«Die ZHAW will künftig noch stärker auf spezifische Bedürfnisse und Lebensrealitäten der Studierenden und Weiterbildungsteilnehmenden eingehen»: Reto Steiner, Leiter des neuen Ressorts Bildung und Leiter der School auf Management and Law.

New Education Unit: “For a culture of lifelong learning”


New professional requirements, changes on the job market and increasing digitalisation – ZHAW has developed its new lifelong learning strategy to ensure the continuous development of its students in different life situations. This constitutes the programme of the new Education Unit at ZHAW. Reto Steiner, Head of the Unit, sets out its objectives.

Mr Steiner, what is ZHAW setting out to achieve with its lifelong learning strategy?

Reto Steiner: We would like to accompany our students throughout their entire working lives. To do this, we must be able to tailor the education we offer to their specific needs and ensure that it is compatible with their different life situations. It is precisely here that our lifelong learning strategy comes into play. This breaks with the tradition of universities drawing a strict distinction between undergraduate teaching and continuing education. Through our lifelong learning strategy, we are setting out to create a university where the values and content of our undergraduate studies and those of our continuing education complement one another, thus contributing to a social culture of lifelong learning.

How are you intending to achieve this?

People’s careers today are much more varied than they were 20 or 30 years ago. This reflects the rapid change that has come about on the job market and in job profiles. But this rapid change also constitutes an opportunity. We want to respond to people’s specific needs and facilitate their professional advancement through customised and flexible educational programmes, whether they wish to pursue their interests, close gaps in their education, go into what they have learned in greater depth or follow a specialisation.

“It’s the ideal time to adopt a new look on Switzerland’s education market”: Reto Steiner, Head of the ZHAW Education Unit and Director of the School of Management and Law in the video interview.

ZHAW launched its new Education Unit around 100 days ago. You head this Unit. It replaces the former Undergraduate Education and Continuing Education Units. What are the objectives of the new Education Unit?

As a scientifically-based, practically-oriented university we need to have an idea of which knowledge and skills we want to impart to our students, and how we can best do this, so as to ensure that they can develop further in their working environment and take on responsibility in society. Through our lifelong learning strategy and our integrated Education Unit, we want to make sure that, ten years from now, ZHAW will still be a university that prepares people for their professional lives and provides them with individual encouragement and support over the full length of their career.

“We consistently aspire to integrate the latest scientific findings in our education programmes.”

Reto Steiner, Member of the ZHAW Executive Board and Head of the Education Unit

As an education partner, we aim to enable them to act in an entrepreneurial manner, to play an active role in shaping current social challenges and to develop appropriate solutions. We consistently aspire to integrate the latest scientific findings in our education programmes.

What must you pay attention to when certifying individualised educational qualifications?

The most important aspect is the verifiability of the competences a person acquires during their studies. We attach great value to employability.

What do you feel is the most important thing that young people should be taught today?

I think the most important skill needed is the ability to acquire new knowledge rapidly and independently and develop the competence to act on this basis. Knowledge has a very short half-life today. This makes it essential for people to actively acquire new knowledge in the course of their careers and generate fresh momentum in this way.

Creating support formats and scope for transformation

Patrick Hunger has held operational responsibility for the Education staff function since 1 April 2022 and is thus assisting in the future-oriented development of undergraduate teaching and continuing education at ZHAW: “We are an expert organisation with an incredible amount of diverse specialist knowledge and transformational know-how. This is why the Education Unit is intended as an organisation that will work with the different Schools to create support formats and also scope for transformation and innovation in education”, Hunger explains. Recent posts held by the new Head of the staff function include COO of Legartis, CEO of Saxo Bank Switzerland and member of the management of Credit Suisse Trust AG. Prior to that, Hunger was Deputy Head of the ZHAW Department of Business Law. He is now returning to his former place of work. In addition he is Co-President of Swiss Cycling.

The Education Unit is responsible for planning the implementation of the Education and Digital Transformation Strategy and the ZHAW Lifelong Learning Strategy as well as for the further development of the existing strategies in this area. The organisational units are the sections of Teaching Technologies and Didactics, Administrative Processes in Education, and Educational Programmes, along with the Innovation Lab. These sections draw up the fundamental principles and provide support in their implementation under the operational management of Patrick Hunger. The Innovation Lab deals with projects that span the different sections and tries out unconventional solutions.


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