EPFL PhD Excellence Program

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

PhD Excellence members for Cohort 1

About the program

The EPFL PhD Excellence program is aimed at doctoral candidates 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 EPFL PhD Excellence Program is one of the Equip Talent initiatives of the Student Support Program, an EPFL philanthropic initiative supporting students’ and doctoral candidates’ educational journeys. We would like to give special thanks to Fondation du Domaine de Villette and HOLDIGAZ SA for their generous donations.

Find out what current participants think:

For the full interviews, see our EDOC news article.

The program at a glance

  • Provide specialized training in leadership and related transversal skills
  • Introduce PhD candidates to careers outside of academia
  • Provide an exclusive opportunity to build a network with non-academic leaders, including alumni/ae
  • Create a unique and diverse community of EPFL PhD candidates with similar aspirations

The Excellence program 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 organizations.

The elements of the program are:

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

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

The program 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 program. While the transversal skills courses can be taken throughout the program. As for the networking events, it is planned to organize one per semester.

Interested applicants should review “Important Dates” to ensure their availability for the obligatory program elements.

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

  • Not already following a customized curriculum, such as EPFLinnovators and EPFLglobaLeaders or being candidates under an inter-institutional agreement
  • Have successfully passed their candidacy exam within the last 12 months
    • i.e. Have matriculated at EPFL between April 1st 2022 – April 30th 2023 (be in the second year).
    • For those who will not have taken their candidacy before the submission deadline, a conditional acceptance can be granted subject to the result of the candidacy exam
  • Having the written approval of the thesis director to participate in the program

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

An admissions committee made of professionals from different domains will rank the written and video applications based on the evaluation criteria.

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 will be February 8th.

Complete applications must be submitted by doctoral candidates in electronic format by the submission deadline here (link only active when application is open).

Applications must contain the following documents:

  • A CV (maximum 2 pages)
  • A motivation letter indicating relevant extracurricular activities, if any (max 1 page)
  • Research publications or patents, if applicable (max 1 page)
  • A letter of support by thesis director (using the template provided)
    • In the case of thesis co-directors, both co-directors must support the application (either by both signing one letter or by submitting two signed letters, as preferred)
    • Please note that references letters are due one week from submission (February 15th, 2024) – please make sure your letter writers are aware of this date.
  • A reference letter from outside academia (e.g. from an internship, or extracurricular activity), if applicable
    • Please note that references letters are due one week from submission (February 15th, 2024) – please make sure your letter writers are aware of this date.
  • A short video (maximum 2 minutes)
    • Introduce yourself
    • Why are you applying for this program?
    • What do you hope to get out of the EPFL Excellence Program?
    • Bonus: What significant global challenge do you hope to address in your future and how?

Interested applicants should review “Important Dates” to ensure their availability for the obligatory program elements.

An information session is planned each year before the next application cycle.

The information for cohort 3 took place on Monday, December 4th, 2023. Slides from the session can be accessed here (with EPFL login).

  • Applications Open: November 6th, 2023
  • Application Deadline: February 8th, 2024
    • Reference letter submitted by February 15th, 2024
  • Decisions Communicated: March 28th, 2024
  • Program Obligatory Events:
    • 2024 Welcome Event: April 25th
    • 2024 Training Dates: May 13th & 14th, October 4th & 18th

If you plan to apply, please mark these dates in your calendar to ensure your full availability.

The call for applications for the 2025 cohort will open in November 2024


Vice Presidency for Academic Affairs

AVP Postgraduate Education

Doctoral School

[email protected]


CE 1 631

Station 1

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