Solidarity in Times of Need

ZHdK faculty member Andreas Hofer documented the 2020 March lockdown in several ink drawings. Photograph: Andreas Hofer

ZHdK faculty member Andreas Hofer documented the 2020 March lockdown in several ink drawings. Photograph: Andreas Hofer

Covid-19 means students have lost performance opportunities and side jobs and thus important sources of income. 

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic severely impacted ZHdK. Students were very heavily affected, with some still experiencing hardship today. Through its Corona Solidarity Fund, the Fondation ZHdK has kept supporting students in acute financial distress. Further help is planned for 2021.



Serving food at a favourite restaurant, performing as a jazz combo at wedding parties, working as a sales assistant in a clothes shop: Many students fund their studies and themselves with side jobs like these. But the health crisis means they have had to get by without this kind of income for almost a year.

Financial stress affects students

One year of Covid-19 has had daunting financial consequences for many ZHdK students: “My father lost his job due to the pandemic, and my parents can no longer support me,” says one student. “At the moment, all I can do is to save even more on food.” Another student remarks: “I can’t afford my flat anymore and am living with a friend. I have debts and can’t even pay my tuition fees.” Many students don’t know how to continue funding themselves. The physical and mental strain has heightened during the pandemic — and also weighs heavily on keeping up with coursework.

Art in times of Covid-19: This silkscreen print by ZHdK student Nikita Spoerri adorns a wall at the “Toni.” Photograph: Regula Bearth © ZHdK

Art in times of Covid-19: This silkscreen print by ZHdK student Nikita Spoerri adorns a wall at the “Toni.” Photograph: Regula Bearth © ZHdK

Nearly 200,000 francs awarded

To support students experiencing financial distress, the Fondation ZHdK launched a Corona Relief Campaign at the end of March 2020. It has so far paid out 400,000 francs to cushion pandemic-induced hardship and to help Bachelor’s and Master’s students bridge financial bottlenecks. By the end of 2020, the Fondation had awarded emergency grants worth almost 200,000 francs to around 160 ZHdK students. The recipients used the funds to pay for rooms in shared flats, to cover tuition fees and to stay out of debt. “You could literally feel the relief among the students,” reports Heike Pohl, Managing Director of the Fondation. “Many feel a little more optimistic again and are working towards better times. The financial support enables them to concentrate on pursuing their artistic path.”

Since 2007, the Fondation ZHdK has supported emerging talents in music, art, design, film, dance, theatre and art education, as well as forward-looking projects. With its “ZHdK Excellence Scholarship”, the Fondation helps outstanding students fund their Master’s programme. Support is made possible by third-party funding received from private individuals, foundations and companies. Claude A. Lambert, President of the Fondation ZHdK, highlights the urgency of the current situation: “Since its establishment, our foundation has supported talented young ZHdK students. The year 2020 posed unusual challenges, as for the first time providing existential assistance and preventing hardship became our primary concerns.”

Corona relief campaign to continue in 2021

Thanks to generous donations from various foundations and private individuals, the Fondation ZHdK has helped alleviate many students’ financial plight during the pandemic. Various faculty members also supported the Foundation last year: Andreas Hofer, for instance, donated the proceeds of selling his ink drawings about last March’s lockdown to the Corona Solidarity Fund. Emergency aid will continue in 2021, as no end to the pandemic is in sight. “Our students still need support. The Solidarity Fund will continue its help in the new academic year,” says Heike Pohl. “We are feverishly appealing for donations and hope that foundations and private individuals will support us as much as they did last year.”

Heike Pohl ( is Managing Director of the Fondation ZHdK. She holds a licentiate from the University of Zurich in Romance Studies, English and Art History and an Executive Master of Sciences in Communications Management from the University of Lugano. Before joining the Fondation, she was Head of ZHdK University Communications for 15 years.
The Fondation ZHdK is the foundation of ZHdK. Donations from private individuals, foundations and companies enable the Fondation to support ZHdK students, to promote innovative projects and thus to strengthen art, culture and creativity as what holds society together. In order to cushion hardship suffered due to the pandemic, the Fondation launched a solidarity fund in early 2020. Donate, «Corona Solidarity Fund.».
With its Corona Relief Campaign, launched in March 2020, the Fondation ZHdK supported around 160 students last year. By the end of the year, it had awarded emergency aid worth almost 200,000 francs. Watch the «Merci» videos posted by students who received support.
Tessa Apitz ( is a freelance writer, concept designer and communications strategist based in Berlin.
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