The new vessels of knowledge: Exploring the meaning of cultural diversity in the age of globalization of higher education at ETH




Universities worldwide, driven by the impetus to be more diverse, are increasingly imbuing an international outlook constituted by individuals from all over the world. ETH Zurich, like most universities in its league, attracts a significant international student pool: The 23’420 students at ETH are from 121 countries, with 30% of its master’s and 53% of its doctoral students being international students (ETH Zurich 2020). Consequently, initiatives such as the Respect Campaign, the rETHink project, and trainings are steps towards ensuring an inclusive environment for the diverse community which constitutes ETH Zurich (Baumann 2020). However, there are important questions which arise in contemplation of what gives these initiatives substance: What issues do they seek to address and to what extent do they fulfill the prerogative to inspire and uphold ETH’s values in learning and teaching? In this article, the African Students Association of Zurich (ASAZ)[1] seeks to explore these questions and, more precisely, tries to investigate what the interrelationship is between globalization of higher education and cultural diversity goals at ETH. By designing a research project that explores the experiences of domestic and international students with minority backgrounds, this article intends to contribute to diversity studies by showing how student initiatives and the issues that sustain them can be of incremental value to creating a more inclusive learning and teaching environment.