All the processes are planned, carried out, controlled and improved with the help of specific instruments, classified as follows by typology.
EPFL’s quality management system is assessed as part of its institutional accreditation process (as set forth in Article 28 of the Swiss Higher Education Act) using the national standards set by the Swiss Agency of Accreditation and Quality Assurance (AAQ). This process contains three steps: a self-evaluation, a peer assessment and a decision made by the Swiss Accreditation Board. A panel of international experts also conducts an assessment based on five criteria: quality assurance, governance, education, research and services, resources, and internal and external communications. EPFL will go through the process for the first time in 2021.
Every year, unit and department heads conduct a risk assessment that evaluates the probability of a risk event occurring and the severity of that event – both before and after factoring in any mitigation measures. The most significant risks are communicated to EPFL’s management and the ETH Board. Should a risk event occur, the EPFL President will inform the ETH Board immediately.
The Swiss Federal Audit Office audits EPFL’s accounting system and finance-related business processes using the same methods as for other Federal institutions.
The ETH Board’s internal audit team evaluates EPFL’s risk management processes, internal control system and governance processes. EPFL’s management then reviews the Board’s findings and takes any necessary corrective actions immediately. Any recommendations related to non-urgent mitigation measures are incorporated into the School’s next strategic plan.
IT security is crucial for EPFL, as stated in Lex 6.5.1. It is also one of the main risks identified during the School’s risk management process. The School has therefore introduced a series of internal controls, and the ETH Board reviews this risk as part of its audits.
EPFL’s Safety, Security and Facilites Operations (VPO-SE) oversees occupational health and safety at EPFL schools and colleges and conducts audits, as specified in Lex 1.5.1. The ETH Board also performs regular audits to make sure all EPFL employees have a safe and healthy place to work, recommending improvements as needed.
Every eight years, the heads of EPFL schools and colleges commission an independent expert to review their educational performance. The experts’ findings are communicated to the ETH Board as part of the dialogue process. These evaluations are carried out in three steps: developing the terms of reference, completing a self-evaluation and conducting the evaluation itself. Research centers and institutes may also be evaluated under the same procedure
All EPFL degree programs are evaluated by academic and teaching commissions. EPFL Master’s programs were first accredited by the CTI in 1998, and they also carry the EUR-ACE label.
EPFL has an internal control system that was introduced in line with Federal regulations. The SCI is overseen by the Internal Audit department of the ETH Board, as required by Art. 35abis, para. 1 of the ETH Act and Art. 11 of the Federal Audit Office Act.
Commissions/Commitees/strategies (non exhausitive list)
The VPA has several commissions in place to oversee administrative processes (such as for admissions, exams, complaints, etc.). Commissions on research ethics (e.g., the EPFL Animal Research Ethics Committee and the EPFL Human Research Ethics Committee) are overseen by the VPA; the committee on risk management is overseen by the VPF; and the catering commission is overseen by the VPO. This list of commissions is not exhaustive.
The academic commission works within each section to make sure that the courses included in study plans meet the required educational objectives.
The teaching commission works within each section to help develop study plans and exam procedures, in accordance with VPE directives. The commission also makes sure that teaching-related rules are implemented properly, conducts assessments and suggests changes and improvements.
Each PhD program is overseen by a commission that recruits PhD students and assists them with administrative and academic procedures. All PhD program heads meet regularly through Doctoral School commission meetings.
The CDS develops proposals for the improvement of teaching activities and submits them to EPFL’s management. It states an opinion on teaching matters, EPFL strategies and consultation procedures, particularly those concerning study plans, knowledge assessment, teaching evaluations, internships and student exchange programs. It proposes any measures it considers useful to help coordinate sections’ educational initiatives.
The EPFL Teachers’ Council (CCE) represents all EPFL teachers, in accordance with Article 17 of the ETH Board bylaws dated 13 November 2003.The CCE’s role is to advise EPFL Management on all teaching-related issues.
Dialogue with stakeholders
Under the ETH Act, all EPFL professors, teachers, students and employees should be involved in preliminary decision-making processes and provide their input on the School’s governance system. This process of collecting comments and suggestions is the main function of the EPFL Assembly.
Under the academic dialogue process, which takes place every year, the heads of EPFL schools and colleges inform EPFL’s management of their strategies and make degree-program-related requests, such as to hire additional professors, open new research facilities or set up new programs. The heads also provide progress updates and make suggestions for improvements.
Under the dialogue process with the ETH Board, EPFL’s President and other members of EPFL’s management submit progress reports and discuss planned strategic developments.
Each section has an advisory board comprised of experts representing fields where its graduates are likely to work, whether in industry, academia or the public sector. The boards provide recommendations on the design and improvement of degree programs.
Student representatives sit on the EPFL Assembly and play an important role in the School’s governance. They take part in governance-related consultation procedures, for example. For matters related to degree programs, they provide feedback to the Section Directors’ Conference (CDS) and meet regularly with Educational Affairs and the Vice Presidents. Class delegates within each section help design and assess course curricula and provide input through surveys.
EPFL holds bilateral meetings with the School’s main partner companies to determine how satisfied they are with the working relationship. These meetings are overseen by the VPI.
Interviews and feedback
EPFL employees undergo annual performance reviews with their managers. These assessments are carried out in a collaborative manner, and objectives are set jointly for the coming year. The goal is to discuss areas of improvement and identify training opportunities.
In an effort to continually improve their classes and teaching methods, EPFL teachers and sections ask students for their feedback through a single question sent out the ninth week of the semester. This provides a general idea of how classes are going.
For new classes or classes for which there is insufficient feedback, the corresponding section asks students for a more in-depth evaluation through a questionnaire covering a variety of topics. This methodology was developed in association with EPFL’s Teaching Support Center.
In 2019, the Doctoral School conducted an in-depth survey to assess the quality of its doctoral education and potential areas for improvement, asking PhD students about their expectations, experience and well-being.
EPFL’s Career Center conducts a job placement survey of recent graduates through a questionnaire covering topics such as how long it took them to find a job, how many jobs they applied for and what their starting salaries were. The most recent survey was conducted in 2019; the report is available here (in French only).
Every two years, a survey of students is conducted to gauge their level of satisfaction with the School’s services, in an effort to continuously improve them. The survey report is made available online.
The Swiss Federal Statistical Office periodically carries out an online, quantitative survey of students at Swiss higher education institutions in order to obtain data on their living and study conditions. This survey, called the Survey of Social and Economic Conditions of Student Life (SSEE), is carried out through an online questionnaire. It will be conducted again in 2020.