Deadlines Summer call 2019

The next call for applications to the PhD school of Life Sciences at the Faculties of Medicine and Science is now open, application deadline Apr 23rd, 2019. Interviews will be held from June 24th to 26th 2019.  

Apply here


  • 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. 8. Further meetings between the doctoral student and the TAC for feedback on the progress made are encouraged. The TAC may be convened at the request of the doctoral student, the thesis director and/or co-director, or the director of the doctoral program, for questions related to the scientific project or the conditions in which the project is progressing. The TAC is required to meet with the doctoral student and the thesis director (and, if applicable, the thesis co-director), for any request for an extension of the length of studies.

    Please allow sufficient time to i) write the report and prepare the presentation, ii) have the report read by your committee members, and iii) find a suitable date for all committee members.

  • Faculty of Sciences (BIOMO, PHYVI, ECOVO, and PHARM programs): please fill in the TAC registration form and email it to the program coordinator (phd-lifesciences-sciences or Claudine Neyen). The program coordinator will verify that your committee composition follows the regulations, and then send you & your PI the TAC report form and the ‘PV-TAC’ by email.

    Faculty of Medicine (BIOMED): please use the online TAC booker – for questions, email phd-lifesciences-medecine or Damien Jacot)

    For GESAN, please contact phd-lifesciences-medecine to organize your TAC.

  • Art. 7.8. A positive assessment report permits the doctoral student to pursue his or her thesis. If the report is negative, the examination can be taken a second and final time before the end of the first 18 months. If the doctoral student does not make the second attempt, or if he or she fails on the second attempt, he or she is eliminated from the doctorate.

  • Art. 7.6. In preparation for the oral examination, the doctoral student submits to the TAC members a written report on the progress made on research projects and the thesis project. The examination begins with an oral presentation by the doctoral student, followed by a series of questions.

    1. Committee

    Art. 7.5. The TAC comprises a minimum of 2 members, and if applicable the thesis co-director, approved by the director of the doctoral program concerned. In principle, the members of the TAC are Professors or Research and Teaching Associates, and must hold a doctorate. At least one of the members must hold a doctorate in the sciences. At least one of the members must be from a department other than that of the doctoral student. The thesis director, and if applicable the thesis co-director, participate in the TAC in an advisory capacity.

    Ideally, the program director is present at your TAC; if unavailable, he or she has to designate a substitute among the committee members who will report to the program director.

    For the BIOMED program, the PI and the student should identify and invite an external expert. The external expert should be a professor or a “MER” and should ideally come from outside the University of Geneva. Experts from the UNIGE are exceptionally allowed but have to be from a different department. The doctoral school will invite additional “local” experts in agreement with the PI.

    2. Written report

    Guidelines for your TAC report: it should be a summary of 1500 words (2-3 pages) of your project (introduction, objectives, experimental approaches, preliminary data, “contingency plan”, perspectives). This report should be sent two weeks prior to the TAC meeting to the jury members (BIOMO, ECOVO, PHYVI, PHARM, GESAN) or to phd-lifesciences-medecine (BIOMED).

    3. Presentation

    Your presentation can be PowerPoint or similar and should not exceed 30 minutes (count 20-25 slides). The presentation is followed by a discussion with the committee members.

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

    Note that the TAC exam is meant to evaluate not only the student’s progress but also (and crucially) the quality of the supervision and the student-supervisor relationship. Your thesis ADVISORY committee is there to give helpful advice, and as such, you are encouraged to use the TAC whenever you feel you need external advice.

    It is more important to show that you have a solid grasp of the literature surrounding your topic and that you have a clear idea of what the objectives of your project are, how your project will evolve, and what you will do in case something does not work out the way you predicted.

  • First, you give your presentation (30 minutes) and the committee asks questions. You then leave the room and the committee discusses your progress with your supervisor. Next, your supervisor leaves the room and you can discuss freely with the committee about how you feel your PhD is going. Finally, the committee writes the TAC report. The report is signed by everyone, including the student. The PV TAC is signed ONLY by the committee (not the student nor the supervisor).

    Art. 7.7. After having heard independently from the student and the thesis director (and, if applicable, the thesis co-director), the TAC, in their absence, produces a report assessing:

    i. the scientific knowledge acquired by the student, in general and more precisely in connection with his or her project, ii. the quality of the thesis project, iii. the quantity and quality of the work produced by the student to achieve prescribed objectives, iv. the specific strengths and weaknesses of the student in relation to his or her thesis project, v. the quality of the interactions between the student and his or her thesis director (and thesis codirector if applicable), vi. and delivers an assessment report, signed by the members of the TAC, the doctoral student, the thesis director, and the thesis co-director (if applicable).

  • The program director is bound by the statutes to assess the quality of the TAC exam, and to read your TAC report in full. He or she is either present during the TAC, or designates a reporting member among the committee members, who will report back to the program director.

  • You can at any point approach the program coordinator or the program director to discuss matters of supervision.

    Before the TAC exam, at any point during the first year, you are encourage to use the ‘Expectation Scales’ document which helps spot any differences in your and your supervisor’s expectations towards the PhD relationship. It is a good idea to discuss these things early on so that no misunderstandings arise.

Course portfolio and collection of credits

  • Art. 3.3. This 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 defence, on pain of elimination.

  • You need to gain a set minimum of credits from the core training offered by the program you are affiliated with, and the remaining credits either among the 6 programs or outside.

    There is no upper limit to the number of courses taken or the number of credits accrued. You can continue following courses after you have reached the 20 ECTS or after you have finished your 3rd year.

    The grid above is a general guideline. The following program-specific differences apply:

    BIOMO, ECOVO: Core training gives 12 credits. You are completely free to pick activities for the remaining 8 credits; there are no caps on credits gained from specific activities.

    BIOMED: 10 credits must be obtained from the core training. You need to choose a minimum of 3 modules (each worth 1.5 or 2 ECTS) and 9 ‘Chapitres choisis’ (0.5 ECTS each). Credits from conferences, from courses and workshops, from volunteering, and from attending PhD retreats are all capped at 3. There is no upper limit to credits obtained from core training.

    PHARM: See the credit validation grid here.

    PHYVI: Core training gives 4 credits. You are completely free to pick activities for the remaining 16 credits; there are no caps on credits gained from specific activities.

    GESAN: 10 credits must be obtained from the core training.

  • PIs should encourage their students to broaden their scientific and professional skills. Although the student is in charge of composing the portfolio of the 20 required credits, the PI should agree on and validate all courses and events the student selects.

  • You are responsible for keeping a record of all activities that may generate ECTS. An attendance certificate is mandatory for all courses and activities. At the end of year 3, the program director will evaluate your record and issue a certificate that the ECTS requirements have been fulfilled. This document, along with the TAC attestation, is necessary to apply for the thesis defence (‘soutenance’).

    You will be able to upload all your records in the student database linked to the website of the doctoral school when it will be online beginning of 2019. Further information will follow in due time.


  • 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.

    The regular duration of a doctorate is 6 to 10 semesters. This means you can defend as early as end of year 3 or as late as end of year 5. Make sure you leave enough time to write, submit, defend, and print your thesis before your contract runs out. The administrative part surrounding the defence takes around 30 working days before and 30 working days after the thesis defence.

  • You need to have completed at least 20 ECTS by the end of year 3 and passed a TAC exam at the end of year 1.

    Art. 3.3. This 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 defence, on pain of elimination. 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 defence.

  • Please contact your program coordinator as soon as possible regarding your thesis defence. To sign up with your program coordinator, please use this form (Faculty of Science) or this form (Faculty of Medicine). These forms ask you to provide the names and detailed affiliations of your thesis jury members. The program coordinators will verify that your choice of jury members agrees with the regulations, and in case of problems, contact you to make changes. If all is well, the program director will sign this form, which constitutes formal approval of the thesis committee.

    The program coordinators will transmit your registration to the student office/Dean’s Office.

    Please see How do I choose a thesis committee?

  • Here is what happens (on an administrative level) before your defence:

    Art. 11.4. To be defended, the thesis must first be submitted to the thesis director, and, if applicable, the thesis co-director, and also to the members of the jury for approval and to permit the drafting of the thesis report by the thesis director. The thesis, the thesis report approved by all the jury members and that concludes that the thesis can be defended, as well as the chosen jury, are submitted for the approval of the director of the doctoral program concerned. The printed version of the thesis must be accompanied by an electronic version.

    5. At least fifteen business days before the scheduled date of the thesis defence, the director of the doctoral program concerned must provide to the Dean's Office of the doctoral student’s host Faculty, a copy of the thesis and the thesis report, the jury’s composition and its approval.

    For all this to take place, you should sign up with your program coordinator about 30 working days (6 weeks) before your planned date of defence, and your final thesis and all paperwork should reach the Dean’s Office no later than 15 working days (3 weeks) before your planned date of defence.

  • The student and the PI choose the thesis committee together. You may include members from your TAC committee, but you need to make sure you observe the criteria outlined in the regulations:

    Art. 10. For the defence, the thesis director and the thesis co-director constitute the thesis jury, composed of at least three members, or four in the case of co-direction, meeting the following criteria:

    • i) all members of the jury must hold a doctorate,
    • ii) the thesis director, and co-director, if applicable, are members of the jury.
    • iii) one member of the jury belongs to the doctoral program concerned,
    • iv) one member of the jury is external to the University of Geneva and not directly involved in the thesis project,
    • v) preferably, one member of the jury belongs to the other Faculty than the one at which the doctoral student is registered,
    • vi) at least one member of the jury, not directly involved in the thesis project, must hold a doctorate in the sciences.

    The program director validates the composition of the thesis committee by signing the thesis registration form, which contains the list of jury members.

  • Your PI should help define your thesis committee, write the thesis report, and have it signed by all members of the thesis committee (electronically 15 working days before the defence, and on paper at the defence).

    For the Faculty of Medicine, please send the thesis report to the program coordinator.

    For the Faculty of Science, your PI should transmit the thesis report and the thesis committee composition (optional – if not approved yet) to the program director using this letter.

  • Art. 11.1. The thesis shall be written in English. A different language may be authorized by the jury. An abstract in French, one to two pages in length, shall be appended to the text, regardless of the language in which the thesis is written.

    Art. 11.3. A collection of original publications, if sufficiently interesting and recognized as such by the thesis jury, can constitute the basis of a doctoral project. These publications may in no case represent, on their own, the thesis itself. They will always be accompanied by a substantive text designed to present them in a coherent fashion and to justify the relevance of their inclusion. Developments not included in the publications themselves are expected. The thesis must contain a broad introduction to the thesis topic, connections between each publication, and a deep, global discussion of theresults obtained.

    Please also refer to this document explaining the regulations in plain English. The guidelines on the thesis format in this document were established for the Section of Biology but can be broadly applied to any thesis in the PhD School.

    For inspiration, you may consult a thesis from your lab or your section. All theses are freely available to UNIGE students from the Open Archive at UNIGE.

  • When you submit the electronic copy to your committee, you will also send an e-copy to your program coordinator, along with the plagiarism report. Your program coordinator will get back to you if there are any issues with format or plagiarism. Your thesis committee should also give you feedback on any issues with the format of the thesis (e.g. length, sufficient introduction and discussion).

  • Please use the UNIGE software Compilatio. This is free of charge for anyone with a UNIGE address. A few tips: remove the bibliography and figures and try to run your thesis chapter by chapter if it is too large. Compilatio will give you a plagiarism report, which you should send to the program coordinator together with your electronic copy of the thesis.

  • The "Pôle de Soutien à l’enseignement et l’apprentissage" offers courses and advice around the thesis defence. Consult these pages early on – 1 year ahead of defending is none too early!

  • Once the Dean’s Office has approved your thesis, the "Avis de soutenance" is issued to all members of the Faculties of Medicine and Science. You are responsible for booking the room and for announcing the thesis defence to your friends and colleagues 🙂.

  • The Dean‘s Office will provide your PI with the "PV de soutenance" before your defence.

  • This should not happen 🙂. But just in case:

    Art. 11.6. At the public defence, the thesis is assessed by the jury. The jury assesses the doctoral student’s scientific research and the quality of the written thesis and the oral defence. The possible assessments are “accepted” and “refused”. If the oral defence does not permit acceptance of the thesis, the defence may take place a second time. In this case, and still respecting the deadline for maximum length of studies set forth in Article 9 above, the doctoral student will first be required to complete the written thesis in accordance with the thesis jury’s observations, then again submit his or her thesis as described in Article 11.4-5.

  • After your defence, your PI should make sure that all members of the thesis committee sign the thesis report and the "PV de soutenance". You will then make any outstanding corrections to your thesis. Once this is done, bring the signed thesis report and "PV de soutenance" to the Student Office (Faculty of Science) or Secrétariat de l’École doctorale, MIMOL, A08.2711.A, CMU (Faculty of Medicine).

    For the Faculty of Science, please also fill in the "Mode de publication" and take it to the Student Office.

    For the Faculty of Medicine, you will receive a flyer explaining how to deposit your thesis at the Archive Ouverte.

  • Art. 11.7. The printing of the thesis and its submission may only be carried out with the authorization of the Dean's Offices of the two Faculties (publication approval and thesis number) and if the thesis (written thesis) conforms to the directives for doctoral students, available at the student offices of the Faculties of Medicine and Science.

    The student office will issue the Imprimatur. This document is signed by both Deans and gives the go-ahead for printing. The student office/Dean’s office will also return the paper copy you submitted before the defence, and hand you back the "Mode de publication" (Faculty of Science only).

  • Yes, potentially, up to 50% of the printing costs… please ask the secretary of your lab/section/department who will know how to do this.

  • Once your thesis has been submitted to the DIS (Archive ouverte), the diploma office receives notice of your completing the doctorate. It usually takes a few weeks until your diploma reaches you by post. Note that diplomas are in French. If you require a translation to English, you may need to ask an official translation from the University and pay for it.

  • The diploma office issues certified copies.

  • The Rectorate offers an on demand translation service at no additional cost to students/alumni. Please email James Tarpley ( a translation request along with a scan of your PhD diploma. He will reply with an estimated delivery date – at most 2 weeks.