Questions & Answers

Answered by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schirmacher, Program Director of the Media and Communication Division

What kind of school is the European Graduate School (EGS)?

The European Graduate School (EGS) is a new concept in university-level education. The purpose of the European Graduate School (EGS) is to provide a superior education for students who are otherwise consumed with the demands of a career — allowing the simultaneous expansion of useful professional knowledge and satisfaction of intellectual pursuits. The special flair of the European Graduate School (EGS) derives from our blend of the best features of American and European educational systems. The intensive seminars are especially well-suited to adult students regardless of where they live. The European Graduate School (EGS) is accredited by permission of the Swiss republic (canton) of Wallis to grant recognized M.A. in Media and Communication and Ph.D. in Media and Communication degrees.

What are the language requirements for graduate studies at the European Graduate School (EGS)?

The campus of the European Graduate School (EGS) is located in Saas-Fee, canton Wallis, which is the German speaking part of Switzerland. But the school conducts its classes and administration in English based on our belief that English is the common language of our time.

How is your program different from recognized American programs?

In terms of required credits and other formal prerequisites, our program follows the American system but augments it with a European content with regard to curriculum, teaching, and advising. Our program is distinguished by the interaction of professors with our graduate and post-graduate students as colleagues. This gives students the opportunity to work closely with internationally-renowned faculty members. Studying with the visionaries in the media world is the mark of excellence of our program.

What is the focus of this program?

We acknowledge that media and communication is too vast a field to cover with a program offering a high degree of specialization, so the European Graduate School (EGS) program explores the subject through its focus of philosophy as applied to media and communication. Philosophy, in its genuine sense as a bold and creative questioning of the world, guides our approach. The postmodern philosopher Jean-François Lyotard was an inspiring mentor for our program until his death in 1998. And eminent French philosophers such as Jean Baudrillard and Jacques Derrida have been faculty members in their life time. We consider cultural studies, literary theory, anthropology, sociology, psychology, aesthetics, experimental architecture part of the philosophical inquiry. Our faculty is composed of filmmakers, academics, artists and media professionals who fuse genres and are rightfully considered the philosophers in their field. Theory and practice are equally important to us.

What kind of students do you recruit for the Master's Program?

Needless to say, we are looking for excellence, but perhaps more importantly we are looking for something unique in the people studying in this program. It helps if you are considered provocative and are disenchanted with an academic system more concerned with the past than the future. With us, there are no "wrong" questions, 'loners' are appreciated and 'surfers' encouraged. But you should have a keen sense of humor and be able to laugh about yourself. For the M.A. in Communication program, having no prior knowledge of philosophy is not an obstacle. In short, students should believe fiercely in thinking for themselves and be self-directed in their investigation of a reality not yet understood. By the same token, students must be open-minded to considering and, at times, accepting other understandings of the subject matter.

What is the students' profile for the Ph.D. program?

At the least, students in the Ph.D. in Communication program should have enjoyed a few of the books, art works, and movies for which our faculty members are famous. A genuine passion for elaborating and pursuing ideas in thought-provoking seminars is essential. Studying with our professors keeps you on the edge and allows for a fresh way of seeing the world. We are looking for exceptionally talented and energetic persons who have distinguished themselves as highly-motivated and independent thinkers with a strong interest in media productions and a complex understanding of contemporary culture. You should be qualified to complete a post-graduate program with distinction and have the intelligence, originality, and dedication to produce outstanding work. Extraordinary ability demonstrated as filmmaker, artist, writer, web designer, media producer, curator, theater director, actor, or in related areas will not fail to impress us. ABDs from American and Canadian universities and current faculty seeking a terminal (or second) degree are especially welcome and will find a supportive and collaborative environment beyond their expectations.

What importance do you place on test results or letters of recommendation?

With the possible exception of TOEFL for international students, test results are not crucial to our admission decision but may be submitted with the application letter. As a matter of principle, we don't rely on letters of recommendation since we want to hear from you who you are, not from others. Therefore, it is your answer to question 8 of the questionnaire that will make a difference. Still, do not write essays, just write as if you were talking to me.

What is the time frame for completion of the program?

The standard time for completion of the M.A. degree is three years, and students are expected to complete the Ph.D. program in four years.

What kind of financial aid does the European Graduate School (EGS) offer?

Unlike American universities, we are not prepared to offer financial aid packages at this time, but compared with American programs our tuition is competitive. And if you think education is expensive, try ignorance! There are a limited number of scholarships available that will help with, but not cover, tuition or living expenses in Switzerland.

Can I use student loans for the European Graduate School (EGS)?

Whether or not you are eligible for student loans depends on your country of origin. For US students (including permanent residents) it will be possible to obtain federal student loans that cover the entire costs of attendance. The US Department of Education school code will enable European Graduate School (EGS) students to apply for private and government loans (GRE School code 2161, FAFSA Title IV code G35183).

The code will also permit students with outstanding loans to defer payment while studying at European Graduate School (EGS). To research and compare available student loans, and to apply online visit http://www.eStudentLoan.com. Non-US students should check with the education department in their home country for more information. All European Graduate School (EGS) students are qualified to apply for privately-sponsored graduate level scholarships. Several online scholarship databases make finding appropriate awards easy. Check out http://www.absolutelyscholarships.com and http://www.fastweb.com for more information.

What kind of class structure can I expect?

Class size will usually be limited to 20 students — for each class in the Ph.D. or M.A. program. You need to be prepared, mentally and physically, for a rigor you have not encountered before since intensive seminars of 8 – 10 hours every day will test your endurance as well as your intellectual abilities.

How can I prepare before classes start in summer?

You will have extensive home work before and after your Saas-Fee sessions. A syllabus with a reading list and other assignment will be distributed.

Can I study with a professor who is not teaching in the specific M.A. / Ph.D. session in which I am enrolled?

Depending on availability, the freedom our programs provide would allow students to switch between first- and second-year classes if they are especially interested in studying with a particular professor.

What happens if I fail a class?

If a case arises where a professor is concerned about a student not passing his/her class, the program director will be informed and will work toward a positive solution. Should it occur that a student discovers she/he is unsuited for the program, it is still possible to transfer graduate credits to another university after the first summer residency.

Are different kind of Master theses possible, and how do I choose a concentration?

Emphatically yes! You are discouraged from writing a traditional thesis; whatever form it takes it should express your own view. The formal requirements are flexible: with the approval of your advisor you may choose a scholarly research paper, a creative project such as a film, a performance piece, a fiction story, a film script, or any fieldwork project related to your line of work. Still, a theoretical essay has to be an integral part of your thesis. All students are encouraged to develop a concentration of their own utilizing the eclectic research expertise of our professors (such as film, film theory, documentary, media philosophy, video installation, audiovisual history, art and film, cultural studies, visual anthropology, art in the age of media, web design, music and new media, and many others).

What are the requirements for a doctoral dissertation?

A doctoral project must have a philosophical essay at its core, with a strong thesis that qualifies as pioneering work. The appearance should be close to German academic style, with detailed table of contents, quotes, footnotes, bibliography — consult our Ph.D. Research Library and Database for approved European Graduate School (EGS) dissertations. The minimum length are 150 pages but if you add one of your creative works as addendum an essay of 100 pages is acceptable.

How are the thesis/ doctoral advisors assigned?

The program director of your group is the default advisor for your Master thesis. Regarding dissertations, any core faculty member can serve as doctoral advisor, subject to availability — please consult for the procedure the admissions office. In addition, the program director is obliged to act as advisor for all students who have successfully completed required course work.

What kind of benefits do you see in this program compared to others, and what can I really do with this degree?

Without intending to brag, there is no place in the world where you can study with faculty members of such caliber, since no traditional program can afford these luminaries all at the same time. The close contact with personalities who have changed profoundly how we view life is unprecedented, and the intensive format generates a creative energy no semester-long study period can match. So if you are not extremely excited by the prospect of joining this program which does not feel like school at all, you'd better not apply.

In practical terms, the Master in Communication degree is increasingly preferred to just a B.A. by employers in the communication business and, in addition, allows you to teach in the media field at the college level whatever your specialization: from photography to film and new media.

The Ph.D. in Communication (with or without a chosen concentration) is your 'union card' for the university, a terminal degree that facilitates a career change whenever needed and opens the path to university-level teaching even late in life. As recognized European degrees, our M.A. and Ph.D. are considered desirable by American and other international universities and may give you a competitive edge. It is the experience of our graduates that hiring committees are genuinely impressed when they see with whom you actually studied at European Graduate School (EGS). Our Ph.D. graduates (60 until 2008) and even ABD's have been hired by American, Canadian, Mexican, European, Australian and Asian universities. Still, to my mind, nothing of this is really important. You will benefit from this program by growing as a creative person beyond your imagination (the only thing I'll guarantee, and the only "safety net" of any value).

How can I contact current students to ask them about their experience at European Graduate School (EGS)?

If you are interested in an M.A. degree, please feel free to ask: Rebecca rebecca.klobucher(at)egs.edu, artist & designer, Saugatack (Michigan); Amberamber.scoon(at)egs.edu, artist, Corpus Christi (Texas), Micah micah.white(at)egs.edu, activist, & philosopher, Binghamton, New York; Elizabeth ealbrycht(at)gmail.com, communication consultant, Bennington (Vermont) and Versailles (France); David david(at)exbrook.com, communication designer & visiting university lecturer, design director of EXBROOK San Francisco.; and Staley adam.groves(at)egs.edu, instructor, musician, artist, Iowa.

For Ph.D. student testimonials, please contact: Jeremy jeremy.fernando(at)egs.edu, writer and professor in Singapore; Nicola nicola.allain(at)egs.edu, performance artist & director, Online Education and Curriculum Development, Empire State College, New York; Lila lpine(at)ryerson.ca, artist & associate professor of New Media, Ryerson University, Canada; Dan daniel.hughes(at)egs.edu, writer & instructor, Austin, Texas¸ Brian willemscz(at)yahoo.com, fiction writer & assistant professor Split University (Croatia); and Peter pprice(at)speakeasy.net, composer & instructor, Philadelphia.

Last but not least, ask recent doctoral graduates: Tony profsee(at)gmail.com, philosopher & assistant professor of communication, Shanghai; Sigrid sigridhackenberg1918(at)mac.com, artist & university lecturer, New York; Michael michaelanker(at)gmail.com, philosopher & professor, College of New Rochelle; Marji mvecchio(at)unr.edu, director, Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery, artist & assistant professor of art, University of Nevada at Reno; Bruce bbarber(at)nscad.ns.ca, filmmaker & artist, & professor of Humanities, NSCAD University; Elena elena.bertozzi(at)liu.edu, game designer & associate professor, C.W. Post Campus, Long Island University; and Chris chrisdrohan(at)hotmail.com, philosophy instructor & writer in Canada.

Have you any words of advice?

It is advisable to take advantage of an informal feedback option offered by the program director. Just e-mail the completed application form to the European Graduate School (EGS) Application Questionnaire to the Office of Admissions  admissions(at)egs.edu and you will receive an honest reply: Yes, no, or maybe. This unbureaucratic feature allows you to proceed later in your formal application with confidence and also saves you time and money. Be outspoken but also give us reasons to like you — friendship among equals is the spirit of our program.

(Please remember, that this is only an informal feedback option. You must still send the final version of the application form, scanned copies of your certificates and transcripts to the Office of Admissions admissions(at)egs.edu via email and via postal service to Switzerland, before your application can be processed and approved. Incomplete applications will not be considered.)

Good luck with your application!

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schirmacher