École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

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Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne
École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
Logo EPFL.svg
Established 1969[1]
Type Public
Budget 803 million CHF[2]
President Patrick Aebischer
Undergraduates 4,891 (2012)[3]
Postgraduates 4,267 (2012)
Location Écublens (near Lausanne), Vaud, Switzerland
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Campus Urban
Nationalities 125+
Affiliations AUF, EUA, Eurotech, CLUSTER, RESCIF and TIME
Website www.epfl.ch
EPFL is located in Switzerland
Location: Lausanne, Switzerland

The École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, English: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) is a research university in Lausanne, Switzerland, that specialises in physical sciences and engineering.[4]

EPFL is regarded as one of the world leading universities, ranking 14th overall and 17th in engineering in the 2015 QS World University Rankings;[5] 31st overall and 12th in engineering in the 2015 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.[6]

EPFL is located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland; the sister institution in the German-speaking part of Switzerland is the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich). Associated with several specialised research institutes, the two universities form the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain (ETH Domain), which is directly dependent on the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research.[7] In connection with research and teaching activities, EPFL operates a nuclear reactor CROCUS,[8] a Tokamak Fusion reactor,[9] a Blue Gene/Q Supercomputer[10] and P3 bio-hazard facilities.


The roots of modern-day EPFL can be traced back to the foundation of a private school under the name École spéciale de Lausanne in 1853 at the initiative of Lois Rivier, a graduate of the École Centrale Paris and John Gay, the then professor and rector of the Académie de Lausanne. At its inception it had only eleven students and the offices was located at Rue du Valentin in Lausanne. In 1869, it became the technical department of the public Académie de Lausanne. When the Académie was reorganised and acquired the status of a university in 1890, the technical faculty changed its name to École d'ingénieurs de l'Université de Lausanne. In 1946, it was renamed the École polytechnique de l'Université de Lausanne (EPUL). In 1969, the EPUL was separated from the rest of the University of Lausanne and became a federal institute under its current name. EPFL, like ETH Zurich, is thus directly controlled by the Swiss federal government. In contrast, all other universities in Switzerland are controlled by their respective cantonal governments. Following the nomination of Patrick Aebischer as president in 2000, EPFL has started to develop into the field of life sciences. It absorbed the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) in 2008.[11]

In 1946, there were 360 students. In 1969, EPFL had 1,400 students and 55 professors. In the past two decades the university has grown rapidly and as of 2012 roughly 14,000 people study or work on campus, about 9,300 of these beings Bachelor, Master or PhD students. As EPFL first became a federal institute under its current name in 1969, with a student body of then less than 1500, the university is included in the Times Higher Education list of top 100 universities under 50 years old. The environment at modern day EPFL is highly international with the school now attracting top students and researchers from all over the world. More than 125 countries are represented on the campus and the university has two official languages, French and English.

Admission and education

Like every public university in Switzerland, EPFL is obliged to grant admission to every Swiss resident who took the maturité high-school certificate recognized by the Swiss Federation. As such, for Swiss students, EPFL is not selective in its undergraduate admission procedures.

The real selection process happens during the first year of study. This period is called the propaedeutic cycle and the students must pass a block examination of all the courses taken during the first year at the end of the cycle. If the weighted average is insufficient, a student is required to retake the entire first year of coursework if they wish to continue their studies at the school. Roughly 50% of students fail the first year of study, and many of them choose to drop out rather than repeat the first year.[12] The failure rate for the propaedeutic cycle differs between fields of study, it is highest for Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering majors where only 30-40% of students pass the first year.

For foreign students, the selection procedure towards the undergraduate program is rather strict, and since most undergraduate courses are taught in French, foreign students must provide documentation of having acquired a level B2 proficiency as measured on the CEF scale, though C1 proficiency is recommended.

As at all universities in Switzerland, the academic year is divided into two semesters. Regular time to reach graduation is six semesters for the Bachelor of Science degree and four additional semesters for the Master of Science degree. Though only 58% of the student's who manage to graduate are able to graduate within this time-period.[12] The possibility to study abroad for one or two semesters is offered during the 3rd year of study under certain conditions as EPFL maintains several long-standing student exchange programs, such as the junior year engineering and science program with Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, as well as a graduate Aeronautics and Aerospace program with the ISAE in France. The final semester is dedicated to writing a thesis.

Entrepreneurship is actively encouraged to foster a start-up culture among the student body as evident by the EPFL-Innovationpark being an integral part of campus. Since 1997, 12 start-ups have been created per year on average by EPFL students and faculty. In the year 2013, a total of 105 million CHF was raised by EPFL start-ups.[13]


University Rankings 2015
Engineering & Technology
Times 12
QS 17
Times 5
QS 5

The three most widely observed international university rankings, QS World University Rankings, Academic Ranking of World Universities and Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranks EPFL No. 2, No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the field of Engineering and Technology on continental Europe in their 2015–2016 rankings. In the rankings EPFL competes with Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London and its sister institution, ETH Zurich, for the European top five spots in Engineering and Technology.

QS World University Ranking 2015 ranks EPFL world No. 14, with world No. 17 in Engineering and world No. 13 in the Natural Sciences subcategories.[14] [15] Academic Ranking of World Universities 2014 ranks EPFL world No. 14 and Europe No. 3 in the Engineering, Technology and Computer Sciences category.[16] THE World University Rankings 2014–2015 ranks EPFL world No. 31 and world No. 12 in the Engineering and Technology subcategory.[17]

EPFL typically scores high on faculty to student ratio, international outlook and scientific impact. The specialised CWTS Leiden Ranking[18] that "aims to provide highly accurate measurements of the scientific impact of universities" ranks EPFL world No. 13 and No. 1 in Europe in the 2013 rankings for all the sciences. Similarly, in the THE World University Rankings 2014-2015, EPFL ranks 15th in the world and 2nd in Europe on the citation index score.

Although EPFL generally rank well on academic measures such as citation index and scientific impact, due to the young age of the school, it tends to rank comparatively low in name-brand surveys, a recent example being the Times 2015 reputation ranking where EPFL was ranked No. 48 in the world.[19] In recent years, multiple EPFL faculty members has been selected as Young Global Leader or as Young Scientist by the World Economic Forum, increasing the visibility of EPFL outside tech-circles.[20]


The MX buildings.
File:Vue aérienne EPFL 07-2009.jpg
Aerial view of the EPFL, which forms a large campus with the University of Lausanne (UNIL) at the shores of Lake Geneva.

The École d'ingénieurs de l'Université de Lausanne, from which EPFL in its modern-day form originates, was located in the center of Lausanne. In 1974, 5 years after EPFL was separated from University of Lausanne and became a federal institute under its current name, the construction of a new campus at Dorigny in Écublens, a suburb south-west of Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva, began. The inauguration of the first EPFL buildings of the new campus took place in 1978.

The EPFL campus has been evolving ever since. The first stage of the development plans, with a total budget of 462 million Swiss francs, was completed in 1984 and in 1990 the second stage was completed. The construction of the northern parts of campus began in 1995 with the construction of the Microtechnology building, completed in 1998, and the architecture building, completed in 2000. In 2002, the department of architecture also moved to the campus in Écublens, uniting all departments of EPFL on the same site. The latest addition to the EPFL campus is the Rolex Learning Center completed February 2010. The Rolex Learning Center includes areas for work, leisure and services and is located at the center of the campus. The EPFL campus is now being expanded with the construction of the Swiss Tech Convention Center to be completed in 2014.

Together with the University of Lausanne, also located in Écublens, the EPFL forms a vast campus, welcoming about 20,000 students, at the shores of Lake Geneva. The campus is served by the Lausanne Metro Line 1 (M1) and is equipped with an electric bicycle sharing system.[21] Since 2012, only electricity from certified hydroelectric generation is being bought by EPFL to power it's campus. EPFL was the first campus to receive the International Sustainable Campus Excellence Award by the International Sustainable Campus Network.[22]

Of the 14,000 people that work and study at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne campus, roughly 9.300 are students in either Bachelor, Master or Doctoral programs, the remaining 4,700 being administrative staff, scientists, technical staff, professors and the entrepreneurs located in the Science Park EPFL7. More than 125 nationalities are present on campus with 48% of the student population being foreign nationals.[23]

Almost all of the structures of the EPFL are located on its main campus. However, it also has branches in Neuchâtel ("Microcity"), in Sion ("Pôle EPFL Valais"),[24] in Geneva (Campus Biotech, including the Wyss Center for Bio- and Neuro-engineering) and in Fribourg ("Smart Living Lab").

The EPFL also has a project of research centre in Ras al-Khaimah (United Arab Emirates), EPFL Middle East.[25]


The campus consists of about 65 buildings on 136 acres (55 ha). Built according to the growth of the school, the campus includes different types of architectures:

  • Late 1970s–1980s: modularised building, used today by the Schools of Basic Sciences and Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering
  • 1990s: buildings with institutes from the Schools of Engineering Sciences and Techniques, Computer and Communication Sciences, and the Scientific Park (PSE)
  • Modern: new buildings (2002–2004) with Microengineering, Communications and Architecture institutes, the School of Life Sciences and the College of Management.
  • The Learning Center, a new library (2010)
  • 2014: The Swiss Tech Convention Center and the "Quartier Nord" (convention center, student accommodation, shops...)

The EPFL and the University of Lausanne also share an active sports centre five minutes away from EPFL, on the shores of Lake Geneva.[26]


Facilities are available on the campus for the students and staff:

  • Libraries: the Learning Center
  • Restaurants: Le Copernic and La Table de Vallotton
  • Cafeterias: La Coupole, Le Corbusier, Le Parmentier, Le Vinci, BMX (Bâtiment des matériaux), BC (Bâtiment des communications), L'Arcadie, Le Hodler, Le Klee, L'Ornithorynque
  • Bar: Satellite
  • Travel agencies: Swiss Federal Railways and STA Travel
  • Banks: Credit Suisse and PostFinance
  • Radio: Fréquence Banane (student radio)
  • Conference centre: the Swiss Tech Convention Center
  • Museums: Musée Bolo and Archizoom
  • Student housing: Quartier Nord (Atrium) and Les Estudiantines.

Satellite campuses

EPFL Lausanne
  • Microcity (in Neuchâtel):[27] "A temple dedicated to innovation" ( Patrick Aebischer)
  • EPFL Fribourg:[28] "The EPFL Fribourg outpost develops its activities in the fields of technology, construction and sustainable architecture. Besides the activities of advanced research, it designs, with the School of Engineering and Architecture HEIA-FR and the University of Fribourg, the Smart Living Lab, a new interuniversity pole of competence. Its location at the heart of the blueFACTORY innovation park will allow it to exploit the development potential of public-private partnerships offered by this opportunity and will contribute to the future National Innovation Park." (EPFL website)
  • EPFL also has satellite facilities in Sion, Geneva, and Basel.[29]

Students and traditions

Student body

The number of students attending studying at EPFL has been rising heavily since EPFL was formed in 1969 under its current name. In 1969 EPFL had roughly 1400 students, that number had grown to 2367 by 1982, 4302 by 1997 and now 9921 students in 2014. Within the student body, 112 different nationalities are represented. In the period from 1982 to 2014 the female proportion of the student body has increased from 12% to 27%. The proportion of female students is lowest at the School of Computer Science and Communication, 15%, and highest at the School of Life Sciences, 49%.[1]


The Festival Balélec is a music festival organised annually at the EPFL campus.

The school encourages the formation of associations and sports activities on campus. As of 2012 more than 79 associations exist on campus for recreational and social purposes. In addition, the school has its own monthly newspaper, Flash. Included in the 79 associations are

  • AGEPoly is the Student's Association of the EPFL. The purpose of AGEPoly is to represent the EPFL's students, defend the general interests of the students and inform and consult its members on decisions of the EPFL Direction that concern them.[30]
  • The Forum is an EPFL student association responsible for organisation of the Forum EPFL. The Forum was founded in 1982 as a platform for exchange and meeting between the academic and professional communities. Today, the Forum EPFL is one of the largest recrouting events in Europe.[31]
  • UNIPOLY is the EPFL Association for Sustainable Development, the Association works to create awareness of sustainable developmenent on campus and in western Switzerland. UNIPOLY is part of the World Student Community for Sustainable Development, an international network of student organisations for sustainable development consisting of EPFL, ETH Zurich, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Tokyo, University of Fort Hare, University of Nairobi, Chalmers, and University of Yaounde.[32]

Music festivals

Several music festivals are held yearly at EPFL. The most important one is the Balélec Festival, organised in May. The festival wellcomes 15,000 visitors to around 30 concerts. Other smaller festivals include Sysmic organised in November by the students of the Department of Microengineering, hosting two stages for local and national bands, and Artiphys, organised by the students of the Physics Department.

Archimedean Oath

The EPFL was the birthplace of the Archimedean Oath, proposed by students in 1990.[33] The Archimedean Oath has since spread to a number of European engineering schools.

The Archimedean Oath is an ethical code of practice for engineers and technicians, similar to the Hippocratic Oath used in the medical world:

"I commit to keeping completely, to the full extent of my capacities and judgment, the following promises:

I shall use my knowledge for the benefit of mankind. I shall not put my skill to the service of people who do not respect Human Rights I shall not permit consideration regarding religion, nationality, race, sex, wealth and politics to harm people affected by my actions. I shall bear the entire responsibility for my actions and shall in no way discharge them on another. I shall practice in respect for the environment. I shall not use my knowledge for destructive purposes. I shall practice my profession in complete intellectual honesty, with conscience and dignity. I solemnly take this oath, freely and on my honour."

Scientific partners

Alinghi SUI100 during a training session in Valencia.
  • EPFL is the official scientific advisor of Alinghi, twice winners of the America's cup 2003 and 2007.
  • Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range solar powered aircraft project developed at EPFL, the project is currently achieving the first circumnavigation of the world using only solar power.
  • The Hydroptère, is an experimental sailing hydrofoil that in 2009 broke the world speed sailing record, sustaining a speed of 52.86 knots (97.90 km/h; 60.83 mph) for 500m in 30 knots of wind[34]
  • EPFL contributed to the construction of SwissCube-1.[35] It is the first satellite entirely built in Switzerland. It was put into orbit on 23 September 2009 by the Indian launcher PSLV.
  • To better understand the relationship between nutrition and the brain, EPFL and the Nestlé research center has signed a five-year agreement providing 5 million CHF each year for the creation of two new chairs at the EPFL Brain Mind Institute.
  • Logitech and EPFL has announced the creation of the EPFL Logitech Incubator that will provide financial, educational and operational support in entrepreneurship to researchers and students.
  • Breitling Orbiter became the first balloon to circumnavigate the earth non-stop in March 1999. The balloon was piloted by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones.
  • The Human Brain Project is the successor of the EPFL Blue Brain Project. The project is directed by EPFL and involves 86 institutions across Europe. The total cost is estimated at 1.190 billion euros.[36]


The Tokamak (TCV): inner view, with the graphite-clad torus. Courtesy of CRPP-EPFL, Association Suisse-Euratom
Outside view of the Tokamak at the EPFL.
Henry Markram,the coordinator of the Human Brain Project.
CROCUS, the only nuclear reactor of the French-speaking part of Switzerland

EPFL is organised into seven schools, themselves formed of institutes that group research units (laboratories or chairs) around common themes. The seven schools at EPFL:

In addition to the seven schools there are seven closely related institutions

Notable affiliates

Astronaut Claude Nicollier, mission specialist representing the European Space Agency


Doctorates honoris causa

The EPFL has awarded a doctorate honoris causa to several people:





Buildings and campus

Projects and partnerships

Partner universities

The EPFL has 179 partner universities around the globe.[37]







Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Facts & figures - EPFL". 28 May 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "EPFL Annual Report 2012" (PDF). EPFL. Retrieved 4 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "EPFL en ciffres" (PDF). EPFL. Retrieved 4 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)". http://www.studyinginswitzerland.ch. External link in |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "QS World University Rankings 2015". Top Universities. Retrieved 15 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Times Higher Education https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/2015/subject-ranking/engineering-and-IT#!/page/0/length/25. Retrieved 2 October 2015. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL". http://academicpositions.eu. External link in |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Crocus – Forschungsreaktor der Eidgenössischen Technischen Hochschule Lausanne (EPFL)". http://www.energienucleaire.ch. External link in |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Shaping the Future of Fusion". https://www.efda.org. 27 May 2013. External link in |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "IBM BlueGene supercomputer". http://www.neuronano.net. External link in |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "About École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne". http://www.flammaedu.com. External link in |journal= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Failure statistics - SAE". 26 July 2013. Retrieved 19 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. http://information.epfl.ch/files/content/sites/accueil/files/chiffres/2012/EPFL%20in%20figures13-en.pdf
  14. "QS University World University Rankings 2015". Retrieved 15 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "University Rankings in 2013". Retrieved 14 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Academic Ranking of World Universities 2015". Retrieved 15 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Times Higher Education Ranking". Retrieved 3 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Leiden ranking". Retrieved 4 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "World Reputation Rankings 2015". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 19 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Young Global Leaders: the class of 2015". Retrieved 19 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Campus roule, www.publibike.ch (page visited on 15 May 2013).
  22. "Quarante ans de campus durable". http://actualites.epfl.ch. External link in |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "présentation epfl". www.epfl.ch.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. EPFL Valais (page visited on 23 August 2013).
  25. About EPFL Middle East , www.epfl.ae (page visited on 9 May 2013).
  26. Service des sports UNIL-EPFL, sport.unil.ch (page visited on 10 May 2013).
  27. "Microcity". 30 June 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Fribourg - EPFL". 8 July 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "Maps & directions - EPFL". 29 April 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "AGEPoly at EPFL".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "Forum at EPFL".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "UNIPoly at EPFL".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Serment d'Archimèdes
  34. "EPFL-Hydroptère".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. "SwissCube Website".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. "Human brain project". Retrieved 5 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. – partner institutions

See also

External links