EPFL: Switzerland’s Second Best University

EPFL: Switzerland’s Second Best University

Located in Switzerland, the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan science and technology institutions in Europe, welcoming students, teachers and employees from more than 120 nationalities. It is in the Frenchspeaking part of the country and has a “sister institution” in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), of which we have already spoken here. These are the two main Swiss universities and always appear in the main world rankings in the list of the ten most important in Europe.

Dorigny University Campus


EPFL’s main campus is at the Dorigny University Campus (also known as Lausanne Campus), a large area in Switzerland that houses several different educational institutions, such as the University of Lausanne (UNIL), in addition to EPFL itself. As its name says, this campus is located in the city of Dorigny, west of Lausanne and right on the shores of Lake Geneva. Adding the population of all the institutions present, about 31 thousand people study or work there and have the services of line 1 of the Lausanne metro, in addition to a bicycle sharing system.

In addition to this main campus, EPFL also has other satellite campuses in Neuchâtel, Friborg, Sion, Basel and Geneva.

Rolex Learning Center EPFL central library


The roots of the modern EPFL go back to the foundation of the École spéciale de Lausanne in 1853. In the beginning, it had only 11 students and a single building in Lausanne. In 1869, this school became the technical department of the Académie de Lausanne, which in turn acquired university status in 1890. At that time, the former technical department was renamed École d’ingénieurs de l’Université de Lausanne and, years later (in 1949), it changed its name again, becoming the École polytechnique de l’Université de Lausanne (EPUL).

In 1969, EPUL was separated from the Université de Lausanne and became a federal institute directly controlled by the Swiss government, becoming known by its current name. Today, EPFL and ETH Zurich are the only educational institutions in the country directly controlled by the Swiss federal government. All others are controlled by the respective cantonal governments (equivalent to state governments here in Brazil).

In the early 2000s, EPFL, which until then was focused on Engineering and Technology, began to develop in the field of life sciences, absorbing the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) in 2008.

Over the years, the number of students at the institution has increased exponentially. In 1946, there were 360 ​​students. In 1969, there were 1400 students and 55 teachers. In the past two decades, the university has grown rapidly and, in 2012, approximately 14,000 people were studying or working on campus. Of these, 9300 were undergraduate, master’s or doctoral students. In 2019, the date of the last survey, the institution had 11449 students.

Internal organization

EPFL is organized into eight schools (one outside Switzerland), which in turn is divided into several research institutes and units. Check out:

  • School of Basic Sciences (SB)
  • Engineering School (STI)
  • School of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering (ENAC)
  • School of Computing and Communication Sciences (IC)
  • School of Life Science (SV)
  • Faculty of Technology Management (CDM)
  • Faculty of Humanities (CDH)
  • EPFL Middle East (EME), located in Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates

In addition to these eight schools, there are still seven institutions closely related to the EPFL:

  • Swiss Oncology Center
  • Biomedical Image Center (CIBM)
  • Advanced Modeling Science Center (CADMOS)
  • École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL)
  • Biotech Campus (an institution that hosts research institutes and biotechnology companies)
  • Wyss Center (a research foundation in Bioengineering and Neuroengineering)
  • Swiss National Supercomputing Center


The institute has undergraduate, master’s and doctoral courses. Undergraduate courses are exclusively taught in French. In the master’s and doctorate, there are several programs available in English. Check out:

  • Graduation: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Communication Systems, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Microengineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Life Sciences Engineering, Architecture, Civil Engineering, Engineering and Science Environment.
  • Master: Architecture, Civil Engineering, Engineering and Environmental Sciences, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Microengineering, Robotics, Materials Engineering and Sciences, Energy Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Communication Systems, Data Science, Physics, Mathematics, Engineering Nuclear, Applied Physics, Computational Engineering and Science, Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, Applied Mathematics, Computer Science and Molecular and Biological Chemistry.
  • Doctorate: Advanced Manufacturing, Architecture and City Sciences, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Computational and Quantitative Biology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Energy, Digital Humanities, Mathematics, Finance, Computer and Communication Sciences, Mechanics, Microsystems and Microelectronics, Molecular Life Sciences, Neuroscience, Technology Management, Materials Science and Engineering, Physics, Photonics and Robotics, Control and Intelligent Systems.


  • Considering only its current nomenclature, EPFL is only 51 years old, being one of the youngest institutes of technology in the world;
  • More than 120 nationalities place EPFL in the TOP 3 of the most international university campuses in the world;
  • It has more than 370 laboratories;
  • It has about 340 internationally recognized teachers (40% of them hired in 2019);
  • 8% of EPFL teachers are part of the group of the most cited in the world in studies and research;
  • In 2019, about 30% of the university’s students were women and 57% were foreigners;
  • It is the 14th best university in the world according to the QS World University Rankings 2021, just behind Nanyang Technological University in Singapore; and above Tsinghua University in China;
  • In that same ranking, it ranks as the sixth best university in Europe, behind only Oxford, ETH Zurich, Cambridge, Imperial College London and UCL;
  • The university produced more than 4,400 academic publications in 2019, generating an average of one publication per professor each month;
  • 23 startups were created in 2019 (almost two per month). In total, there have been almost 300 since the early 2000s;
  • It has an annual budget of approximately 1 billion Swiss francs.
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