Remember that everyone who has earned a maturité gymnasiale recognized by the Swiss Confederation is admitted to EPFL, in any field of study.
However, evaluations have shown that students arriving with a “standard mathematics” education have to make additional efforts to reach the required level to succeed in the first year at first try, compared to students who arrive with a more advanced science and mathematics background.
This does not mean that you cannot undertake a scientific career if you are one of those students. EPFL offers a whole range of tools to make up for these deficiencies.
In addition, an e-book entitled Savoir-faire en mathématiques pour bien réussir à l’EPFL (sent to all new students before the start of classes, in French) and an evaluation of your mathematics level allow you to identify any deficiencies before you start. These also include proposals for how to fill in the gaps yourself.
To study at EPFL, you do need to enjoy mathematics, be determined and work diligently. But it does not mean that you need to be a genius!
Study programs assume about 30 hours of class time every week (this includes labs and problem sessions). You should plan 20-25 hours a week of individual work on top of this. This is of course an average. It is clear that studying at EPFL is a full-time commitment.
For further information, please read the pages about study management.
The ECTS system (European Credit Transfer System) allows to measure the level of education a student has obtained, by matching credits to courses.
One ECTS credit is proportional to the volume of work a student does, whether it is done in class, in exercises, labs, projects, or homework. ECTS is based on the principal that the full-time work done by a student during a university year corresponds to 60 credits. The work of a student registered in a full-time study program in Europe is about 1500 to 1800 hours per year, so the value of a credit is equal to about 25 to 30 hours of work (see CRUS guidelines – in French).
Credits are attributed when students satisfy evaluating conditions in terms of knowledge or skills associated with a class, projects, or labs. These evaluations are in the form of oral or written exams, presentations, reports, etc. The number of credits corresponding to courses is defined in the study plans.
This system was designed by the European Commission in order to facilitate student exchanges between universities (recognition of passed courses), in the framework of the Socrates/Erasmus Programme. This credit system is harmonized at European level and makes the validation of courses that were taken in another institution much easier.
In the context of the Bachelor/Master reforms (Bologna Accords 1999), this system was extended to all university studies. It is no longer a system for transferring credits from one university to another, but a system for accumulating credits which is shared by all universities in Europe.
For more information: EU website
1st year – propaedeutic exam
All subjects are evaluated at the end of each semester. Grades are weighted according to the importance of the subject. If the student achieves an average of at least 4/6, the exam is successfully passed and the 60 credits are awarded as a whole. In case of failure, the student must take all the exams again.
2nd and 3rd year
As of the 2nd year, each subject is evaluated at the end of the course, lab or project. The respective credits are achieved if the exam is successfully passed. Students therefore “collect” credits semestre after semestre. The Bachelor’s degree is materialized by a total of 180 ECTS credits; the Master’s degree by 90 or 120 more ECTS credits.
This system offers students flexibility in the organization of their studies: it is possible to validate more or less than 60 credits per year. In case of failure at one subject, only the subject in question must be repeated.
Further information: Ordonnance sur le contrôle des études
It is possible to freely switch from one program to another after enrollment at EPFL until the 2nd week of courses. From the 3rd week of courses, conditions start to apply for such changes.
You receive an acknowledgement of receipt at the end of your online application.
Classes & exercises
Theoretical classes are often accompanied by problem sessions in which students apply the ideas they have learned in class. In the 1st year, basic courses include students from several different fields of study and are given in large auditoriums. As studies progress, subjects get more and more specific and only interest a particular group of students. Teaching – even theory – becomes more participative. Materials for classes are often available online – this includes homework assignments and solutions.
Labs & projects
At the beginning of the studies, practical work is often in the form of labs, where students can get comfortable with basic work techniques (e.g. electronics, physical measurements, programming or chemistry labs). As they progress, they give way to projects, either in groups or individual, in which students analyze a problem and, using their knowledge of the subject, propose possible solutions. Projects often have a way of distilling your newly acquired knowledge: you will have to draw upon what you’ have learned in many different classes in order to solve the problem.
EPFL recommends to accomplish your full military training either between the Bachelor’s studies and the Master’s studies (which would also give you time to do an industrial internship that might be required in your curriculum) or before starting your Bachelor’s studies.
No. Students are part of EPFL’s research and innovation forces. They are integrated in labs projects where they sometimes receive very serious responsibilities. However, during the first two years of the Bachelor’s program, a majority of the time is spent on lectures, a preparation for the future hands-on research tasks.
Yes. EPFL is a strong supporter of this approach. Opportunities are offered throughout the world to study abroad at one of the numerous partner universities during the 3rd Bachelor’s year and/or go abroad for your Master’s thesis (one semester).
Further information and conditions:
Exchange during the 3rd Bachelor’s year
Master’s thesis at a partner university
An EPFL Diploma, Master’s or PhD degree, represents a guarantee of recognition on the work market in Switzerland and abroad. In all fields, prospects are numerous, both in academia and in industry. You will find more specific details about prospects on each program description.
EPFL being a public institution, tuition fees remain relatively low. The fee is of CHF 1460.- per year since 2020. It is the same for all admitted students, independently from their country of origin.
Read more about financing studies and about living costs in Lausanne.