Pit Stop #30: European Graduate School

mountaintop view
Sign of EGS

One of the many things I love about my work with NECHE is the incredible diversity of institutions we encounter and the fascinating array of people I have the opportunity to meet. The European Graduate School (The EGS) and its leadership team are perfect examples of both.

As readers of this blog will understand, institutional accreditation is a process. It begins with an exploration of eligibility–a series of conversations at first–and if those conversations make it seem likely that an institution could qualify for consideration by the Commission for eventual accreditation, then a staff visit is arranged. 

My visit to Saas-Fee, the home of The EGS, was part of that initial staff visit to meet trustees, administrators, faculty and staff– as well as touring the physical facilities of the campus to review NECHE’s two dozen criteria for eligibility.

If an institution is found to be eligible, it then moves to what we call “candidacy” for up to two years (which is where Paris College of Art and the American College of the Mediterranean are right now, as they will appear before the Commission this fall seeking candidacy). Then, if all goes well, initial accreditation is granted within five years. This is clearly serious business and entails rigorous work by both the institution and the Commission. It’s not for the faint of heart. 

View of Saas-Fee
The beautiful town of Saas-Fee.

The EGS is like no other institution we now accredit– a foreign university that offers only graduate degrees– in its case both Masters’s degrees and PhD.’s. Established in the Swiss mountains in 1994 by a non-profit foundation, EGS has two divisions that offer separate degree programs and have separate faculties: one in Philosophy, Art & Critical Thought (PACT), and one in Arts, Health & Society (AHS). The PACT Division focuses on philosophy, art and critical thought, and within those fields, architecture, film, literature, digital design, music, psychoanalysis, and political thought.

Student Hall at European Graduate School
The acoustically perfect gathering hall at Saas-Fee.

For over two decades, it has assembled a strong global faculty of celebrated artists, critical theorists, philosophers, film directors, scholars and practitioners. The AHS Division centers on the expressive arts, specifically addressing coaching, therapy, education, conflict transformation, and peacebuilding. It has played a founding role in the field of expressive arts therapy under the leadership of its founder, the late Paolo Knill. 

gallery wall of Paolo Knill portraits
The inimitable Paolo Knill.

The cross-disciplinary Master’s and Ph.D. programs of The EGS offer students and scholars an exceptional academic experience centered on annual intensive seminar programs led by an eminent faculty in residence in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, and Valletta, Malta.  Its structure is what is known in our business as a low residency model, with intensive semi-annual sessions (at EGS, lasting 24 days) in each location, followed by long periods of individual study supported remotely by the faculty and staff of EGS. 

mountaintop cabin

As you will no doubt appreciate from the photos, the setting in Saas-Fee is otherworldly. The students live in a beautiful boutique hotel at the base of a glacier, owned and run for some 100 years by one family…

restaurant table

…and meet and study in a rustic and austere facility built just for them a few hundred meters uphill.

office building with mountain views in background

We spent a full day with the chair of the board, Peter Margelist, and the two European Graduate School Deans: Chris Fynsk from the U.S. and Margo Fuchs-Knill from Switzerland (although Margo and her late husband Paolo spent many years in Boston). In the “small world” inevitable discovery, it turns out that Chris, Betty and I grew up within a mile of each other in Wilmington, Delaware with all of our fathers working for DuPont, although Chris attended our rival high school — a Bulldog among Green Knights. 

That old rivalry aside, EGS could hardly be a more fascinating place.

Swiss flag hanging off building

Precious, experimental, and serious are three words that come to mind. It is the kind of place you might dream of going to pursue your unrealized dream of getting an advanced degree as a poet, a therapist, a philosopher, and being surrounded by people who would galvanize your spirit and inspire your finest work. Of course, EGS is in the earliest stage of the accreditation process and there’s no way for me now to predict the eventual outcome, other than to say the principals are fully committed to the process and understand that in the end, it is all about striving to always become better. Continuous improvement… to use our NECHE lingo. 

EGS staff and NECHE president walking among office buildings

Our visit to EGS was an inspirational way to conclude this international trip. Heavenly landscapes, incredible hospitality, and thoughtful people with a pure vision. 

Related Posts

Pit Stop #51: Ralston College

May 8, 2023

Pit Stop #50: Massachusetts School of Law

April 5, 2023

Pit Stop #49: Roger Williams University

March 28, 2023