The Lausanne-based university once again led the list of 200 institutions under 50 years old in the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) ranking.
It first took the top spot in 2015 after displacing South Korea’s Postech, which is this year ranked fourth.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology took second this year, with Nanyang Technological University in Singapore in third.
After EPFL — Switzerland's only representative in the list — the second highest European institution was Maastricht University in the Netherlands in sixth.
Overall the UK is the most represented nation in the ranking with 27 universities, closely followed by Australia with 23. France, Spain, Germany and Italy come next with 16, 15, 11 and 10 institutions respectively.
“It is no easy task to appear in the 2017 Young University Rankings, which use the same 13 rigorous and demanding performance indicators as the overall World University Rankings,” said THE editor Phil Baty.
“Institutions must demonstrate high standards of performance across teaching, research, international outlook and knowledge transfer.”
In a statement to The Local, Baty pointed out that EPFL had improved its overall score since last year “thanks to higher scores for its teaching environment, research influence (citations) and industry income.”
“Switzerland has the highest level of expenditure per university student among OECD countries, reaching more than $25,264, and it spends around 3.1 per cent of its GDP on research and development,” he said.
“Meanwhile, unlike other Swiss universities, with the exception of ETH Zurich [EPFL's sister technology institute], EPFL is directly controlled by the federal government, meaning that the university receives greater amounts of funding.”
“The summit of the ranking features several young Asian universities that are rapidly improving so it is a great achievement that Switzerland’s EPFL has retained the top spot.”
However, he added, since EPFL is nearing its 50th birthday, in a few years time Switzerland may have no representatives on the list.
Now in its sixth year, the THE ranking aims to champion the achievements of young institutions that have made a big impact on the world stage “in years rather than centuries,” according to its authors.
Although founded in its current form in 1968, EPFL's origins as a centre of learning actually date back far further, to 1853.
It was already a respected school under the name Ecole polytechnique universitaire de Lausanne (EPUL) when in the 1960s the authorities in French-speaking Switzerland decided to develop EPUL to rival ETH Zurich in the German-speaking region of the country.
Speaking to The Local last year, EPFL spokesman Lionel Pousaz said the 1968 shake-up “was much more than a simple change of name and owner. The school's missions were redefined, its location changed to a new campus, its ambition set to a much higher aim.”
“From EPUL to EPFL there is a clear continuity, but from another point of view one can't deny that today's EPFL really began in 1968.
“I am afraid we will have to live forever with a double birth certificate!”
The THE top 200 young university rankings 2017 – top ten
1. EPFL, Switzerland
2. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
3. Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
4. Pohang University of Science and Technology
5. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea
6. Maastricht University, the Netherlands
7. City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
8. Ulm University, Germany
9. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
9. Scuola Superiore Sant’Ana, Italy