Fuck or unfuck the system?

Rewriting your own educational biography with the major-minor-system. Illustration: Corina Brändle

Today’s education system was formed according to the needs of industrialization in the early 19th century. What if we shaped education according to today’s needs? VERSO student councillor Lena Marie Rheinländer shares her thoughts in the following plea.


By introducing the major-minor system in 2023, ZHdK is implementing a decisive curricular change. The new programme structure will enable students to delve into other arts disciplines beyond their main focus. The change, firmly underway, is viewed with both a hopeful and a critical eye.
At ZHdK’s Film School, the question recently arose about our generation’s core values. The answer, after some time, was: flexibility. Flexibility in organizing one’s work and time, in order to gain the necessary practical experience alongside one’s studies and coping with the demands of one’s private life and funding one’s studies. Plus the desire to be creative. Creativity per se does not necessarily have anything to do with studying at an arts university but is merely the process of abstract thinking. Using our imagination, we can create new contexts, shape them into ideas and implement these in innovative ways. This quality is used or taught only in exceptional cases. How come?

Today, it is no longer enough to “only” possess specialist skills or competencies.

Our “general education” and sense of human development is based on the paradigm of industrialization, where primarily factual correctness, strategy and analytics were used to generate labour. This system prevails worldwide to this day. Also at arts universities.
Societal demands, on the other hand, are continuously transforming. Today, issues such as the Ukraine war and the climate crisis present enormous challenges. Never before have equality and independence been debated so openly. And given the extent to which everyday life is technologized, we have long been talking about a technological revolution.

Today, it is no longer enough for artists to “only” possess specialist competencies and skills. Besides media and communication skills, we also need to be able to conceptualize, administer, negotiate and constantly stay on the ball. The world’s growing population means there are ever more students, and hence increasingly highly qualified people unable to find work in their professional field — because competition is constantly growing and degrees are losing value.

Changing to the major-minor system gives us a chance to better meet the demands of today’s working world.

The demands of the working world are not congruent with what we learn. At least not for all students. Changing to the major-minor system gives us the chance to better meet the demands of today’s working world. ZHdK must dare to provide more room for creativity and be open to transdisciplinarity in order to discover sustainable and innovative forms of the arts and to generate the required flexibility in our studies and in the working world. Abraham Lincoln aptly expressed this idea in 1862: “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with diculty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” In this sense: Fuck the system, unfuck the fear of change.

Lena Marie Rheinländer (lena.rheinlaender@zhdk.ch) is doing a Bachelor of Arts in Film at the Department of Performing Arts and Film and is a VERSO student councillor.
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