Frequently asked questions (FAQ)


The programme funds 48 fellowships for a duration of 48 months each.

The application process is divided into two stages:

  • Stage 1: an application is submitted by the applicant to the EPFL Doctoral School (EDOC) via the online application form. Applicants to the EPFLglobaLeaders programme must provide some specific information in addition to the usual
    information requested by EDOC.
  • Stage 2: an application submitted by the thesis supervisor following the supervisor matching stage.

All details about the application process are specified in the “application guidelines”.

EPFLglobaLeaders fellowships are available in any discipline included in the research areas of EPFL. The programme is open to applicants to any of the 22 doctoral programmes available at EPFL. Applicants are free to choose the doctoral programme they apply to.

Research funded by the EPFLglobaLeaders programme will be conducted at the EPFL campuses in Lausanne, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Valais or Fribourg, Switzerland. The mandatory secondment (3 to 12 months) in the non-academic sector can, however, take place outside Switzerland, based on the research project agreed upon with the thesis supervisor.

The EPFLglobaLeaders fellowship consists of a monthly contribution of EUR 1’935 to the salary of the doctoral candidate at EPFL. The thesis supervisor must complement this EU contribution (beware that co-funding cannot come from other H2020 funding sources) and cover any associated costs (research costs, equipment, travel expenses, conferences, etc.). Please contact Human Resources in your prospective school if you wish to know exact salary information, including social benefits such as AVS (pension scheme), AC (unemployment insurance), and child benefits. See also the following link: Doctoral students’ salary.


The following eligibility criteria apply:
1. Citizens of any nationality may apply.
2. Applicants must hold a Master’s degree (or equivalent) before they sign their employment contract.
3. Applicants must be Early Stage Researchers (ESR); by the time they sign their employment contract, they must not have completed more than four years of full-time research, and they
must not have been awarded a doctoral degree.
4. Applicants must fulfil the MSCA transnational mobility rules and must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Switzerland for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the call deadline. Exceptions to these rules are possible in order to ensure equal opportunities for applicants whose scientific career was interrupted. Therefore, the time spent as part of a procedure for obtaining refugee status under the Geneva Convention, compulsory national service, maternity leave, and/or short stays such as holidays are not taken into account.

You are not eligible to apply if you have studied/worked at EPFL or in Switzerland for more than 12 months (365 days) during the three years immediately before the call deadline.

Yes. Granted applicants, however, must obtain their Master’s degree before signing their employment contract. The fellowships start at the latest on 1 January 2022 for the first call, on 1 March 2022 for the second call, and on 1 April 2023 for the third call. If not already holding a Master’s degree, applicants must include in their application a formal statement from their university indicating their graduation date.

No. The EPFLglobaLeaders programme is only open to new doctoral candidates.

No. You are only required to choose the EPFL doctoral programme(s) you wish to apply to. If you are accepted (declared “admissible”) by a doctoral programme (stage 1) and shortlisted for an EPFLglobaLeaders fellowship, your application will be forwarded to potential thesis supervisors for the supervisor matching stage. You may then be contacted by (an) interested thesis supervisor(s) for an interview. Simultaneously, but only after you have been informed by the doctoral programme that you are accepted (i.e. declared “admissible”) by the doctoral programme, you are welcome to contact thesis supervisor(s) yourself.


Applications must be submitted via the regular EPFL Doctoral School (EDOC) online application platform. For authentication, please use your EPFL GASPAR account if you have one or create a temporary account. This account allows you to return to the form to complete it or to monitor the status of your application.

The deadlines for the EPFLglobaLeaders programme are:

  • Call 1: 15 December 2020 (17:00 CET)
  • Call 2: 15 April 2021 (17:00 CET)
  • Call 3: 15 May 2022 (17:00 CET)

Each doctoral programme has its own application deadline; therefore applicants must check the webpage of the relevant programme for detailed information as well as the deadline overview.

To be considered for the EPFLglobaLeaders programme, applicants must submit their application before the application deadline of the EPFLglobaLeaders programme (Call 1: 15 December 2020, 17:00 CET; Call 2: 15 April 2021, 17:00 CET; Call 3: 15 May 2022, 17:00 CET).

For example:
For the Call 1 (deadline: 15 December 2020) there are three possible situations:

  1. The application deadline of the chosen doctoral programme is the same as the EPFLglobaLeaders programme (e.g. EDMX): applicants must submit their application before 15 December 2020 (17:00 CET) at the latest.
  1. The application deadline of the chosen doctoral programme is after the deadline of the EPFLglobaLeaders programme (e.g. EDAM for which the deadline is 15 January 2021).
    • Applicants must submit their application before 15 December 2020 (17:00 CET) at the latest.
    • If they apply after 15 December 2020 (and before 15 April 2021 (17:00 CET)), their application will be considered as part of Call 2 of the EPFLglobaLeaders programme.
  1. The application deadline of the chosen doctoral programme is before the deadline of the EPFLglobaLeaders programme (e.g. EDEY for which the deadline is 1 December 2020).
    • Applicants are encouraged to submit their application before 1 December 2020 (23:59 CET).
    • If they apply between 1 December and 15 December 2020 (17:00 CET), they must choose the next doctoral programme deadline (for EDEY: 30 April 2021), but their application will still be considered as part of Call 1 of the EPFLglobaLeaders programme.

Every applicant is requested to provide contact details of three referees who can supply a recommendation. These recommendations are confidential and are only accepted if they are received via the online application platform. Each recommendation consists of a standardised form and a letter with the referee’s comments.

Your referees’ recommendations are due by the application deadline as they are an integral part of your application. Your referees receive an automatic message when you submit your application, inviting them to complete their recommendation online. Therefore, you should submit your application early enough in order to leave your referees enough time to submit their recommendation before the deadline. Please be aware that it is not possible to change your referees’ details once you have submitted your application.

As a courtesy, you should ask your referees ahead of time if they are willing to supply a recommendation letter to support your application. Doing so will also give your referees time to compose their comments and, if they wish, to discuss your plans with you.

You are notified by email when each referee has provided his/her recommendation to the doctoral programme. The system allows you to send one reminder per referee.


The selection process is divided into two stages:

  • Stage 1: selection of applicants
    1. The Programme Management Office (PMO) conducts an eligibility check of all applications.
    2. The doctoral programme committees evaluate the applicants’ level of excellence and decide on the admissibility of each eligible applicant to their respective doctoral programme.
    3. All admissible applications are scored by both the doctoral programme committees and the Intersectoral Excellence Committee (IEC), based on the EPFLglobaLeaders evaluation
    criteria which are described below.
    4. The PMO ranks all admissible applications based on the final score received by each applicant. The final score is the average of the scores provided by the doctoral programme
    committee and by the IEC.
    5. The PMO communicates the shortlist of the top-ranked applicants to all EPFL laboratories for the supervisor matching stage.
  • Stage 2: selection of project proposals
    6. The EPFL professors interested in supervising an EPFLglobaLeaders thesis interview the shortlisted applicants.
    7. The EPFL professors select applicants and submit a jointly designed proposal.
    8. The IEC evaluates and scores the proposals.
    9. The PMO ranks the applications based on the IEC score.
    10. The IEC meets (in person or via videoconference) to discuss the ranking and formally approve the granting of the EPFLglobaLeaders fellowship to the top-ranked applicants.
    11. The PMO notifies the applicants of the outcome of the evaluation process. The applicants who are put on a reserve list are informed of their position on this list and contacted in case some of the initially selected fellows withdraw.

The members of both the doctoral programme committees and the IEC are asked to review and score the applications based on the following criteria:

Each criterion is scored from zero to five with one decimal place. To ensure a fair treatment of all applications and avoid grade inflation, all experts are requested to interpret the following scale rigorously.

Application forms cannot be modified after they have been submitted (validated). Please email the administrative assistant of the chosen doctoral programme to ask for the “devalidation” of your form. Do not forget to validate and, if required, print the form again after your modifications have been saved. Please note that for technical reasons your referee details cannot be changed once you have validated your form.

Applicants who are not ranked among the highest applicants will be informed (in February 2021 for call 1, in June 2021 for call 2, and in August 2022 for call 3) that they are no longer considered for the EPFLglobaLeaders fellowship. However, they remain admissible for the regular EPFL PhD programme.

You will be informed that you are no longer being considered for an EPFLglobaLeaders fellowship. You remain, however, admissible to the regular EPFL PhD programme you have selected.


The thesis supervisor must be an EPFL professor or a senior scientist (“Maître d’enseignement et de recherche”). EPFLglobaLeaders fellows are strongly encouraged to seek a co-supervisor from the non-academic sector where they conduct part of their research. This non-academic co-supervisor must hold a PhD. There is no restriction on the number of EPFLglobaLeaders doctoral candidates that an EPFL professor can host.

If a professor or senior scientist is interested in supervising an EPFLglobaLeaders fellow, he or she must:
a) Conduct an interview with shortlisted EPFLglobaLeaders applicants and their potential co-supervisors during the supervisor matching stage;
b) If an applicant is selected, the thesis supervisor must submit the following documents at stage 2 of the selection process:

  • A three-page project proposal including details on the secondment in the non-academic sector;
  • An interview report which summarises the discussion with the applicant.

The thesis supervisor responsibilities mentioned above are in addition to those described in the doctoral regulations, which apply to all doctoral candidates at EPFL, which are – in order of legal importance –, the “Ordinance on the doctorate conferred by the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne”, the “Directive concerning doctoral studies at the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne”, the doctoral programme regulations, and finally the decisions taken during the doctoral commission meetings.

The thesis supervisor must also ensure that the fellow meets the EPFLglobaLeaders programme requirements, notably the EPFLglobaLeaders training programme, the secondment, and timekeeping.

The non-academic mentor/co-supervisor is in charge of supervising the EPFLglobaLeaders fellow during his/her mandatory secondment. This supervision can take two forms:
– A formal thesis co-supervision recognized by EDOC. In this case, the co-supervisor must hold a PhD.
– An informal supervision. In this case, the non-academic partner, who does not need to hold a PhD, will be called a mentor.

If a professor or senior scientist is interested in supervising an EPFLglobaLeaders PhD thesis, he or she will contact the applicant and the potential mentor/co-supervisor from the non-academic sector to schedule an interview. Interviews can be carried out in person at the EPFL or via videoconference.

During the interview, the following points should be addressed: motivation for sustainability, enthusiasm for research, achievements and overall potential to carry out the project successfully.

If the interviewers and the applicant agree that they would like to work together on the proposed project, the report explains why the applicant is qualified to implement the submitted project. When an interview does not have a positive outcome, the report explains why the applicant is unsuitable for the proposed research.


In mid-June 2021 for the first call, in mid-October 2021 for the second call, and in October 2022 for the third call.

You may begin your fellowship once you have signed your employment contract, namely:

  • Call 1: at the earliest on 1 July 2021 and at the latest on 1 January 2022;
  • Call 2: at the earliest on 1 November 2021 and the latest on 1 March 2022;
  • Call 3: at the earliest on 1 December 2022 and the latest on 1 April 2023.

EPFLglobaLeaders must submit a yearly report to the Programme Management Office (a template will be provided). Additionally, they must submit a yearly report to their thesis supervisor based on the rules and regulations of their doctoral programme.


Please consult the information available on the following websites: “Working at EPFL”, the employee toolkit and the doctoral association PolyDoc.

EPFL is located in the French‐speaking part of Switzerland (Suisse Romande), and most undergraduate teaching takes place in French. EPFL is also a high‐level international institution: research is primarily conducted in English, and a large number of Master and PhD courses are also taught in English. Knowledge of English is therefore a prerequisite for doctoral studies at EPFL. Although knowledge of French is not a prerequisite, we strongly encourage you to learn this language as it will make your life easier and richer. The language centre enables new students and employees to learn French quickly and free of charge. You may also attend courses to bring your level of English up to that required in international research. Courses in German and Italian, Switzerland’s two other official languages, are also available.

Funded by

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 945363.