PhD Students

In the light of the current situation, EPFL has taken measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19.

We thank you for your cooperation in these troubled times.

These decisions are based on scientific data recalled by our experts in this video.

[02 July 2020 update]

Point d'interrogation sur un tableau noir

This Q&A explains the special measures for PhD Students taken in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Deux étudiants devant le SwissTech Convention Center

Discover all relevant measures of support for PhD students.

Delay in your thesis?   

The closure of the campus and the cancellation of doctoral courses raises concerns about possible delays of the thesis work, candidacy or thesis exam. Please, rest assured that solutions will be found so that you can finalize your PhD under good (properly financed, etc.) conditions.

So please:

  • Continue working remotely if your work does not require you to be on campus (for more information, please refer to the relevant articles of the Directive)
  • Discuss with your thesis Director the consequences of a possible delay in your thesis
  • If this does not lead to a reasonable solution, contact your Doctoral Program or EPFL’s Doctoral School ([email protected])

Doctoral Courses

Teachers are welcome to resume PhD classes to the following conditions:

  • Resumption is strictly on voluntary basis – teachers are free to decide whether they have time to resume their PhD course(s).
  • Courses must fully resume online: no face-to-face meetings, and exams must also take place online. The exam format is up to the teachers to decide (a presentation, a report, or any other deemed suitable format);
  • If appropriate due to the time loss, the number of ECTS, the dates and the format of the course could be adapted;
  • PhD students who registered for the courses may participate if they wish, but will not be penalized if they do not.

Teachers will get in touch directly with their PhD students to inform them of the resumption of classes and conditions.

All PhD classes continue to the following conditions:

  • Preferably online;
  • If appropriate space is available (classrooms not used by BA/MA, meeting rooms, etc.) and sanitary conditions (>1.5m, etc.) can be met, doctoral courses can be held face-to-face on the EPFL sites;  
  • In any case – also if the course continues face-to-face – it should be possible for PhD candidates to follow the course online;
  • Summer schools must be held online only, i.e. not face-to-face;
  • Exceptions: courses requiring (i) manipulations of machines/equipment or experiments that cannot be adapted online, or (ii) attendance because students are filmed (presentation skills, body language, etc.), may be conducted face-to-face only (assuming sanitary conditions can be met).

The DSPS directives should be always respected.

Teachers will get in touch directly with their PhD students to inform them on the conditions – online only or face-to-face + online.

Credits requirement for the admission for thesis preparation (Candidacy Exam)

If the first year ECTS credits requirement cannot be fulfilled before the Candidacy Exam due to the Coronavirus related measures that have been taken, then this ECTS credits requirement can – with the agreement of the Doctoral program – be postponed to after the admission for thesis preparation (Candidacy Exam).

Credits requirement for the thesis examination/defense

If the PhD ECTS credits requirements cannot be fulfilled before the thesis Oral Exam due to the Coronavirus related measures that have been taken, then this ECTS credits requirement can – with the agreement of the Doctoral program – be postponed to after the thesis Oral Exam, but the ECTS credits requirements should be fulfilled before the public thesis defense.

Candidacy Exam, Oral Thesis Exam, and Public Thesis Defence

Candidacy Exams and Oral Thesis Exams should preferably be fully done by videoconference. Each participant connects separately. It is important to test the configuration before the event. The Jury President is responsible for the management of the videoconference. The best option is that the Jury President initiates the videoconference (e.g., have the “host” role on Zoom). This allows him/her to mute/unmute participant(s).

However, Candidacy Exams and Oral Thesis Exams are permitted to take place in person on campus for those EPFL participants who agree to this, and in compliance with the hygiene and social-distancing directives (COVID-19 protection plan).

External experts can only participate per videoconference.

The Public Thesis Defense cannot take place “in person” and must be done by videoconference (Zoom, Webex or other videoconference systems) at least until 31 August 2020.  

In light of the above conditions, if you prefer, you can make a request to defer your Candidacy Exam, Oral Thesis Exam or Public Thesis Defense to a later date. Please contact your doctoral program administration directly if this is how you choose to proceed.

Event type
Candidancy Examunder conditions*
Oral Thesis Examunder conditions*
Public Thesis Defenseprohibited

* EPFL participants agree, and event in compliance with the hygiene and social-distancing directives (COVID-19 protection plan); external experts can only participate per videoconference

Although the preference is for videoconferencing, Candidacy Exam, Oral Thesis Exam and Public Thesis Defense can take place on the EPFL sites under the following conditions (see DSPS webpage for the full directives):

  • All participants agree to this;
  • Must be a protection plan in place and in use to meet the sanitary conditions, for example:
  • A distance of at least 1.5 meters must be maintained between people,
  • A list of all attendees must be drawn up and kept,
  • All surfaces in the room are disinfected after,
  • Ensure that the gathering complies with the cantonal and federal law;
  • For Candidacy and Oral Thesis Exams, it is recommended that External Experts only participate per videoconference (everyone must make every effort to avoid work-related travel, including within Switzerland, that are non-absolutely essential).

In light of the above conditions, if you prefer, you can make a request to defer your Candidacy Exam, Oral Thesis Exam or Public Thesis Defense to a later date. Please contact your doctoral program administration directly if this is how you choose to proceed.

Event typeFewer than
100 people
Fewer than
1,000 people
1,000 people
or more
Candidacy Examauthorized**authorized**prohibited
Oral Thesis Examauthorized**authorized**prohibited
Public Thesis Defenseauthorized**authorized**prohibited

** Every participants agree, and event subject to the conditions of the DSPS directives; it is recommended that external experts only participate per videoconference