When the Rector’s eyes drift from her desk to the window, Basel sprawls at her feet. In the distance, the Roche Tower, currently the tallest building in Switzerland, soars above the city. The Rectorate housing Schenker-Wicki’s office, where white furniture and light wood dominate, is situated on the second floor of a sober, purposebuilt block on the Grossbasel side of town. Basler Handels-Gesellschaft AG and drug industry federation Interpharma reside under the same roof.
We get to talking about customers. When asked who the customers of a university might be, Andrea Schenker-Wicki needs a moment to think. Customers? “No,” she concludes, “we don’t speak of customers here, but rather of stakeholders.” In the case of this 558-year-old educational institution, these include the students, assistants from the lower and upper level teaching staff
and the professors, as well as what in certain instances are the highly qualified technical personnel, without whom no research or lecturing would be possible.
However, the Rector is also heavily involved with external stakeholders, amongst them the executive and legislative branches of the funding cantons Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft. Add to that the public, the media, other educational institutions, research partners, third-party donors and private benefactors, as well as suppliers and service providers of all kinds who contribute to the smooth functioning of such a large-scale operation. Although it’s not always easy to discuss the constant need for equipment and resources: “I have great respect for the work of politicians,” says Schenker-Wicki.
“Contextual know-how is becoming more important.”
Schenker-Wicki has difficulty using the term “customer” to describe the 13,000 or so students who, due to their demand
for education and payment of tuition fees, could normally be categorised as such. No, she’s of that mind because those who learn do so for themselves and their own personal advancement. Knowledge is not a commodity; it’s not a service in the classical sense, she says.
Transparency of research projects
The University of Basel is one of the country’s leading universities in terms of raising third-party funds for research projects. Of great help is its proximity to the internationally positioned pharmaceutical and chemical companies that have concentrated a portion of their proprietary research activities in this Rhine-knee metropolis. “Switzerland’s future prosperity depends to no small extent on what our universities achieve. They’re drivers of growth in their respective domestic regions and for society as a whole,” Schenker-Wicki is convinced.
The Rector cites the new eye institute established jointly with Novartis as an example of the opportunities that can come from such collaboration. This project represents a unique chance, in that the fundamental and clinical research as well as product-
specific development are all conducted under one roof.
At the University of Basel, a comprehensive sponsorship doctrine, “one of the strictest in Switzerland”, applies to the promotion of research projects. The contracts with external partners are made public and can be inspected. The Rectorate is committed to full transparency and ensuring the independence of committee members.