The "Migros-syndrom" at the ETH?
Show me how...
Published: 20.12.2000 06:00
Modified: 23.01.2001 18:07
Von Katharina von Salis
Show me how you pay your PhD students and I will tell you who will do your research.
Presently there is some discussion about the minumum pay to people working full time - the unions ask for 3000 Swiss Francs per month as a minumum. Many firms pay less. Recently Migros, after having been exposed in a TV consumer programme as one of the firms paying salaries of less than 3000.- to salespersons, agreed to raise the minimum salaries for persons working fulltime to 3000.-/month as of January 2001.
At ETH first year PhD students in some departments get a salary of about 2200.- , raising to some 2500.- per month in the third year. While this is declared officially as a 50%-job the fact is that they can hardly take up another position outside ETH to make ends meet. With this salary it is not very attractive for a young Swiss person with an academic first exam to start a PhD at ETH or to come here from another Swiss university. They can get more than double this income, regular working hours and holidays and still have good career opportunities outside academia.
Of course we can and do import willing and talented persons from abroad and for many of these the promised salary looks like a very good alternative to wages in their country of origin - until they realise the cost of living in and around Zurich. Presently 47% of PhD students at ETH are not swiss.
It is also a fact that the salaries differ from department to department, depending on various criteria such as demand on manpower etc. In departments where job prospects and pay for fresh diploma-students are good and high enough, higher amounts are paid to find any PhD students at all.
Many in the generation of older professors - the author included - did much of their PhD-work without being payed at all. Still this is no reason not to ask for better pay for the present generation. Many of us had parents or partners who could support us also during this part of our further education - many of today's young people do not.
Can ETH really afford to continue paying the present generation of PhD students less than younger people with hardly any further education are payed?
If ETH wants to attract the most talented young people as PhD students - also from Switzerland - she and the Swiss science policy community in general will have to rethink their salary policy.