficiently and continuously but at the same time don’t neglect your private life. You will need it to maintain your inner balance and not be too focused on the ups and downs in your work. Set deadlines even if they are only for your own purposes and write to-do lists. They will help you defining priorities and keeping the overview. A to-do list should be readily available so that one can check and update it anytime. You will get a feeling of satisfaction from crossing off the things you have done!

The following sections comprise a list of good ideas compiled by doctoral students who have just started out and others who are already well into their doctoral studies. Some of the ideas may be useful to you, others may not – so feel free to pick and choose!

Research Planning

Allow some time for settling in. If you choose a research topic on your own, you will certainly need more time at the beginning in order to get a rough idea of the area of research you will be working in and define a gap of knowledge you would like to fill. Make a plan of your work – you will not need to follow it exactly, but it helps you to constructively think of your work’s future and break seemingly huge tasks down into manageable pieces. Defining short-term goals will help you to have more control over the progress of your work. Determine the point at which you intend to be with your work in one year’s time, for example, imagining what you should have done by then and what you would still have to do. You will sometimes have to change or modify your plan because something did not work the way you thought it would, or due to a discovery of a new way of treating a problem or a new tool. If you are ahead of schedule (rare, but it happens), do not sit back. Instead, double-check important points and do things you always wanted to do but never had the time for (e.g. read theoretical literature or recent papers). On the other hand, do not panic if you get behind. You are doing research and there are many factors you cannot predict or control. A schedule is meant to help, not terrorize you! Do the easy things or things you know well first. This might be searching for specific literature, designing a piece of apparatus or learning how to use a software package. However, make sure that the things you do are relevant to your dissertation.


Studying for a doctoral degree is completely different from studying for an undergraduate degree. Nobody will expect you to study anything in particular; you are fully responsible for what, how and when you learn. Do not focus on everything that sounds interesting – there are too many interesting things. Set your own priorities; the focus of your work will naturally grow as will the workload, which will impact on the time you have left to study.

Reference Material

ETH Zurich has access to a huge amount of scientific journals. Depending on your field, different sources might be the easiest to access. Good places to start, however, are

Networking in Academic Life

Find one or several colleagues with whom you can discuss your progress and who is willing to give personal feedback. This does not necessarily have to be your supervisor or someone from your research group, but anybody who is experienced in scientific work, who respects you personally and who is willing to share his or her experiences and opinions with you – perhaps you will do the same for one of your colleagues one day! Doctoral seminars, workshops or conferences are good opportunities to meet other researchers, talk about your own project and develop your personal sense of scientific quality. Join them as soon as possible in your postgraduate career. Make a presentation of the work you have planned or your work in progress. It will need some personal initiative and a portion of courage, but it pays off! Additionally, you can contact the author of a paper when you realize that he or she is working on the same/similar subject. This might be useful to your work. In fact this is one major reason why you should read research articles: to find out about other groups/researchers working on topics that are similar to yours. Get to know your research field! If you think a person could help you, tell your supervisor; and if he or she agrees, muster all your courage and contact him or her… Most people will feel honored by your well-prepared and well-thought out questions and help you.

Finally, take advantage of the many different professors and groups working at ETH Zurich. If you don’t ask, they might not jump out to help, but if you ask they will probably share their experiences with you. You do not need to work and proceed in the same manner as they do, but combined with your own personal judgment, you will be able to benefit from their expertise.

Meetings and Conferences

The ability to conduct good and innovative research is something you will acquire gradually during your studies. It is not easy and primarily requires a thorough knowledge of your research field, but also the ability to identify key problems. Communication with colleagues and other researchers is a crucial part of successful research. In addition to the interaction with researchers in your immediate surroundings at ETH Zurich, you will have opportunities to expand your network of professional acquaintances by attending meetings and conferences where the latest work is being presented. Attending a meeting or a conference can reignite your enthusiasm for research and provide new insights. Additionally, it will help you to construct or build up your own perception of the scientific community you belong to and position your own work within the field. Presenting your own work at a conference is a great chance to catch but also gage other people’s interest in your work and get feedback. Moreover, it will help you to find other people working on similar questions and allow you to discuss problems with them. A presentation will significantly affect your progress. Note that there are several societies or institutions that provide travel grants to doctoral students for attending conferences or workshops. This is particularly useful in case the supervisor is not willing to take over (all) the travel and conference/workshop costs.


Writing a dissertation or paper is not an easy task, even for experienced writers. Writing is always a “reality check” concerning what it is you want to explain. In other words, if you have troubles formulating something, it is often an indication that you are not fully clear on the matter you want to explain. Thus, writing will also show you what is clear to you and what not. So start writing early. Generally, the text you write should have a well-defined purpose. This may sound trivial but one source of problems in writing might be that you are not fully conscious of the purpose of the text, whether it be a short description for laypeople (such as potential sponsors), a conference paper or a chapter of your dissertation. Do not try to create a perfect version from the outset (nobody can do this). Start with a first draft (or maybe with an outline) and revise the draft until you achieve the desired result. Ask for feedback from your supervisor and your colleagues. Make a visual plan of your dissertation and try to build your text according to that plan. Change the plan during the writing process if necessary. Take extra care with the introduction and the conclusion sections. They might cost you the greatest effort (relative to their length) because they should be precise, self-explanatory and easy to read. Be aware that, based on the introduction and the conclusion, a potential reader will probably decide on whether he or she will continue to read your dissertation or not. The introduction should demonstrate the context of your work and give a clear explanation of its purpose, whereas the conclusion should demonstrate what you conclude from your results, how these results fit into the overall context of research in your field, and furthermore offer some suggestions for further research. Be aware that neither the introduction nor the conclusion should simply summarize the results, nor that a reader is more interested in the outcome than what you have done. Write a one-page summary at the beginning/end (depending on your preference) of each chapter. Be careful with the bibliography and double-check all references, especially any quotations. Try to avoid minor errors and have correct figures. It is crucial that you find one or more persons, ideally your supervisor or maybe other lab members that revise your text and figures and give you inputs and suggestions. Some people even pay for a professional editor to do that but whether this is really necessary is debatable.

Being a Teaching Assistant

Teaching at ETH Zurich is to a great extend carried out by teaching assistants (TAs): Students (paid), doctoral students, postdocs, scientific staff. They are important for the quality of much student learning. TAs form an important link between the professors or lecturers and the students; they are not only closer in age but also remember more what it was like to be a student. For the assistants themselves, these teaching duties present an opportunity to practice and develop skills related to teaching, presenting and leadership, which might be of relevance for their future career.


When you discuss the research project with your supervisor right at the start of your doctoral project, find out what your teaching duties are going to be – and not only for the first semester or first year but for the whole time of your doctorate. Depending on your department and group, you might have more or less flexibility to choose among different teaching assignments. If you want, you can try to insist on the same teaching duties for at least three semesters so that the possibly extensive preparation for the first time round is an investment that can be used more than once. Negotiate your release from teaching duties, or at least have them reduced, during the last phase of your research work and while you write your dissertation. Find out how much time you are expected to spend on teaching, preparation and grading papers, and carefully consider whether this is reasonable or not. It is also a good idea to find out from the other TAs what the par for the department is; such facts are often useful in the early stages of negotiation. As soon as you sense that you are actually spending much more time than originally agreed, run your own “time and motion study”, i.e. what you do when. Your supervisor, who is often the person with the overall responsibility for the lecture course or laboratory class you teach, is likely to take your case much more seriously if you can present him/her with some “hard facts and figures”. Be aware of the fact that some institutes distribute administrative jobs as well as teaching duties to doctoral students. Whilst you clarify your teaching duties, find out what else is expected of you. It is particularly important for a healthy working environment that everyone gets their fair share and that it is clear “who does what”.

Different Kinds of Teaching Assignments

  • Laboratory classes (Praktika): In the first two years of an undergraduate degree, a group of about 12 to 15 students is assigned to one TA in a laboratory class. The TA is responsible for introducing each section of the course, perhaps reviewing some of the experimental design, organizing the laboratory, helping the students with apparatus, and marking and correcting lab reports. In advanced stages (years 3 and 4), TAs are more likely to have to supervise students on an individual basis.
  • Exercise classes (Übungen) (e.g. in mathematics, computer science, engineering): The role of the TA in this teaching situation might include running the weekly sessions, providing “tips” for the new set of exercises, asking challenging questions to check the students’ understanding, writing the exercises, providing sample answers, marking the students’ work and giving students constructive feedback.
  • Excursions and field trips (Exkursionen): Excursions do not take place on a weekly basis. They are time-consuming and require thoughtful preparation if the learning is to be effective. The amount of supervision varies greatly from department to department and you may find yourself alone with a group of 12 students for a whole day at a time.
  • Case studies (Fallstudien) and project work (Projektarbeit): This form of student learning is growing in popularity at ETH Zurich and TAs may well become involved in various aspects of it, such as helping to prepare the cases, leading discussions with groups of students working on the case and marking final reports.
  • Supervising a semester project (Semesterarbeit) (in many departments, especially engineering) or a master project (“Masterarbeit”): Supervising semester projects requires the TA to work with one or several students at once with the aim of guiding and helping them to complete a specific project within a given time frame.
  • Supervision of a master project is usually done on a one-to-one basis with an assistant who originally “advertises” the master project. The secret of good supervision for the diploma project lies in finding a balance between providing supervision and guidance to the student and encouraging an independent way of working.

What Students Want

ETH-Zurich students were asked to define what they felt “good TA supervision” entailed in a teaching evaluation run by the Center for Educational Development and Technology (LET). Here is the list of the six aspects that were mentioned the most often:

  1. The TA gives good explanations (takes time to explain things, is patient).
  2. The TA is helpful (does not put us down when we ask questions).
  3. The TA is motivating (praises us) and obviously likes the subject.
  4. The TA knows his/her subject matter.
  5. The TA is friendly, approachable and creates a good atmosphere in the classroom.
  6. The TA gives a good introduction to the class or a new experiment.

Of particular relevance are the highly rated qualities of “being helpful” and “giving praise”, neither of which has anything to do with factual knowledge but with the TA’s social competence; in particular the latter quality often gets overlooked in the classroom – just think how good YOU feel when you are told you have done something well!

How to Profit From Teaching

Most doctoral students are employed as teaching assistants at ETH Zurich. What do they have to show for their work as teachers and for the skills they have developed at the end of their studies? Usually very little: perhaps a reference from their professor or a statement about the time they were employed as a TA and for which course(s). But where are the details about all the time, energy, ideas and academic skills that have been invested and acquired during this period, not to mention the quality of the work? The answer lies in the production of a “Teaching Portfolio”. The compilation of a Teaching Portfolio has several goals:

  • To make the activities undertaken as a teaching assistant more visible (for you too!)
  • To encourage discussions between teaching assistants (exchange of ideas, how to solve problems etc.)
  • To produce a portfolio of material that shows what has been achieved. This can be most useful for job applications, even if you do not plan to stay in an academic setting. Evidence that you have been involved in activities that require good preparation, didactic and communicative skills, and leadership, and which contain an element of self-evaluation adds an additional and valuable dimension to your résumé.
  • To clarify your own pedagogical and didactic goals for your teaching activities.

A Teaching Portfolio can be compared to the visible products of research work (a list of publications and/or a thesis/dissertation) in that it is “evidence” of what and how much has been undertaken in teaching, the level at which the work has been carried out and what has been achieved. Many US universities require the submission of a teaching portfolio in the application for academic positions (postdoc and above) and there are many TA training programs in the US that culminate in the production of this document. Think about collecting items for your own teaching portfolio right from the start of your teaching career at ETH Zurich.

Being Taught How to Teach

ETH Zurich takes its teaching duties very seriously. Hence, there are several different options to help you improve your teaching skills. Invitations for taking courses on how to teach are regularly sent out by mail. You can also check out these websites to find out more:


Doctoral Studies (courses)

Doctoral students are encouraged to continue their education. In this respect, doctoral studies allow students to deepen their knowledge of their research topic, improve their skills in related research areas and general education, and facilitate their integration into the scientific community.

Credits are awarded for doctoral studies. One credit corresponds to a study performance of 25-30 working hours. Credits are only issued for a doctoral student’s individual performance. A total of at least 12 credits are required, of which at least one third have to be acquired outside the field of research. Credits can be awarded for active participation in ETH Zurich committees and task forces (which also includes work for associations like AVETH). The responsible department decides on the issuing of credits. Please contact the responsible department in case of questions.

Please also note: Despite certain similarities, these are not ECTS points, but specific separate credits for doctoral studies. These often do not correspond to the ECTS credit points given in the Course Catalogue. Each department regulates in its detailed requirements for individual doctoral study how many credits are awarded for how much work. Twelve is the minimum number of credits, as prescribed in the “Regulations for Doctoral Studies”. The departments determine for themselves the exact number of credits that have to be accumulated. Please find out from your department how many credit points you have to acquire, or check the detailed requirements for individual doctoral studies.

When you register for the doctoral exam, you must provide proof of having acquired the requested number of credits by having the respective form signed by a department representative. Please ensure that the form has been signed before you register for the exam at the Doctoral Administration Office.

Further Education

Besides the regular coursework (for qualifying examinations and ECTS credits), you are also encouraged to take advantage of other offers for further education during your studies. You may want to learn another language (see the chapter on language learning in the next section), but there are plenty of other options:

Apart from these offers, you may want to look into academic exchange programs to spend a little bit of your research time abroad:

  • Student Exchange Office
  • Travel allowance

Confused? Help is at Hand!

You need help while doing your doctoral studies? There are various options:


6 - Miscellaneous

Things to do in Zurich

There is plenty to do in Zurich besides research at ETH. Apart from asking your co-workers, we would like to recommend a few homepages for you to visit:


Doctoral students, research assistants, post-docs and any other academic employees who are not faculty at ETH are united in one group called scientific staff (in German, “Mittelbau”). It is the second largest group at ETH Zurich after the students.

In 1968 our predecessors joined forces to protect and improve all aspects of the scientific staff’s well-being at ETH Zurich and founded the Association of the Scientific Staff at ETH Zurich, AVETH.

Political representation

AVETH is the official representation of the scientific staff at ETH Zurich. It sends representatives to various councils and commissions such as the University Assembly, Strategy Committee etc., and regularly meets with ETH Zurich’s Executive Board to make sure your concerns are raised. AVETH bridges the gap between you and the executives at ETH Zurich. On the one hand we convey your opinions to the head of the university and on the other hand we inform you about the decisions made. We keep an eye on political developments at ETH and are prepared to step in whenever needed.


The association is also here to help you with any problems and questions you might encounter while living and working in Switzerland. This ranges from how to open a bank account, how to get the correct visa permit, where to find a flat to how to deal with your supervisor or contract regulations. We have compiled various information in the present handbook and regularly update information on our homepage.


AVETH is an intercultural and interdisciplinary association uniting scientists from all departments at ETH Zurich. In order to connect scientists from all over ETH, AVETH organizes a variety of social events. The spectrum covers fun or sport activities, career events as well as excursions. Some events are jointly organized with our sister association at the University of Zurich (VAUZ), such as the “get-to-know-pubs” or the "Pub Crawl" that organized regularly. Seize your chance while you are in Zurich and enrich your personal life by making new friends and interdisciplinary professional contacts. You can find more information on upcoming events on our homepage. AVETH-members are also informed about upcoming events via our email newsletter.

Wherever you end up after finishing your doctoral thesis at ETH Zurich – in industry, a research institute or a university – happy memories and valuable contacts will stay with you forever!

Department Associations

In every department, AVETH has sub-associations called department associations (in German Fachvereine) which are responsible for the political representation of the scientific staff on department level. Department Associations represent your voice at the “Department Conferences” and can help you with problems on a departmental or institutional level. Moreover, they also organize various events; a perfect way to meet new people working in the same field. Again, the spectrum of events ranges from sports and cultural events to company visits or other career events. As an AVETH member, you are automatically a member of the respective department association. The list of Department Associations will give you an overview of all department associations at ETH Zurich.

Realize your own Ideas

If you have any ideas on how to improve life at ETH Zurich, if you want to organize an event, or if you know a practical solution to a problem, simply let us know. You are welcome to join the AVETH Board, project teams and work groups.

If you want to become a member, here are three (easy!) options to do so:

  • Through our website, or
  • Tick the box when you enroll online for a new semester as a doctoral student in msStudies, or
  • Fill in the form given to you by Human Resources together with your contract

If you want to contact us, send an email or contact board members directly.

Be informed. Be involved. Join AVETH!

ASVZ (sports)

The Academic Sports Club of Zurich offers students and staff of both ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich the opportunity to engage in a broad variety of activities. Courses taught by professional instructors, as well as opportunities to participate in over sixty types of sports, are offered at the university sport facilities located at ETH Zentrum-Polyterrasse, Fluntern, Uni-Irchel and ETH-Hönggerberg, as well as at various outdoor sites around Zurich. The sport centers are also open for individual use. The ASVZ aims to promote physical activities as an accompaniment to studying and working. Thereby emphasizing the benefits of physical and mental well-being for good health while providing recreation and relaxation.

All doctoral students are automatically members of ASVZ, the membership is paid for by part of your semester fees. Your ETH card is your proof of membership that gives you access to ASVZ services. Other employees (such as postdocs) can buy a membership for CHF 180 per year. If you start working at ETH Zurich, but have not been officially registered as a doctoral student yet, you need to pay the yearly fee. You will get a partial refund once you present your valid ETH card to the ASVZ.

Members of the ASVZ can participate in almost all sport activities offered and use the sports centre facilities for free. Some activities and special courses organized in co-operation with external groups may require an additional fee (golf, tennis, paragliding, sailing etc.). In addition to individual training, it is possible to participate in team sports such as unihockey, badminton, football (soccer) and beach volleyball. Other services available through the ASVZ include massages, sauna, fitness evaluations and sports/nutrition counseling. For some services, a minimal additional fee is required.

Plenty of paths exist for meditative running or simply letting off steam. An event worth getting involved in is the SOLA-Stafette, a run held in early May each year. It is a relay race in and around Zurich with various distances through forests and over fields. Taking part in a team relay is a great way to meet people, see a bit of Zurich, and have a great time. More information on the SOLA relay race and a lot more can be found on the ASVZ homepage.

Membership for Partners

The ASVZ offers the opportunity to purchase a membership pass for your significant other, as well. The cost is CHF 500 annually. The pass can be obtained at any ASVZ info desk. Forms can be downloaded from the homepage.

Learning Languages

While doing your doctoral studies, seize the opportunity to learn German or a different foreign language. There are several offers at both ETH Zurich/University of Zurich as well as from external companies. Browse the following pages to find out more.

Language Center of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich

The Sprachenzentrum is the common language center of ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. It offers courses to learn German as a foreigner (also intensive courses), language courses for many other languages as well as courses on improving your academic writing skills. Doctoral students and other scientific staff are charged a fee of around CHF 400 to take language courses. Check-out their webpage for more information.

ETH Zurich recommends that professors subsidize language course fees for their doctoral students and scientific staff as this might facilitate the newcomer’s integration. English or academic writing courses can also help increase the success rate for paper submissions. However, some professors are not willing to support their graduate students in this matter.

Language Tandems

The Language Center’s tandem exchange is aimed towards students and staff of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. Tandem learning is independent from participation in a language course and there is no fee for this service.

What is tandem learning? Tandem learning involves two people with different mother tongues working together to improve their foreign language skills. Tandem learning also allows participants to learn about different cultures and share cultural experiences. The approach is based on autonomous learning, with each partner being responsible for his or her own learning progress. The participants decide on their own aims, learning strategies and areas to cover within a set timeframe.

The Sprachenzentrum has also prepared a tandem contract for you and your tandem partner. It provides guidance on how to approach a tandem partnership. More info can be found at:

Migros Klubschule

The Migros Klubschule is the biggest further education provider in Switzerland, with more than half a million participants each year. Among others, they also offer courses in Swiss German. More information is available at

Erasmus Student Network (ESN)

The international Erasmus Student Network in Zurich organizes a variety of events. Visit their website to find out more.

ETH Store

The ETH Store offers books, study materials, stationery, and merchandise products with the ETH logo. Students and employees get discounts and benefit from special offers. Located directly on the campus, the ETH Store is easily accessible. The ETH Store operates at the following locations:

  • ETH Store Hönggerberg HPI
  • ETH Store Polyterrasse
  • ETH Store Sonneggstrasse (merchandise products)
  • ETH Store Materialverkauf HIL
  • ETH Store at Shop ITZ, Toniareal

In addition, the ETH Store webshop is open 24/7:

ETH Entrepreneur Club

Dream it, do it! You won't regret it.

Founded in 2011, the club has consistently enjoyed rapid growth, and currently has over 2'000 members. Although it specifically targets students of ETH Zurich, the Entrepreneur Club welcomes anyone with entrepreneurial enthusiasm and an interest in creativity and innovation.

Our vision is to foster entrepreneurship in Switzerland and make Zurich the tech startup epicenter of Europe. We represent a vibrant, international platform for entrepreneurs and unleash the business potential of ETH research.

Every year we organise many successful events, such as the Startup Speed Dating, the EC Award and the FuckUp Night. The HackZurich and Cofoundme even became its own brand.

More information on the ETH Entrepreneur Club website.


7 - Troubleshooting and Family Affairs

The AVETH Counseling Service and help desk

The counseling service of the AVETH was created to help you overcome difficulties while working at ETH. Any problem you run into has probably occurred before and our team has experience dealing with many kinds of issues. Even when you are not sure you really have a problem, just a feeling, talk to us and we can help you avoid a problem from occurring. The earlier you seek help, the more likely it is to avoid an escalation. This can be problems with your supervisor, other group members or living in Switzerland. We will work out a solution together with you, help to avoid escalation, provide mediation and connect you with the necessary services at ETH. It is our mission to make your time at ETH a positive experience. We understand that many problems are of a confidential nature.

Contact us via the AVETH webpage or at

Alternatively, the Ombudsperson is a neutral confidential authority at ETH, usually a retired Professor or Administrator, who will help and advise you.

Family Affairs

Reconciling family and work is one of the buzzwords at ETH Zurich. Of course, combining both will pose a challenge. This is why ETH Zurich created a range of services for employees with young children.

Up-to-date information on these services can be found on the ETH-Zurich Family Portal. The FAQ section on this page is interesting for both the employer and the employee.

Legal Issues – Contact Human Resources

If you have any questions regarding bringing your family with you to Switzerland, please get in touch with the Human Resources Department. Your institute will provide you with the name of your administration assistant. It is advisable to enquire about the procedure before starting at ETH Zurich.

Daycare – kihz

Perhaps the most important service is the kihz trust, which offers advice for parents in academia on finding daycare for their children, holiday care or special daycare during conferences. Here, you will also find a list of links to English speaking daycare centers in Zurich.

Note The information provided in German might be more detailed than in English. Check both just in case.

There are also offers for day care in Basel:


Changing Tables

A few rooms at ETH are specially equipped for diaper-changing.

ASVZ Junior Club

The Academic Sports Association of Zurich provides sports courses tailored to youngsters.

Golden Tricycle

The Golden Tricycle is awarded annually to ETH-Zurich team leaders, creating a remarkably family-friendly working environment for their team members. It was founded by the AVETH as a symbol of the importance of family, especially for a world-class research institute. Every employee is encouraged to send in a nomination. The award ceremony is part of the ETH staff party - togETHer.


For information about maternity leave etc., contact the Doctoral Administration, Office of Equal Opportunities for Women and Men at ETH Zurich, and/or Human Resources.

Day Nursery

KiKri and the Kihz foundation provide day nursery centers. As the waiting lists are typically rather long, it is a good idea to arrange childcare as early as possible, preferably even during pregnancy. In addition, Kihz provides other services such as ‘kihz holiday clubs’.
Important Contacts:

Bullying and Harassment


Contact the Human Resources Department and find out who is responsible for the department to which your research institute belongs (Personalchef/ in). Utilize the free Psychological Counseling Service. AVETH also provides a counseling service to talk to and help you with advice and mediation (see AVETH homepage: More detailed explanations on how to handle such a situation, as well as more contacts, are available on ETH Zurich’s webpage on basic principles of mutual respect.


Unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature are classified as sexual harassment when:

  • It is implicitly or explicitly suggested that submission or rejection has consequences in the professional field.
  • The conduct interferes with the work performance by creating an uncomfortable work atmosphere.

Considering the multi-national body of staff at ETH Zurich, various misunderstandings may occur as to what is considered reasonable behavior. Be sure to use clear words both orally and in writing when you disagree with the behavior of others towards you. Do not expect hints alone to be understood.

Psychological Aid

Find the right balance between professional and private life. Get involved in social activities and leisure like sports, arts, etc. If you feel you are approaching a limit, you feel constantly tired or the pressure is too much: react right away. Don’t wait for an escalation or manifestation, be proactive and talk to someone, like the Psychological Counseling Service.

Difficult Supervisor Relationships


Independent of your relationship with your supervisor and this tip also holds true for any meeting or professional interaction: keep a good documentation. In every meeting, no matter if formal or informal, take notes and at the end of the meeting read them back, citing the major points and agreements. Often problems arise form something simple as a misunderstanding. By reading your notes back, you present your own understanding of the content of the meeting and give your counterpart the option to correct you, if you have understood something incorrectly.

The relationship with your supervisor is vital for your success in your doctorate. Research in such small groups strongly depends on trust. Make sure you don’t risk you relationship with your supervisor. If you really feel something is not going well, talk to the Ombudsperson or the AVETH counseling team before letting a conflict escalate. After that it is often very difficult to get back to a good working relationship.

Your supervisor suggests a project that does not appeal to you

Listen to the suggestions. Do not say much at first, but do not give the impression that you are agreeing. Try not to get dragged down by unappealing aspects of the project. Maybe those ‘negative’ aspects are not as pronounced as you think and there just might be very appealing aspects you had not noticed at first! Write a list of the project’s pros and cons. Point out the cons and suggest alternatives. Present this list to your supervisor and discuss it together. If she/he does not agree, a group meeting might be helpful. Your research plan should be a guideline for your doctorate and you can use it to point out if a project seems too far off topic and not helpful. Still try to avoid a negative development of the argument, keep it focused on finding a compromise.

Lack of feedback from your supervisor

Dare to ask for feedback from time to time. You should have a clear idea of how your supervisor thinks your project is progressing. Often, good ideas and suggestions emerge during conversation. Do not expect your supervisor to come and check on you every day. Your initiative is appreciated and required. Consult your supervisor or a senior scientist. If this does not work for whatever reason, there is a last resort: As a doctoral student at ETH Zurich, you have the right to submit a written progress report at any time of your dissertation and your supervisor is formally obliged to comment on it (Doktoratsverordnung, Art. 14). Of course, this is really the last thing you should try since it is not the most congenial method. Personal approaches are usually quite sufficient.

Corrections on your draft are not handed back

Dissertation drafts usually require laborious proof-reading on the part of the supervisor. If this process takes a long time, do not complain openly. Instead, try to motivate her/him and agree on a timeline.

Total disagreement with your supervisor

Even before you reach this point you should contact the AVETH counseling team or the Ombudsperson. We will sit down with you and figure out a solution. This could be a mediation (see below) or a strategy to get around the problem.

The first official step, if nothing else works would be to talk to the head of your department. We strongly advise you to discuss this step with us first, as this will make your conflict public (at least in the eyes of your supervisor) and this could be a point of no return. At ETH Zurich, there is the duty of mediating between doctoral students and their supervisors (Doktoratsverordnung, Art. 16). To this mediation meeting you can bring the AVETH counselor and/or the Ombudsperson.

The next stage of escalation would be to involve the Prorector for Doctoral Students. If the conflict is not resolved, the arbitration commission will hold a hearing and pass their findings to the rector. The rector will then reach a binding decision.

Supervision cannot be continued

Your supervisor can quit your doctoral thesis supervision by writing a letter to the doctoral administration stating a reason. This reason cannot be discussed or challenged, as it is a subjective decision by the Professor not to supervise you anymore. This sounds very harsh and makes you look unsafe. This is not the case. A Professor at ETH should take his responsibility of supervision serious. Still, if this occurs, you will receive a letter from the doctoral administration informing you of this situation. From then on you have 6 month to find a new supervisor. Your department should assist you in this endeavor and independent of your contract should provide up to 3 month salary. If you cannot find a new supervisor within this time, you will be automatically ex-matriculated as a doctoral student from ETH. Your working contract with ETH will then also be nullified, as it is directly linked with your status as a doctoral student. Again we would like to stress that you should contact AVETH or the Ombudsperson as early as possible.

Authorship of a paper is unclear

Discuss the authorship on a paper before the writing begins. Ask about the rules of authorship in the group. Usually, the contribution of data warrants authorship. Often, the order of the authors is a major bone of contention.

There are mutually satisfying solutions to this, such as additional comments (“both authors contributed equally to this work…”). Make sure you follow ETH Zurich’s guidelines for research integrity and good scientific practice.

Workload is too high

Talk to your supervisor or use the group meeting to ask for help and make sure your situation is clear. If you ask for help, bring suggestions on how to solve the problem. You could ask fora diploma student and delegate a small part of your project to her/him whilst acting as her/his supervisor. However sometimes this can me more work than less, as you have to train them first.

Attend a project management course provided through Human resources. Quite a few of these are geared towards the needs of academic staff.


8 - Finishing the Doctorate

The procedure of finishing a thesis is not only dependent on the department, but also, to an even greater extent, on individual professors. When you have reached this point (normally after at least three years), you should discuss the matter with your professor and check the doctoral administration website.

The final steps

Paper-Based & Normal Dissertations

A rather new development is the adoption of a system known as a paper-based dissertation. Instead of writing a complete thesis, all the papers that have been published by the doctoral students during their time at ETH Zurich are taken as the body of the thesis text. The student only needs to add an introduction and a conclusion. While this may seem like a very comfortable option, keep in mind that this way of writing the dissertation requires a thorough check of the copyright laws (may a figure that has been published in a journal be published again in a thesis?) and co-authorships (you rarely have a paper of your own; usually there are contributors). Leave plenty of time for this before handing over the thesis to your examiners.

The Defense

Once again, this is highly dependent on the department. In most cases, it consists of a public presentation of about half an hour to an hour followed by an either public or sometimes private question sessions. Keep in mind that there are no grades for finishing a doctorate at ETH Zurich, so be relaxed and simply prepare well. Plus, by the time of your defence you will most likely have gathered a lot of knowledge about your subject anyway.

Contract ended, thesis not yet finished?

You will be notified four months prior to the termination of your contract. Often, doctoral students are employed on annual contracts which are routinely renewed. Unfortunately, professors are sometimes rather forgetful about renewals. Try to avoid this by reminding your supervisor in good time about your contract. If, especially at the end of your dissertation, when the grant period is drawing to a close, a problem arises with the renewal, talk with your supervisor about the issue. Do not rely on vague promises but obtain a clear statement on how to proceed in the remaining time until your contract ends. Make suggestions for solutions. There are scholarships for doctoral students available; your supervisor should write you a letter of reference (for Swiss and foreigners with a Swiss residency permit). Contact Stipendiendienst des Rektorats, HG FO 21.1, Tel.: 044 632 20 40, for further information.

Allocation of Workplace

For the case that you stay at ETH for some more time after you contract has ended you can ask for allocation of a workplace (Zuteilung eines Arbeitsplatzes). This form entitles you to use the infrastructure of ETH, i.e. the office and laboratory, in order to finish your dissertation beyond the time of the ended contract with ETH. The form has to be signed by your supervisor.

Certificate of Employment

Each employee in Switzerland has the right to receive a certificate of employment at the end of this engagement. Do not forget to ask your supervisor about it.

Career Services

Make sure to figure out further career plans early in advance. To support you with this, there is a comprehensive set of career services (CV check and mentoring), job fairs, etc. organized by ETH Zurich and affiliated groups.

Career Center

The ETH career centre offers a variety of services for doctoral students in search of a position outside academia. This ranges from individual personal advice to organizing career events. They also have a useful application guide on their website.

Alumni Network

ETH Zurich has a strong and committed network of alumni who are still connected to their university. They are organized via the ETH Alumni Association in different faculty groups. They offer events, a web-based platform, meetings, career services and many connections to other alumni. You automatically become an ETH Alumni member free of charge for one year after you finish. After that, you can decide if you want to remain a member or leave. More info on their webpage.


Polymesse is a large company fair taking place in April on an annual basis. Typically, around 150 companies set up their booths on three days. The fair is accompanied with presentations given by company representatives (Polyvortrag). In addition, the career centre organizes some events for preparation. Some weeks before the actual fair, a booklet with all the necessary information is distributed. Watch out for them at the Mensa or main building entrance. Polymesse is a very good opportunity to get into contact with companies, but it is also a good occasion to think about future career plans. Use it!

Long night of the career

The Long night of the career is a rather young event presented jointly by the Career Services of Swiss universities. It takes place once a year in November and “allows the bachelor's, master's and doctoral students attending ETH Zurich to spend a whole evening focusing on their professional futures, gathering ideas, meeting employers in an informal setting, forging contacts and honing their candidature skills – in a relaxed and enjoyable setting”.

Campus interview

Campus interview is an annual event taking place in autumn each year and is organized by ETH juniors. As a job seeker, you have the possibility to conduct one or several interviews with participating companies on one day. In addition, the event is accompanied by additional career counselling services (like CV check, etc.).


Telejob is a subunit of AVETH and aims at assisting graduates in finding a job. Telejob operates the job platform together with the Career Center at ETH Zurich. The objective of ETH get hired is to support the students and doctoral students in finding a job tailored to their skills and ambitions in industry or academia.


9 - Leaving ETH

Leaving ETH (or even Switzerland) obviously has some implications that you should be aware of. You will be asked to return your keys and similar things. For the period after the end of your contract, you should make arrangements for your insurances. In general, for questions concerning insurance, you can consult your contact person or the Personalchef/in in the Human Resources Department responsible for the department to which your research institute belongs. For any further information, please contact Human Resources and the administrators who are in charge of your department. More info are available here.

Insurance Matters

Non-professional Accident Insurance (Abredeversicherung)

With an employment in Switzerland, your contributions to the Professional Accident Insurance (Berufsunfallversicherung) and to the Non-professional Accident Insurance (Nichtberufsunfallversicherung, NBUV) are paid automatically. Without employment, they are not. Thus, for the case that you do not directly have a new employment but plan to stay in Switzerland, you might want to keep the Non-professional Accident Insurance (Nichtberufsunfallversicherung). For that, you can include it into your private health insurance. Alternatively, you can arrange for this insurance through the Swiss National Accident Insurance Fund (Schweizerische Unfallversicherungsanstalt, SUVA) with the Abredeversicherung. With the Abredeversicherung, you can prolong the SUVA-insurance you had at ETH with the same benefits. It costs CHF 45 a month and it can be extended for a maximum of 6 months. You are still insured by ETH Zurich for the first 30 days after your last paid working day, so you can start the Abredeversicherung after these 30 days (and save the fee for this period). After the maximum duration of six months, you will have to include your non-professional accident insurance with your private health insurance for the case that you have not started a new job already. You can get the forms for the non-professional accident insurance and further information from the Human Resources Department.

Pension Fund

If you no longer have an employment at ETH, your contributions to the Federal Pension Fund PUBLICA will end. Without employment at a public institution in Switzerland, you cannot contribute towards the federal pension fund anymore, but you will have to arrange the transfer of your money to the pension fund of your new employer. For the case that you do not start a new position within a certain timeframe or for the case that you leave Switzerland, you have to arrange the transfer of your money to a vested benefits account (Freizügigkeitskonto). Early pay out of your pension fund money is usually only possible in combination with property purchase or when becoming self-employed. You can find plenty information on that issue on the internet.


As there is only one AHV, things are a little simpler. Your contribution towards the AHV is directly deducted from your salary, independent of your new employer. The same applies if you receive unemployment benefits after leaving ETH. Early pay out of the money you have paid towards the AHV is only possible if your country of origin has no agreement on social security with Switzerland (which excludes for example EU and US citizens).

Unemployment Insurance

(Arbeitslosenversicherung, ALV). If you do not have a new job directly after your engagement with ETH, you are entitled to apply for unemployment benefits. To register, you will need to go to the Regional Employment Center (RAV) of the place where you are registered as resident. Unemployment benefits can be applied for by anyone who has paid into the insurance fund. Only if you are paid by some special funds and are tax examined you have no claim. You should contact the RAV in your region at least 3 month before your contract runs out and ask for guidance. You might have to present 12 attempts to find a job each of the last three month of employment to receive full benefits.

The basis for your unemployment benefits is the gross salary (Bruttolohn) of the previous 12 working months (periods when you did not earn any money, such as unpaid vacations, are not considered).

Leaving Switzerland

Notify your Residents’ Registration Office or District Office of your departure personally and in good time. You can do this up to 30 days in advance. Remember to ask for confirmation of your deregistration, as you will need this for various administrative matters.


10 - ETH Zurich Services and Clubs

For decades, a variety of organizations have existed within ETH Zurich, helping doctoral students with social, cultural and many other aspects and thus making their lives easier and more enjoyable. In the following chapter, we would like to provide a brief overview of these diverse organizations, including different interest groups, service organizations and hobby clubs. However, it should be remembered that it is impossible to make a complete list.

For more detailed listings and further information, please check the semester program, the ETH directory, the ETH-Zurich Homepage (check out “Sport and leisure” as well as “Art and culture” under the Campus” header) and other ETH-Zurich publications. The best source of current information is the bulletin boards located near each cafeteria, where information for activities organized by official ETH-Zurich organizations and external groups is posted regularly. Furthermore, there are some clubs which are common to both the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, and a lot of university activities are open to ETH-Zurich students as well, so also have a look at University ads and homepages.

ETH Services

General Services

ETH Zurich provides a range of services to facilitate your daily work. In this chapter, we provide links to the official services pages and briefly outline the services we think are most useful for a successful start at ETH Zurich.

General services including the phone service, car rental, transport, shipping, office supplies, repairs, workshops, printing business cards, print design and, yes, a university forest. More information are available online.

IT Services

ETH Zurich provides excellent IT services. The IT services range from the provision of software and hardware, printing services, email, voip and tm provisions, and help desk services to supercomputing facilities. We only present a small selection here. Check-out the IT Services website for a complete overview.

nETHZ Account

All official ETH-Zurich services can be accessed with your nETHZ password. Details specific to your account can be handled with the Admin Tool. You can modify your ETH-Zurich account, create guest accounts, join a range of IT services, and use the e-mail and calendar service.

ETH-Zurich Employee Search

Find phone numbers and much more on this webpage. ETH-Zurich uses an LDAP service that can also be accessed by a suitable client (e.g. Outlook). Just type on any Unix machine to find data.

Printing Service

The distributed printing service at ETH Zurich.

Web Shops

To order office supplies or office furniture:


Need software? Order it directly from the informatics service group via IDES.

Computational Power

Need more power to do your math? ETH Zurich has high-performance clusters which are accessible to all employees.

IT Courses

IT courses including CSS, Illustrator, InDesign, Latex, Linux, PHP and Photoshop:

Statistical Help

Are you confused by your statistics? Professional help is at hand at ETH Zurich via Professor Stahel’s group.


Access to a large number of contracted journals, literature and book delivery services (including free delivery to your office!): Find all locations and openning hours here.


ETH Zurich is part of the mobility network in Zurich. More info here.

Intellectual Property Protection

ETH Zurich offers support for licensing and patenting issues, as well as for founding a spin-off. More info here.


If you happen to be in charge of an event at ETH Zurich, you may want to use the ETH-Zurich catering service. More info here.


Workshops are conducted at departmental level. Get your gadgets build on!

Diverse Political bodies and Interest Groups


Doctoral students, research assistants, post-docs and all other academic employees who are not faculty at ETH Zurich are united in one group called scientific staff (in German Mittelbau) the second largest group at ETH Zurich after the students. We are responsible for political representation, organizing events, acting as troubleshooters and, finally, writing a cool survival guide 🙂 More detailed info can be found here.


VSETH is ETH Zurich’s student association. Many Ph.D. students are also members of the VSETH. They organize a huge variety of events and take care of the political representation of students.
Check-out their website.


AIESEC is one of the largest student organizations in the world and has 50,000 members across more than 83 countries and territories at more than 800 universities worldwide. AIESEC is a non-political, non-profit, independent and educational foundation. It is comprised of students and recent graduates of institutions of higher education, who are interested in economics and management. AIESEC facilitates the international exchange of thousands of students and recent graduates in paid traineeships or as volunteers for a non-profit organization.
Check-out their website.


IAESTE was founded in the United Kingdom in 1948. It is a non-political, independent, non-governmental association, consisting of national committees in more than 60 countries. IAESTE operates an exchange program for students of technical and natural sciences. In order to provide students at institutions of higher education with technical experience abroad and an in- ternational perspective worldwide, traineeships are arranged. Information events at universities, trips to international events, activity weekends, weekly meetings and an attractive summer program for foreign trainees are organized regularly.
Check-out their website.


KOSTA, a subgroup of the VSETH (Student Association of ETH Zurich), not only organizes the SOLA-Party, but also the famous Polyball. This is an established event in the annual agenda of Zurich society. To complete the decoration for the ball, KOSTA is always looking for creative people to help out in the Töga (Töffligarage) at ETH Zurich during November. New members who enjoy improving their skills in the field of event management in a lively environment are always welcome to join KOSTA.
Check-out their website.


L-Punkt was founded in the spring of 2010 as a university club geared towards lesbian and bisexual women at the universities in Zurich. L-Punkt’s main goal is to provide all lesbian students with a platform where they can gather, network and share.
Check-out their website.


z&h, formerly zart&heftig, the association of gay students and assistants, was founded in 1989 and provides support for all scientific, political and personal matters concerning homosexuals at ETH Zurich and University. The association currently has about 300 members and has representatives on various committees at ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. z&h also organizes film evenings, book readings, dinner parties and many other social activities in order to openly live gay culture at both ETH Zurich and the University, and to promote its general acceptance. The association is open to students and assistants of ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. The membership fee is CHF 20 per term.
Check-out their website.

Service Organizations

ETH Bookstore (Polybuchhandlung)

The ETH Bookstore stocks (or can order) nearly all the books required for studies and research at ETH Zurich and spare-time reading. They operate two stores: one at ETH Zentrum and one at ETH Hönggerberg. Students and employees receive a variable discount, depending on the type, price and amount of books ordered. Books can also be ordered through the ETH Store website.

The Psychological Counseling Service

This counseling service offers professional advice for people who are experiencing difficulties in the workplace or private life. The special require- ments and stresses placed on a person doing a doctorate or an assistantship can lead to working disorders or personal problems, such as lack of concentration and the inability to make important decisions or deal with competitive situations or interpersonal conflicts.

Professional advice provides insights into patterns that cause disturbances and can activate resources to find constructive solutions. The counseling service is free and all contacts are treated completely confidentially. The service is available both during the term and in the semester holidays. Appointments must be made in advance.
Check-out their website.

Student Research Opportunities Program (SiROP)

SiROP is a network to advertise research projects. Researchers who work at ETH can advertise various project types, such as internships and Bachelor’s or Master’s theses, for free via a standardized interface.


SOS eth is a service organization open to all students, assistants and academic guests. In return for a nominal membership fee (CHF 5 for an ETH-Zurich student), SOS ETH sponsors a number of activities and services free of charge or at very low cost, including darkroom facilities (b/w and color), video-editing equipment, digital image processing and a fax service. They also hold movie nights at regular intervals during the term. Bring your own popcorn and enjoy some fine films free of charge! Announcements are made on their website, printed in Polykum/ETH-Life print or Zürcher Studentin, and are posted on various notice boards around ETH Zurich.
Check-out their website.


Telejob is a section of AVETH which is involved in running the job platform ETH get hired for academics. They are also organizing seminars addressing job applications, career start, and financial planning. They always welcome students interested in joining the team.

Music Clubs

The instrumental and choral groups, whose members are mainly students at both ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich, are almost always on the lookout for new faces and voices. The level of musical talent varies – from purely amateur to aspiring professionals – as does the frequency of rehearsals and performances. Look in the Semester Program under Freizeit for further descriptions and up-to-date contact information.

The Academic Orchestra of Zurich (Akademisches Orchester Zürich, AOZ) is a joint organization of the University and ETH Zurich. Founded around 1900, it has almost 90 members. The orchestra strives to promote talented musicians and has given concerts in Switzerland and abroad. The orchestra is always eager to recruit new members.

Additional music organizations are:

Sport Clubs

Country-Specific Associations

Field-Specific Associations

Associations for women at ETH


AVETH Survival Guide - 5th Edition

Put online by AVETH 2016

ETH Zürich
Sonneggstrasse 33
8092 Zürich


Text by the first four Survival Guide Teams and corresponding ETH Zurich authorities as indicated.

Enjoy Switzerland

... and join AVETH!