EPFL PhD Excellence Programme

To prepare PhD students for their future, not only as first-class scientists, but also as engaged and active members of society and leaders of tomorrow.

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The EPFL PhD Excellence programme is part of the Student Support Programme (SSP) and is funded by philanthropic donors.

This programme is aimed at doctoral students interested in pursuing a career in a non-academic sector after their studies and it will complement their training as first-class scientists at EPFL by empowering them as engaged and active members of society and leaders of tomorrow.

This will be achieved by equipping them with the necessary transversal and leadership skills as well as by offering them a unique opportunity to connect with non-academic leaders (including alumni·ae) and to build a network of contacts with industry and institutions.

The programme at a glance

  • Give leadership and management skills
  • Facilitate the transition to a career outside academia
  • Build a network of industry and institutional contacts
  • Provide a unique opportunity to enter in contact with non-academic leaders, including alumni/ae

The Excellence programme will include a mandatory leadership training and coaching, specially designed and selected courses on the themes of communication, policy and governance, technology transfer, risk management and many others.  Participants will also be able to attend networking and knowledge exchange events such as seminars, company visits and alumni meetings. They will have the opportunity to build a network of contacts with business leaders and non-profit organisations.

The elements of the programme are:

  • Leadership training and coaching (1 year, approx. 120 hours)
  • Training in effective communication (2 days workshop, approx. 12 hours)
  • Transferable skills courses selected from a list of courses specifically designed and selected for the group (6 ECTS)
  • Networking events (1 per semester, approx. 40 hours)

45 doctoral students who have passed their candidacy exam will be selected for each call. Admitted PhD students will follow the programme activities during the remaining three years of their PhD studies. At the end of the programme, they will receive a certificate listing the activities and training they have successfully completed during the PhD Excellence programme.

The programme members will start with the leadership training and coaching, followed by the workshop on effective communication, which must be completed in the first year of the programme. While the transferable skills courses can be taken throughout the programme. As for the networking events, it is planned to organise one per semester.

The Programme is available to doctoral students in all disciplines represented at EPFL provided they meet the following conditions:

  • not already following a customised curriculum, such as EPFLinnovators and EPFLglobaLeaders or being candidates under an inter-institutional agreement
  • being admitted to the preparation of the thesis by the time they commence the mandatory training
  • having the written approval of the thesis director to participate in the programme

Applications that meet the formal requirements will be evaluated by the admissions committee.

The evaluation criteria are as follows:

  • the level of excellence of the academic achievements of the applicant at the time of the application: academic results and progress in the thesis
  • motivation and evidence of the personal commitment of the applicant to pursue a career in the non-academic sector and to contribute to wider society

The admissions committee will rank the written applications based on the evaluation criteria and will invite the top-ranked applicants for an interview.

EDOC communicates the decision of the admissions committee to the applicants in writing.

There is one deadline per year for the submission of applications. The next deadline for application submission is 28 February 2022 at 17:00h Swiss local time.

Complete applications must be submitted by doctoral students in electronic format via the dedicated Google Form by the submission deadline.

Applications must contain the following documents:

  • a CV of two pages maximum
  • the transcript of Doctoral School credits
  • a motivation letter indicating relevant extracurricular activities, if any
  • research publications or patents, if applicable
  • a letter of support by thesis director (using the template provided)
  • a reference letter from outside academia (e.g. from an internship, or extracurricular activity), if applicable


Vice Presidency for Academic Affairs

AVP Postgraduate Education

Doctoral School

[email protected]


CE 1 631

Station 1

CH-1015 Lausanne

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