EDAR New doctoral candidates

The Main Steps

The principal steps of the Doctoral procedure are described in the page “Doctoral studies structure” section: General structure of a PhD.

We draw your attention to some important points in this regard:

– The first-year doctoral candidates must submit a thesis jury proposal to pass their candidacy exam. At the end of their first year, doctoral candidates must have 4 credits. The candidacy exam is a small oral exam with 3 members of a jury followed by a Q&A session. An automatic e-mail will be sent to you by the Academic Services.

– Each year, a report presenting the progress of the thesis and research must be submitted by each doctoral student who has passed his or her candidacy exam.

Duration of the doctoral program

The duration of the doctoral program is 4 years.

Extension requests must be submitted before the relevant deadline, signed by the thesis director (and co-director if applicable). They should be validated by the program director and EDOC.

External doctoral candidates practicing a professional activity outside EPFL must ensure that their workload does not prevent them from pursuing their doctoral studies.

EDAR PhD Guide

The EDAR committee evaluates applications from doctoral candidates three times a year. Candidates deemed eligible based on scientific merit may begin their thesis once they have found a thesis director.

Completion of a thesis typically takes 48 months:

  • A first, qualifying year during which the doctoral student takes courses at EDAR (4 ETCS credits), finds a thesis director, develops a research plan under the latter’s guidance and defends it at the candidcy exam.
  • Three years during which the doctoral student does thesis work and takes courses at EDAR (10 ECTS credits).
  • Doctoral students have 36 months in which to complete their thesis after successfully passing the candidacy exam, but may defend it prior to this deadline (however, not before 24 months after enrolment).

Doctoral candidates and their thesis directors must submit an annual progress report to EDAR. This report describes the progress and quality of the work, for which the thesis director takes personal responsibility.

If a thesis does not progress as expected, or the thesis director has doubts regarding the quality of the work, the annual report is an opportunity for him or her to bring the matter to EDAR’s attention.


Contractually, three possibilities exist for doctoral candidates:

Students may have a PhD assistant status for a period of no longer than six years. This status entails:

  • Full-time employment status.
  • A specific salary scale starting at 54,550 CHF gross annually (valid from 01.01.2024).
  • No involvement in other professional activities.

EPFL doctoral candidates employed by the EFPL are to be funded for the entire duration of their dissertation.

The supervisor agrees to finance the doctoral student for the duration of his or her dissertation at the time of hiring.

The doctoral student is not employed by the EPFL. This status entails:

  • Employment status at another academic institution (HES, etc.), public administration or company.


  • A foreign PhD fellowship.

In order to be accepted by the EPFL and EDAR, third-party financed students must:

  • Prove they have annual revenues equivalent to the minimum salary paid to EPFL doctoral candidates.
  • Prove they have the time needed to complete a dissertation. If employed, doctoral candidates must provide a written statement from their employer stating that they shall devote at least 50% of their working time to their dissertation (if the doctoral candidate is employed half-time for a sufficient salary, this proof is not necessary).

Third-party financed doctoral students enrolled at the EPFL complete their dissertation in 48 months, like EPFL doctoral candidates financed by the EPFL.

The arrival of these doctoral candidates, must in all cases, be reported to the ENAC’s human resources department (or the relevant school, if not ENAC).

These doctoral students are enrolled in a PhD at a university other than the EPFL, and is hosted by the EPFL in exchange. 

This status entails:

  • Funding from a source other than the EPFL, though the salary scale need not necessarily correspond to that of an internal doctoral student.
  • A minimum monthly income equivalent to 2,500 CHF net, required by the Swiss government to issue a work permit.
  • The arrival of these doctoral candidates must, in all cases, be reported to the ENAC’s human resources department (or the relevant school, if not the ENAC).