Two decades at ZHdK

Ursula Akmann is bidding farewell to ZHdK after more than twenty years. Photograph: Johannes Dietschi

ZHdK Secretary General Ursula Akmann is retiring after over twenty years at ZHdK. In a keyword interview, she reveals why her ZHdK career could have been over before her job interview and what she has in common with Christoph Blocher.


Stefan Erdin:
Your job interview …

Ursula Akmann:
… was at Gessnerallee at 7 a.m. on a winter morning in 2001. That was the only free slot that could be found within a reasonable time. When I stood outside the gates in the dark, no one opened the door. My interviewers were waiting inside and probably thought I was too late. The front gate was still locked in those days. Finally, though, we met — physically and mentally.

Your insider tip for the Toni-Areal

The corridors: you can always choose different routes to your destination. In the process, you’ll discover lots of new things and experience how the “Toni” lives and breathes.

What landed on your desk

That has been the great thing about my job: many higher-level issues landed on my desk, leaving me wondering, at least at first, where they might fit in. When I started working at what was still the University of Music and Theatre (HMT), the files piled up on my desk, and I had no idea what to do with them. Fortunately, I spotted some straightforward, manageable tasks, such as preparing the annual report or organising visas for international students. Dealing with these allowed me to make a direct impact. Soon, I also became responsible for HMT communications and began developing post-graduate courses (today’s MAS) on a project-basis or transferred them to the HMT. Later, Christoph Weckerle and I oversaw the ZHdK merger. New tasks kept arising: for example, getting the new Master’s programmes accredited as part of introducing “Bologna,” developing internal continuing education, looking after high-ranking visitors such as French President François Hollande or implementing the ASVZ sports programme.

Your favourite drink

You’ll always find a very large cup of tea on my desk. It used to be a plastic-insulated mug, which my design-savvy colleague Bettina Ganz dubbed “ugly.” She gave me a beautiful tea glass instead, and I’ve been very happy with that. I’ll miss little things like that.

Your working motto

Even if we have little else in common, Christoph Blocher and I agree in one respect (laughs): we shouldn’t ask questions but make proposals. That sounds very technocratic, of course — as befits a Secretary General — but it reflects a specific attitude. Asking questions is important, but I appreciate people who also propose concrete, pragmatic solutions. For me, that’s nothing other than making proposals.

Dr. Ursula Akmann ( is ZHdK Secretary General. She holds a PhD in history and completed additional training in business studies. She manages the affairs of the University Board and serves as a liaison to the Actuary’s Office of the Council of Zurich Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts. She heads ZHdK’s Legal Services, the Equal Opportunities & Diversity Office and the Media and Information Centre. She also performs various coordination and project tasks. She is retiring in March 2022.
Stefan Erdin was project manager at ZHdK University Communications.
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