Research about, for and through art

“We hope that research and teaching join forces even more in the future,” say the project leaders Bea Böckem and Silvan Becchio. Photograph: Regula Bearth

ZHdK is a teaching and research hub. Internationally, it produces high-quality research in several key fields. To ensure that its arts, education and design researchers can continue to produce outstanding work, ZHdK is currently redefining its research conditions. Project leaders Bea Böckem and Silvan Becchio provide insights into their work.


Research in the arts is of social significance and contributes to further developing the arts. Its findings enable looking at reality in new ways and provide innovative, solution-oriented approaches. At ZHdK, artistic and practice-based research is particularly important. Since its institutes were approved as research institutions by the Council of Zurich Universities of Applied Sciences twelve years ago, the needs and requirements of research have changed considerably. This brings the university-wide project “Future Research Organization” into play. It aims to create strategic, organizational and conceptual foundations for all institutes and researchers. The goal is to establish uniform and transparent criteria for professors appointed under the new regulations, as well as for research institutes and research funding. “The premise is to provide the greatest room for maneuver and stability” say the project leaders.

Future research

Since July 2019, Bea Böckem, head of the Research Affairs Office, and Silvan Becchio, head of Controlling, have been responsible for the university-wide project “Future Research Organization.” “The project seeks to develop suitable benchmarks for those involved, because only this will ensure our research remains internationally competitive,” emphasizes Böckem and Becchio adds: “The project aims at a framework in which both established and emerging researchers can develop in the best possible way at our university.” Hence the project brings together representatives of all research units and taught programmes. Transparent work processes and careful communication are key to moving forward together. It also matters to the project leaders that research and teaching go together well in the future and benefit from each other. “This shouldn’t necessarily be understood in any conventional academic sense. Rather it means enabling these two areas to pool their strengths,” says Böckem.

From strategy to implementation

Co-leader Becchio explains: “Throughout, we have been guided by the ZHdK strategy: we always knew where we wanted to go.” From this emerged three focal topics: the model of professorial appointments, institute structures and research funding. We realized early on that these issues are interrelated and best addressed in parallel in an overall project,” adds Böckem. Concepts, papers and implementation plans should neither remain stowed away nor be pigeon-holed on completion. The project leaders and the departments are already testing the first adopted measures. For example, structural reports are already being used as one of the tools for filling new professorships. “We are pleased to have developed a joint stance with researchers and teaching staff, which will sustain the future research organization,” Böckem and Becchio agree unanimously.

The project “Future Research Organization” is dedicated to creating the structural, organizational and conceptual foundations for ZHdK research. As such, it implements the goals formulated in the 2019–2023 ZHdK Strategy. Research results should be accessible and relevant to society, culture and the economy. Research and teaching should work together closely.
Lea Dahinden is a project manager at ZHdK University Communications. Mirjam Bastian ( is responsible for research communication at ZHdK and based at the Research Affairs Office.
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