The academic year started with 25% of courses ‘in presence’ (course live-streamed and recorded via Zoom, 1/3 of students in class and 2/3 of students watching the course on Zoom). All courses switched to 100% online on October 26, 2020, as per decree by local government.
The Master’s in Financial Engineering (MFE) at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is one of a few courses in this year’s Quant Guide that have seen intake sizes increase, rather than shrink, amid the coronavirus pandemic. It is also one of the top-ranked European programmes featured in this year’s guide, ranking 19 . EPFL’s master’s – led by new course director, and current chair of the European Finance Association, Rüdiger Fahlenbrach – reports a cohort of 59 students for its most recent iteration, up from 32 in the last guide. The course received a slightly higher number of applications, too, at 200, and extended more offers. Structurally, the MFE requires students to tackle a series of foundational, advanced and optional courses. They also conduct a short project and complete a six-month industry internship. Course director Fahlenbrach says that a new module – Financial Applications of Blockchains and Distributed Ledgers – has been added over the past year, covering topics such as decentralised cryptos, Byzantine fault tolerances, bitcoin platform mechanics and smart contracts. It’s proven popular with students, he adds, along with a perennial favourite, a machine learning module taught by EPFL’s department of computer science. Fahlenbrach says that, fortunately, his programme was spared the internship-related travails experienced by some other institutions represented in this year’s Quant Guide. “All students found internships, although several had a mostly remote experience in the spring. Placement was, surprisingly, not much affected,” he tells . “Our students write a master’s thesis concurrently with the six-month internship, and traditionally many students receive permanent job offers afterwards.” The MFE reports an employment rate of 90.6% among its graduates this year, albeit with 25% of data unavailable. Salaries have also increased, up to a highly competitive average base rate of $104,000.