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 of five areas: 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’s President informs the ETH Board.
The Swiss Federal Audit Office audits EPFL’s annual consolidated financial statements and finance-related business processes.
The ETH Board’s internal audit team evaluates EPFL’s risk management processes, internal control system and governance processes. EPFL’s Direction then reviews the Board’s findings and takes any necessary corrective actions.
IT security is crucial for EPFL, as stated in Lex 6.5.1. It is also one of the main risks identified during the EPFL’s risk management procedure. EPFL 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 Domain (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 EPFL Direction commission an independent expert to review their academic performance. The experts’ findings and the following action plan are communicated to the ETH Board as part of the Dialogue meeting. The follow-up takes place one year later. These evaluations are carried out in three steps: developing the terms of reference, completing a self-evaluation and conducting the assessment. The action plan is presented to the ETH Board for approval. A follow-up is performed one year later. Centers and Institutes may also be evaluated under the same procedure.
EPFL degree programmes are evaluated by Academic and Teaching Committees. EPFL engineer Master’s programmes are regularly accredited since 2007 by the CTI. They also carry the EUR-ACE label.
EPFL has an internal control system that was introduced in line with Federal regulations. The ICS is overseen by the internal audit teamt 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 procdures (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 Committee works within each Section to make sure that the courses included in study plans meet the required educational objectives.
The teaching committee works within each section to help develop study plans and exam procedures. The committee also makes sure that teaching-related rules are implemented properly, conducts assessments and suggests changes and improvements.
Each PhD programme is overseen by a committee that recruits PhD students and assists them with administrative and academic procedures. All PhD programme Directors meet regularly through EPFL Doctoral school committee meetings.
The CDS develops proposals for the improvement of teaching activities and submits them to EPFL’s Direction. 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. The CCE’s role is to advise EPFL’s Direction 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 procedure, which takes place every year, the heads of EPFL Schools and Colleges inform EPFL Direction 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.
During the Dialogue Meeting with the ETH Board, EPFL’s President and other members of EPFL Direction submit progress reports and discuss planned strategic developments.
Each Section has an advisory committee comprised of experts representing fields where its graduates are likely to work, whether in industry, academia or the public sector. The committees provide recommendations on the design and improvement of degree programs.
Student representatives sit on the EPFL Assembly and play an important role in the 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 different AVP. Class delegates within each Section help design and assess course curricula and provide input through surveys.
EPFL holds bilateral meetings with the main partner companies to determine how satisfied they are with the working relationship. These meetings are chaired by the VPI.
Interviews and feedback
Administrative 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 negetive indicative 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 (CAPE).
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 EPFL 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 2024.