Vice-Rectorate Development
Continuing education programs as relevant as possible for participants
Prof. Dr, Achim Conzelmann

“The University’s active membership in ‘The Guild’, a network of research-intensive universities, has proven valuable.”

Executive Board

Greater flexibility in continuing education

The University of Bern’s attractive and successful continuing education portfolio is becoming more digital and now features more electives and combinations in an effort to fine-tune the offer to flexibly meet participants’ needs.


By Prof. Dr. Achim Conzelmann, Vice-Rector for Development

The University is committed to the promotion of lifelong learning among highly qualified people and offers a diverse range of continuing education programs to this end. This portfolio was expanded yet again in 2020 with the addition of a CAS in Advanced Machine Learning. Within the scope of its digitalization strategy, the University of Bern has also been specifically promoting greater flexibility in the area of continuing education since early 2020. Flexible continuing education means creating compatible formats with electives and combinations with the goal of making these as relevant as possible for participants. Greater leeway regarding not only the structure of the content of these courses but also in terms of organizational aspects and the learning setting aims to add momentum to the way knowledge is transferred to the working world. This forward-looking type of continuing education is being promoted by a think tank called BEflex at the Centre for University Continuing Education of the University of Bern.

The continuing education department, with more than 100 degree programs, demonstrated enormous flexibility when the coronavirus pandemic made it necessary to switch the portfolio of courses to digital formats in record time. Among other things, the lockdown prompted the creation of the world’s first evaluation hackathon and an online continuing education program for employees of the Swiss tourism industry. These efforts have paid off: The number of people enrolled in programs at the CAS and DAS levels in the fall semester saw a year-on-year increase.

In a nutshell

“Long-term projects in space and climate research demonstrated to a delegation from the German Bundestag just how important the University of Bern considers international research cooperation.”

Prof. Dr. Achim Conzelmann, Vice-Rector for Development

Career development and the promotion of early career researchers still firmly anchored

Following the swissuniversities project “PhD Programs at Swiss Universities”, which ended in 2020, the University of Bern launched a comparable funding vehicle within the University to anchor doctoral studies even more firmly within the system and better prepare PhD students for both academic careers and professional careers in the non-university job market. In a first round, the University Executive Board approved applications from all eight faculties for 19 mostly interfaculty and/or interuniversity programs, as well as individual course modules for some 400 PhD students.

With around 40 formats and boasting more than 600 participants from all fields of study, the Transferable Skills Program remains extremely popular. During multi-day workshops, PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers have the opportunity to further develop key skills such as scientific writing, project management and leadership.

The Career Service had to temporarily suspend its courses in the spring. In the fall, students were able to select from around 50 different courses, some of which offered in person and others digitally, covering topics such as CV checks, interview training, workshops on application skills, discussion rounds and self-presentations.

Continuation of the internationalization strategy

A review of the internationalization measures initiated in 2016 confirmed that communication, relationship management, and science diplomacy in the international arena are important fields of action.

The University’s active membership in “The Guild”, a European network of research-intensive universities, has proven valuable. In 2020, researchers from the University of Bern joined colleagues from the 20 partner universities to write a multitude of statements and position papers that received a great deal of attention within the scope of Europe’s debate on research policy. While many delegation visits had to be canceled due to the pandemic, one meeting with guests from Germany took place in September: Citing long-term projects in space and climate research, Rector Christian Leumann demonstrated to a delegation from the German Bundestag, the German states and German universities just how important the University of Bern considers international research cooperation.

The year was also used to more firmly anchor the University’s membership in the “Scholars at Risk” network within the institution. Progress was made on the inclusion of an SAR scholar.

Did you know?

“The international network Scholars at Risk (SAR) enables persecuted scientists to work scientifically even in exile. It was through the SAR network that Turkish professor Veysel Demir was able to carry out research at the University of Bern.”

Support for exchange students

Student exchanges were hit hard by the lockdowns and travel restrictions implemented in the spring; many individual solutions had to be found. By the fall of 2020, the International Office had already adjusted to these special requirements: Wherever possible, newly arriving international students were greeted and advised in person; the orientation week was digitalized as needed. These efforts included both online Coffee Chats and students who helped out whenever these foreign students needed to spend their first few days in Bern in quarantine.