PhD admission criteria & application

Doctoral School candidates must submit their application file to the doctoral program of their choice within the deadlines specified by the latter.

Some programs publish open positions related to specific projects but in order to be eligible, one should be enrolled in the Doctoral School, registering in the related doctoral program is therefore mandatory.

Your file should be submitted online through the application form provided below. It should be duly completed (including recommendation letters) before the deadline specified by the doctoral program of your choice.

Completed files are transmitted to the chosen doctoral program and candidates are selected based on the merits of their files by a committee of experts : they will take into account your academic records, your research interests and the potential thesis supervisor(s) among other criteria in their assessments. As eligibility is extremely competitive, it is crucial to prepare your file carefully.

If you qualify, you will have to register in the Doctoral School within a year. Should you be appointed by an EPFL laboratory, your employment contract will be established meanwhile*. The final enrollment in the doctoral program is conditional to the choice of a thesis topic, a supervisor and a secure funding.

*A 3 months timeframe is usually necessary to handle admistrative issues concerning visas and work permits

Before you begin, it is important to check the pages of the doctoral program you intend to apply to. Each program has its own requirements, eligibility criteria and procedures that you need to be aware of.

List of EPFL doctoral programs.

You will first have to fill in the online application form.


Requested information:

  • your personal details
  • your academic background
  • the doctoral program you wish to apply to
  • the contact details of three referees

PDF documents to upload, written or translated into English, French, German or Italian:

  • scans of your diplomas and grades from all academic institutions of higher education listed in your application (after and not including high-school)
  • statement of objectives
  • copy of your passport or official identity document

Your application will be considered only if the complete file, including all required documents and three references, reaches us by the specified deadline. Do not underestimate the time needed by your referees to send their letters to us.

Each applicant is requested to provide the contact details of 3 referees who can write a recommendation. These recommendations are confidential and will only be accepted if they are received through the electronic application process.

Each recommendation consists of two elements:

  1. A form to be filled out by the referee
  2. An additional letter with the referee’s comments

Your referees’ recommendations are a required part of your application file and, as such, are also due by the chosen deadline. Messages will automatically be sent to referees when you submit your application in the system; they will then be invited to complete their recommendation online. Therefore, submit your application early enough in order to give your referees enough time to complete this task before the deadline. Please be aware that it is not possible to change your referee details once you have submitted your application.

As a courtesy, you should ask your referees ahead of time if they are willing to write a reference letter to support your application. Doing so will also give your referees time to consider what they want to write and, if they wish, to discuss your plans with you.

You will be notified by email when each referee has provided his or her recommendation to the doctoral program. The system allows you to send one reminder per referee.

We do not encourage this, but if you want to apply to more than one program, you will have to supply one complete application to each program.

This means that you will have to fill in separate forms online, using the same identification. So long as you use the same identification details, your personal information, referees and curriculum will be reproduced automatically on each application form. However, referees can then be adapted in your separate applications. With the change to the new application form on May 13, 2024, references made in the current form cannot be used to complete a future application for another program in 2024. You will then have to ask your referees to re-upload their letter of recommendation.

Each doctoral program has its own deadlines for applications and you should check their pages for detailed information, or see the overview of all deadlines by program.

All material that you submit on this website will be treated confidentially to the extent that normal procedures allow (there are no special security measures applied to this website, and by submitting your application, you agree not to hold EPFL liable for any misuse by others of the information you provide).

All incomplete online forms that have not been validated by the applicant will regularly be deleted.

An FAQ is available here.


In case of questions, please contact your program of interest

See programs