The new academic year, according to the Pro-Rectors, the Director of Operations and the General Secretary
Institutional Communication Service
18 September 2023
The pro-rectors presented the achievements of the past academic year and future plans in their area of expertise during the inauguration of the academic year 2023/2024.
The first to take the floor was Lorenzo Cantoni, Pro-rector for Education and Students' Experience at USI, who provided an overview of last year's accomplishments. He emphasised the growth in the number of USI students, which reached 4,190. Prof. Cantoni also highlighted the milestone achievement of the federal medical examinations of 4 September, which marked the completion of the first edition of the Master's course in biomedical sciences. In addition, he spoke about the general assembly of education, the House of Sustainability, and the university experience. He also mentioned the 'Inside Teaching', the 16 innovation projects approved for 308,955 CHF, and Digital Skills related to innovation. The new academic year has over 150 more pre-enrolled students than 2022/23. The USI Welcome and the unified Graduation Ceremony in Lugano are confirmed.
Patrick Gagliardini, Pro-rector for Research at USI, then spoke about the acquisition of competitive research projects in the past academic year (2022-23) with 39 projects from the SNSF divisions amounting to 26.2 m CHF, 1 SNSF Advanced grant, 3 SNSF Starting grants, 4 Ambition, 3 Postdoc Fellowships amounting to 10.2 m CHF. He also mentioned that the Fondo Istituzionale per la Ricerca (FIR), fuelled by 1/6 OH of SNSF projects, has financed 13 Doctoral Mobility Grants (2012-2022), 6 grants for young researchers with doctorates totalling 850,000 CHF, 2 doctoral schools for 180,000 CHF, 4 research support requests, and the ongoing selection for Open Science projects. Also meaningful are the new national and international collaborations in the doctoral schools and the project for a new USI information system. Regarding the 2023/24 objectives, several strategic projects were mentioned, such as participation in the 6th NCCR, the new chair of excellence with funding from the Daccò Foundation, the USI code of ethics and new initiatives for Open Science.
The inauguration of the academic year continued with Luca M. Gambardella, Pro-rector for innovation and corporate relations, who reiterated the pro-rectorate's objective to actively promote innovation, technology transfer, and relations with companies and the region. Professor Gambardella highlighted the USI Transfer strategic unit as a point of contact for researchers and companies, consolidation of relationships with the region through visits, events, and new partnership agreements, and collaboration with local bodies. He also mentioned the strengthening of the USI Startup Centre with the creation of a Scientific Board. The aim for the new academic year is to enhance the university's role as a quality academic partner and actor in knowledge and technology transfer by promoting and encouraging greater openness and closeness of USI to the population and companies.
The floor was then handed over to Cesare Alippi, USI's Pro-rector for Internationalization. He provided data on student mobility in 2022-23. In the given year, 142 USI students moved to other universities, both abroad and within Switzerland, to continue their studies. Furthermore, 182 students from other universities arrived at USI to continue their educational journey. Prof. Alippi also highlighted the international agreements USI has with various universities. According to a study by the Movetia agency, USI has achieved the target of 20% of graduates with experience abroad, which makes it one of the four universities in Switzerland to do so. He also spoke about the Scholars at Risk programme that hosted seven SaR researchers from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Russia, and Sudan last year. Lastly, the main projects planned in the academic year 2023/2024 were presented.
Closing the Pro-Rectors' addresses was Sonja Hildebrand, Pro-Rector for Research in the Humanities and Equal Opportunities, who mentioned the publication of USI's first Gender budgeting report and the strengthening of the presence of women among faculty, with the number of women professors at USI rising from 18.7% (in 2021) to 20.5% (in 2022). The university has also actively promoted awareness-raising events such as the National Sexual Harassment Awareness Day, the Feminist Strike, and the Digital Humanities. In the upcoming academic year, USI will focus on implementing a Code of Ethics, further increasing the percentage of women in the faculty, creating career paths for the academic and intermediate staff, and offering training courses to administrative staff and events aimed at the academic staff.
Next, the Director of Operations, Marvin Blumer, reflected on the past year's transitional context. He emphasised how the employees of USI had shown a strong sense of belonging and adaptability, which enabled the administration to function despite the delicate phase. Blumer also spoke about the new organisation chart and its new functions as a means of progress towards an integrated organisation that is attentive to the needs of all users in all areas. The main focus was on employee training and development, with plans to create a comprehensive programme for this purpose. For the new academic year, the objectives are twofold: first, to take advantage of the opportunity of the 2025-28 planning to better define the role and mission of all services and have a common roadmap oriented towards cooperation with the faculties, and second, to promote the digitisation and automation of projects and create synergies within the services and beyond, as well as developing staff training.
Finally, General Secretary Giovanni Zavaritt took the floor to present the new additions to the academic community. Over the past year, the USI community has, in fact, continued to grow and develop, thanks to the appointment of several new members both in the academic body and among the staff. A list broken down by Academic Senate, Faculty and Services can be found here: https://www.usi.ch/en/feeds/25691.
The full video of the inauguration of the academic year is available on icorsi https://www.icorsi.ch/course/view.php?id=17368 (accessible to staff and academic staff).