No Space to Learn

Our job is to address problems that students face in their everyday study life. The problem that is brought to our attention most often is the critical workspace situation at ETH. So how do we tackle the workspace deficiency?

by Polykum Redaktion

Current Situation

If you have ever tried to study for an exam at ETH, you have probably experienced the lack of workspace firsthand. If you don’t make it to the queue in front of the libraries when they open, you won’t get a place. It then takes a long time to find a decent workspace elsewhere, and when those are full, often a compromise between sitting on the floor, plugs and a good learning atmosphere has to be made.

To make bigger changes regarding the workplace situation at ETH, data is needed to support this. Thankfully, the survey conducted during the learning phase this winter was filled out over 400 times, giving a wealth of information on how to improve conditions at both campuses. Since the workplace situation will again be evaluated during the semester, please continue to fill out the survey via the QR-codes at the workplaces. Every voice counts!

Below you can see some results from the winter learning phase regarding aspects of a learning space. Students could also add what they wished for in their workplace: more plugs, better lighting/table lamps, 24h-access and sofas /arm- chairs were listed most. 91 per cent remarked that ETH needs more workspaces in general.

In 2021, a demand calculation for ETH learning environments was undertaken by Aca- demic Services, ETH Library and the VSETH. The

resulting documents show that many additional workspaces need to be built by 2030 to ensure that there are enough. Especially the low number of quiet workplaces and bookable group rooms indicated that an expansion of those spaces is necessary.


Although some of the demands, such as more sockets, seem easy to fix, the situation is more complicated: ETH has to adhere to fire safety requirements, as well as mandatory space for escape ways, which makes it difficult to install plugs and more desks in various areas. Another problem is the multifunctionality and high utilisation of the available spaces: used for teaching, eating, aperos, exhibitions and other events, various user groups need to coordinate their activities.

One of the points raised most frequently in the survey was how much the temporary learn- ing spaces installed during the COVID pandemic were missed, especially in HG and HIL. With hybrid classes, students needed space on campus to watch lectures that were only given online in between classes or laboratories that were con- ducted in presence. In the heat of the pandemic, a special permit was provided to temporarily use certain spaces as learning environments. Now that students are back on campus, this exceptional situation is over, and escape route regulations pre- vent temporary workplaces from being set up again.

Tackling the problem

To make it transparentoblem, which places are available, ETH offers an overview on workspaces and is working on improving the cur- rent display system. Additionally, proposals for new permanent workspaces in HG, HIL and CHN have been developed involving VSETH and sub- mitted by the Rectorate. In addition, various pro- jects were started to improve the utilisation of teaching spaces. The goal is to make the most use out of the existing ETH buildings and to fill the re- maining gap by integrating demand in new build- ings projects to tackle the problem in the long run.

by Mara Bless & Leah Mönkemöller

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