Eligibility criteria

  • Eligibility criteria are detailed in the Regulations below. Applicants should verify their diploma and institution against the list of UNIGE recognized programmes and universities.

    Applicants holding a different degree are still encouraged to apply for this doctorate. They will need to prove that they have had training in experimental research for at least an entire semester (6 months), validated by a written report graded by their academic institution or by peer-reviewed publications. The equivalence of their degree will be evaluated by an equivalence committee composed of members of the School. The final decision rests with the Dean’s Office of the Faculty applied to.

     Regulations Art. 5.1. i) Applicants eligible for admission to the doctorate in life sciences are holders of a Master’s degree or a degree judged equivalent from an institution of higher education in Switzerland or abroad that is recognized in the field of the specialization applied for, and whose training included an internship in experimental research a) validated by a written report graded by the concerned academic institution, and b) with a duration of an entire semester. 

     Art. 5.3. Students holding a different degree than those indicated in Article 5.1.i above may apply for this doctorate. To that end, they must submit an equivalency request for their degree. This request will be examined as stipulated in the conditions set down in Article 5.4 below. 

     Art. 5.4. The Dean’s Office of the Faculty to which the applicant is applying shall decide on the equivalence of the degrees based on the recommendation of the director of the doctoral program concerned. The directors of the doctoral programs assess the equivalency requests for degrees partly on the basis of the connection between the scientific field of the prior training of the student and his or her thesis project, and partly on the basis of the student’s aptitudes for research developed during the final project for a Master’s degree or an equivalent degree with an experimental research internship at least a full semester in length, validated by a written report and graded by an academic institution. 

  • Yes, you may apply if you expect to obtain your degree within 6 months of the application deadline. For the application, please upload any transcripts of grades you have already obtained in your Master’s degree course, and give the expected graduation date. Note that you can only complete the enrolment procedure once you have shown your Master’s degree diploma to the Admissions Office.

  • You should have at least a B1 competency level of English (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). At the online application stage, it is not necessary to provide a proof of English (e.g. IELTS or TOEFL), but if you have done such a test, please do mention the test results in your CV. Applicants whose level of English is deemed insufficient may be required to attend English classes during their PhD.

  • No, you do not need to learn French to enter or complete the program.

  • No, there is no age limit.

  • No, there are no restrictions. The program will help you with visa requirements for on-site interviews.

Application procedure, general

Application procedure, open call

  • There are two open calls per year. Call deadlines are April 15th and November 15th.

    Check whether you meet the eligibility criteria. Browse the six Doctoral Programs (Molecular Biosciences, Ecology and Evolution, Genomics and Digital Health, Physics of Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences) and the Research Groups therein to identify the program(s) that best suit your interests. You may apply to two programs at most.

    To submit your application, please follow the instructions of the application interface.

  • The number of open positions varies between calls and is known only at the closing deadline. Selected applicants receive a list of recruiting PIs along with their invitation to interview.

  • No, you do not need to/should not contact PIs directly. You will receive a list of recruiting PIs along with the invitation for the zoom pre-selection (see below).

  • You will need a CV in PDF format and transcripts of your courses and grades in JPG format, and the email addresses of at least two referees. If your transcripts are protected PDFs that cannot be converted to JPG, you may take a screenshot of your transcript and save it as JPG. If you have not yet obtained your Master diploma, please upload any transcripts of grades of courses already completed.

    You do not need to provide a certificate of English from an English language test (i.e. TOEIC, IELTS, TOEFL) in your online application. If you have test results, please indicate them in your CV.

  • If your transcripts and diplomas are not in English (or French), please provide an English translation. You may translate your documents yourself and do not need to provide a certified translation at this stage.

  • No. You can only delete your application, e.g. if you no longer want it to remain among the applicant pool after the call.

  • If you have been longlisted for pre-selection, you will be informed by email approximately 2-3 weeks after the call closes. If your application has been rejected, you will see this in the application interface.

  • Online applications are reviewed by a selection committee composed of recruiting PIs from all programs. Two to three weeks after the call deadline, candidates whose application has been retained are invited to the Zoom pre-selection. About 10 to 15 % of applicants are usually longlisted at this stage.

    Zoom pre-selections are generally held early in January for the Winter call, and mid-May for the Summer call. Pre-selected candidates receive a list of recruiting PIs and a link to pre-recorded video presentations from each recruiting research group.

    On days 1 and 2, candidates give a virtual 10-minute scientific presentation followed by a 5-minute question and answer session. An advisory committee composed of non-recruiting members of the PhD School evaluates the different candidates and decides on their eligibility to the PhD School.

    On days 3 and 4, candidates have virtual one-on-one interviews with recruiting PIs. Candidates are encouraged to interview with as many PIs as they wish. PIs may decline interviews.

    At the end of the Zoom pre-selection week, candidates are asked to give a preliminary list of the research groups they like, and recruiting PIs are asked to rank the candidates. The selection committee takes these preferences into consideration to shortlist candidates for on-site interviews. Candidates are notified by email at the end of the pre-selection week whether they are invited for on-site interviews. Usually, the number of shortlisted candidates corresponds to 1.5× the number of open positions.

    Interview Days are generally held in Geneva from Monday to Wednesday in weeks 5 or 6 for the Winter Call and in weeks 26 or 27 for the Summer Call. Candidates can visit the research groups they are interested in and interact with host students. At the end of the Interview Days, candidates are asked to provide a list of labs they would like to join. PIs can then make offers to candidates. The candidate’s preference determines the final match. Only those candidates who have received an offer from a PI are officially accepted by the PhD School.

  • The School organises shared accommodation for all candidates. You will have to make your own travel arrangements, but you will be reimbursed for all or part of your expenses (to a set limit).

  • Candidates who did not receive an offer are not accepted by the PhD School. They are free to contact other PIs of the PhD School to see whether there are any upcoming open positions. In this case, PIs must organise an ad hoc interview with the candidate (see ad hoc procedure).

  • Yes, you may resubmit your application. However, from our experience it is unlikely that PIs will select a candidate whose CV has not changed between applications. We encourage you to resubmit only if you have significantly expanded your research experience. Alternatively, you may apply through the ad hoc route and directly contact PIs.

Application procedure, ad hoc interview

PhD studies, Tuition fees, Living and working in Switzerland

  • PhD students can start year-round; there is no prescribed start time. If you have applied through an open call: candidates from the Summer call usually start in September (Autumn semester) and candidates from the Winter call usually start in April/May (Spring semester).

  •  Regulations Art. 9: The length of studies may not exceed 10 semesters unless an extension is granted by the Dean's Office of the doctoral student’s host Faculty on recommendation of the TAC and the director of the doctoral program concerned. The directors of the doctoral programs shall agree on criteria for the assessment of requests for extensions. 

    On average, a PhD lasts four to five years. You may defend as early as the end of year three. In exceptional cases, an extension beyond year five can be granted.

  •  Regulations, Art. 3.3 - The research project is accompanied by complementary theoretical and/or practical training, called the “doctoral training”, associated with the different specializations. This training corresponds to a total of 20 ECTS credits, regardless of the specialization. The credits obtained during the doctoral training must be earned no later than the end of the 3rd year of studies, and in all cases prior to the thesis defense, on pain of elimination. 

    PhD students are required to follow core training in their ‘home’ program and are free to follow a variety of courses of their choice. For details, please visit the Courses page of the PhD School.

  •  Regulations, Art. 7.1. To earn the doctorate, an oral exam is required in addition to earning the course credits required for the doctoral training concerned and, if applicable, credits for other courses, seminars, and advanced training set forth in Article 3 (co-requisites), the thesis project, and its oral defense. 

     Art. 7.2. The oral examination must take place at the end of the first year. If the doctoral student has not taken the exam after 15 months, he or she is eliminated from the doctoral program. 

     Art. 7.3. The oral examination covers general disciplinary knowledge, the progress made by the doctoral student on research projects, and the thesis project. 

    All doctoral candidates must confirm their eligibility at the end of the first year, during the Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) exam. This ensures that you are on track to complete your PhD successfully, or if not, to organise adequate support to get you on track.

  • Yes, as a PhD student in the program, you are fully funded by your host laboratory. You will have a work contract with the University of Geneva and will receive a monthly salary for the entire duration of your PhD. Your income will be sufficient to cover living expenses (accommodation, food, transport, health insurance, etc.). The PhD School encourages PIs to follow the recommended minimal salary guidelines of the Swiss National Science Foundation. If a student brings their own fellowship (e.g. Swiss Government Excellence Fellowship), thesis supervisors are encouraged to match the student’s fellowship with an amount sufficient to reach the recommended minimal salary of the SNF.

  • As a student in the PhD program, you do not need to secure your own funding. You are encouraged to apply for external fellowships, travel grants, etc. to improve your academic career prospects. If you are planning to apply for a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship, note that you must first identify a PhD supervisor willing to accept you in their research group (see Application procedure, ad hoc).

  • Yes, the university requires you to enrol as a student and pay a registration fee and semester fees.

    Holders of a foreign or international secondary degree are subject to a registration fee of CHF 65. The registration fee is deducted from the first semester’s university fees. It is not reimbursed in case of rejection, withdrawal, or incomplete application, regardless of the reason.

    Fees amount to CHF 500 per semester (CHF 65 in fixed fees for every semester and CHF 435 in administrative fees for the first and last semester), payable in a single instalment at the beginning of the semester. The administrative fees of CHF 435 may be waved if you are i) a Swiss or European national and ii) are enrolled for at least 3 months in the given semester.

    For more information, please visit the University’s FAQs on taxes and fees. Enrollment can be accessed at UNIGE Registration.

  • Moving to Geneva, especially before your PhD salary has started coming in, may be a considerable strain on your finances. If your financial situation requires it, please ask the ‘Division de la Formation et des Etudiants’ (Student Services) for a suitable solution.

  • The current program does not provide help with internships after the completion of your doctorate, but you will have access to the university career centre, and the program will organise a range of career events to broaden your horizon.

  • No, the program itself does not provide help to find employment for your spouse or partner. Please contact the Bureau de l’égalité des chances or career2 for further information.

  • No, the program does not help you find accommodation. The university accommodation website may be a useful starting point.