University of Basel Mission Statement

Dear GPP/PFP fellows

A long time ago, I promised to post a translation of the University of Basel Mission Statement. Finally, I accomplished it. I hope the text is understandable. Looking forward to meeting you guys next week in Riva.

The mission statement dates from 1993


1 The University of Basel nurtures the development of tolerant human beings, who are capable of taking criticism, seize initiative and accept responsibility. The University aims at, enabling them to deepen their knowledge and field-based research and training.

2 The University aims at imparting knowledge delivered by teaching and research and creating new insights. Meaningfulness is the guiding principle, not feasibility.

3 The University is conscious of the obligation that arises out of knowledge and fulfills it through critical reflection and providing services. The University comments on its own accord on social issues.

4 The University realizes its goals with respect of the responsibility towards the coming generations, towards society, towards the international academic community, towards the inherited culture.

Guiding Principles

Acting autonomously

5 The University of Basel is, within the framework of legal provisions, autonomous in teaching, research and services. The University is self-administered. Autonomy obliges to self-control.

6 The university sets priorities according to the academic and societal needs.

7 The University delegates the biggest possible responsibility to the smallest possible unit.

8 The university nurtures the willingness of all its members to take responsibility and allows them to participate. All members of the University are involved in designing the University in accordance with their capabilities and competencies.

Encouraging people

9 The University educates people who have the courage and the ability to independently develop ideas and to represent them in public.

10 The University is committed to the principle of equality, in particular gender equality, and is committed to its implementation, including issues relating to admission.

11 The University is committed to the principle of performance at all levels and puts quality before quantity. It has the necessary flexible structure and creates conditions for the development of creativity and idealism. This guarantees high-performance, which is rewarded.

12 The University operates a targeted promotion of young academics.

13 The university’s sports facilities offers contribute to balance and health of students, faculty and staff.

14 The University receives the benefits and opportunities of personal contacts between its members, an overall culture of openness and trust and uncomplicated administration that is made possible by its medium size.

Combing teaching, learning and research

15 The University guarantees the freedom of teaching, learning and research.

16 The University is based on the principle of unity of teaching and research. It allows teachers and students learning through scientific research and independent acquisition of knowledge and methods.

17 All schools provide, albeit in varying degrees, services. These are in close interaction with teaching and research.

18 The University of Basel has an extensive education and training programs, based on the preservation of traditional knowledge areas and is open to new ideas.

19 The University promotes interdisciplinary and cross-faculty teaching, learning and research.

20 The university guarantees the quality of education through teaching and training of teachers and evaluation of the courses.

21 The University contributes to adult education in and outside the university courses.

Creating transparency through information

22 The University of Basel makes its activity public, and thus arouses interest. The University ensures among its members a continuing exchange of information. Everybody working at the University contributes to transparency..

23 The University maintains contacts with the schools that lead to the ability to study, and with the higher technical schools.

Making use of the location

24 The University makes use of the opportunities that are offered by its imbedding in the Basel City and Basel County and its location in the Upper Rhine region.

25 The University promotes the exchange and coordinates its tasks with domestic and foreign universities. This serves at enlarging the potential in teaching and research through sharing of skills. This is especially true for the European Confederation of Upper Rhine Universities (EUCOR).

26 The University maintains and promotes the dialog with economic and cultural actors to the benefit of all. The University uses the chance to have business and cultural institutions of international standing based in Basel.

27 The collections belonging to University, displayed in museums, educate the wider population and create an international reach.

Securing independences through financing

28 The University of Basel is financed from public funds.

29 It is looking for additional financial assistance from third parties. Here too, the freedom of research and teaching as well as the impartiality with which the university takes a position on issues of society, are safeguarded.

Implementing Bologna: a Missed Chance?

A recent study shows that in Germany dropouts from university have significantly increased since Bologna has been introduced. Thirty-five percent of the bachelor students leave university without a degree. Alarming are the rates in engineering sciences: forty-eight percent of the students drop out.  At first glance, the conclusion that Bologna has failed seems convincing, considering that it was one of the goals of the Bologna-Process to reduce dropout rates. One of the authors of the studies comments on it in the online issue of the newspaper Die Zeit. In the interview, there are two remarkable statements. The first relates to a question of access. The second pushes forward to the issue how Bologna can succeed.

“In engineering sciences there still seems to be a culture of selecting students out. Suitably, the most difficult basic-subjects are taught in the first terms. The result is that students who would succeed if they were guided better and led to their study subject more systematically, fail.”

I am not at all against selection. Not everybody is made for studying every subject. Selection is important and it should, in the best interest of the students, occur early in the curriculum. Students should be forced to occupy themselves thoroughly with their study subject from beginning in order to find out whether their choice of subject was right. But we have to consider that our students come to university from school. They have to learn how to be a university student.  Hence, teaching, guidance and support is especially important at the beginning of the curriculum. If we want the right students to pass selection, we have to teach them how to be a university student. To put in provocative terms: Excellent students do not need teaching. And good teaching does not distinguish itself by only promoting a few excellent students, but by making good and average students better.

“If we want to have proper Bachelor curricula, we need to redesign university.  (…) The new curricula are a chance for student-centered teaching. (…) We have to go in this direction, if we want the Bachelor to be successful.”

I think this is a very important point. Not the Bologna system is the main problem, but its implementation. In Switzerland, the discussion about Bologna has mostly been reduced to discussing and complaining about assessments and credit points. This leads to Bologna be seen in a rather negative way. The main reproach is that Bologna transforms universities into schools. The consequence is that at most universities, Bologna has been implemented with the goal to change as few things as possible and not more than necessary. This is a very regretful attitude. We should stop see Bologna only as a burden, but as a chance. Bologna offers us the chance to basically think about university; to reflect who we are, whom we teach, what we teach and what skills our graduates should have (catchword learning outcomes).  We should see Bologna as an opportunity to build a new university. Therefore we should rethink university from scratch, free from any constraints. The questions we should all ask ourselves is: If I were to redesign university on a blank sheet of paper, what would it look like?

Unfortunately, the window of opportunity is closing. We are about to miss a great chance.