The École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is a research institute and university in Lausanne, Switzerland, specializing in the natural sciences and engineering.
Its roots can be traced back to the foundation of a private school in 1853, which to start with only had 11 students. Those days are long gone though, with the modern day EPFL one of two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology and student numbers in Lausanne now totaling over 10,000.
Located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, EPFL is twinned with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich). As part of its research and teaching activities, EPFL is one of the only universities to run a nuclear reactor, a fusion reactor, a Gene/Q Supercomputer, and have P3 bio-hazard facilities.
EPFL has a very singular admissions process, which, for would-be undergraduates who are Swiss nationals, is not selective at all. At the end of freshman year, however, a block exam determines whether students can continue or have to repeat the year, with many home students dropping out entirely at this point.
The EPFL campus lies on the shores of Lake Geneva and consists of 65 buildings across 136 acres. Facilities include banks, bars, two museums – the Musee Bolo and Archizoom – as well as bars, restaurants and cafeterias.
There are students of 112 different nationalities here, though as of 2014 women made up only 27 percent of the student body. Life on campus is vibrant, with many student-formed clubs and associations providing social and recreational opportunities.
A wide range of sports and leisure facilities keep students physically active while studying. EPFL also has an active student media, publishing the monthly newspaper Flash and there are daily broadcasts on the student radio station.
Another priority on campus is the arts, with the university holding several annual music festivals each year. The largest is Balélec Festival, where 15,000 visitors descend upon the university to watch 30 concerts on two outdoor and four indoor stages.