• 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.

    The thesis start date (figuring on your ‘attestation de direction de thèse’), not the contract start date, defines the deadline for your TAC exam.

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

    If for organisational reasons, it proves impossible to find a date before 12 months, you have until 15 months to pass the TAC. In this case, your PI should inform your program director and coordinator of the chosen date BEFORE the end of the 12 months, explaining the reasons for the delay.

  • For students from all programs (except BIOMED, see below): Once you have arranged a suitable date with your committee members, please register via the student database, following the instructions in the TAC interface on your student profile. The program coordinator will verify that your committee composition follows the regulations (please see Committee composition below) and validate your request. This automatically sends out the TAC report form to your committee members. You can download the ‘PV-TAC’ from your student profile.

    For BIOMED students: please book an available timeslot in the student database, indicating only your external expert and their affiliation. (The room booking will be organised for you and the program directors will propose the internal experts.)

  •  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 (‘Maître d’enseignement et de recherche, MER’), 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. 

    Interpretation of the regulations:

    Any full member of the 6 programs can be a member of a TAC committee.

    Ideally, the program director or co-director is present at your TAC, in addition to the 2 regular members; if unavailable, he or she has to designate a substitute among the committee members who will report to the program director. An external expert is encouraged but not obligatory.

    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 Research and Teaching Associate (’MER’) and should ideally come from outside the University of Geneva. Experts from UNIGE are exceptionally allowed but have to be from a different department. The BIOMED program directors will select additional internal experts.

  • The School Council recommends the physical presence of the TAC committee members as much as possible.

    If one or more of your committee members come from afar (>4h of train travel), they may attend via videoconference (see UNIGE policy on reducing air travel, also available in English). Videoconferences are also allowed for members who cannot physically attend for other reasons.

  • 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.

    The TAC exam does not result in grades, only a pass/fail (‘réussi/échoué’). If you fail your TAC, you may take the exam again within the next 6 months but at the very latest up to 18 months since starting your thesis. This means that if you leave your first TAC exam until the very last moment (i.e. 15 months since starting the thesis) you will have only 3 months to improve and retake the exam.

    The second TAC must be announced to the coordinator (registration as for first TAC) and documented by a PV TAC and a TAC meeting report. The second TAC should have the same core jury as the first TAC and can include an additional new member.

  • 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.

  • Unless otherwise indicated by your Department or Section, the report should be a summary of 4-10 pages describing the progress of your thesis project and your work objectives. You are encouraged to include figures, tables, and references; they do not count towards the page limit. The written report should only include your own results and data. More details on the guidelines can be found in PSLS_Guidelines_for_TAC_exams.pdf

    The report should have the following structure:

    • Project Summary
    • Introduction/Background
    • Hypotheses to be tested / Specific research aims and objectives
    • Methods / Experimental approaches
    • Preliminary Results
    • Experimental plan / Perspectives
    • Technical hurdles and alternatives (‘contingency plan’)
    • Timeline

    The report should be emailed two weeks prior to the TAC meeting to all your jury members (BIOMO, ECOVO, PHYVI, PHARM, GESAN) or to phd-lifesciences-medecine@unige.ch (BIOMED).

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

    If, for the understanding of your presentation, you need to include results or data generated by a collaborator or someone else in your lab, you should clearly indicate this on the slides.

  • 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.

    The main goal of the first, compulsory TAC exam is NOT to evaluate the amount of data you have produced since the start of your thesis. 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.

  • 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).

    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 can be signed immediately by everyone present, including the student, or circulated by email for approval and signed electronically later. The PV TAC is signed ONLY by the committee (not the student nor the supervisor).

  • 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. If the program director or co-director did not attend your TAC exam, they will read and countersign your TAC meeting report.

  • 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 encouraged to use the ‘Expectation Scales’ document which helps identify 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.

    The TAC meeting report is not confidential and is seen by all parties present (student, PI, committee). If any matters of a conflictual or confidential nature are discussed during the TAC exam, the student or the PI may ask the committee to keep these matters out of the TAC report. In such cases, the student, the PI, or the committee are encouraged to approach the program director to resolve the issue.

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.

    To claim your credits, please record all activities on your profile in the student database, or fill in the ECTS summary sheet and send it together with a single PDF file containing proofs of all your activities to your program coordinator (BIOMO, PHYVI, ECOVO: phd-lifesciences-sciences@unige.ch; BIOMED, GESAN: phd-lifesciences-medecine@unige.ch; PHARM: progdoc-pharm@unige.ch). The program director/coordinator will periodically evaluate your record. At the end of year 3, you will receive a certificate if the ECTS requirements have been fulfilled. This document, along with the TAC attestation, is necessary to apply for the thesis defence (‘soutenance’).

  • 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 gives a general overview. For program-specific details, please consult the study plan of your program. Study plans are available here, in French or English.

  • 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.

  • UNIGE courses: please enrol for all courses with the relevant Student Office, even if you are attending as an auditor and not planning to take the exam.

    1. Inform the lecturer that you are taking the course as part of the doctoral school.
    2. Register for the exam with the Student Office (optional if the exam is "hors session"). Pay attention to the deadlines for exam registration!
    3. Obtain a certificate of successful participation from the lecturer (with number of credits, etc…). You may propose this template course certificate.

    CUSO courses: for scientific courses associated with a doctoral program (see list of programs here), please enrol with the relevant program (free, more information here). For transferable skills courses, you do not need to be enrolled with a CUSO doctoral program. More information on enrolling here.

  • You are responsible for keeping a record of all activities that may generate credits. An attendance certificate is mandatory for all courses and activities. If you are not offered a certificate, you may propose this template.

  • Open to all French-speakers, regardless of affiliation: if you would like to develop your science communication skills, consider joining the Bioscope (contact person: Elisa Radosta) and help animate activities for school children (aged 8-19). Topics are varied and include health and genetics, biodiversity, neurosciences and mental health. Before joining an activity, you will receive training from the Bioscope team. Activities run year-round and are organised in blocks of half-days during term time. Animators should be prepared to contribute at least 20h per year.

    Open to French-speaking students affiliated with the Section of Chemistry and Biochemistry: you may join the Chimiscope (contact person: Didier Perret). Please check with the person organising the teaching in your department whether you are eligible.

    At both faculties: you will be contacted through your Section to assist with practical sessions for Bachelor students (‘travaux pratiques’ or ‘TPs’). Open to all, independent of your French level.

  • PhD students are strongly encouraged to supervise Master students. Any Master supervision needs to be approved by the program director before it starts, in order to result in credits. Programs can decide on whether to reward supervision with a certificate, credits, or both. Each program will define how credits are allocated.

    BIOMED: As a general guideline, a 2-month student supervision will equate to 1 ECTS (up to a maximum of 3 ECTS total). A master’s student for 6 months full-time will give the maximum of 3 ECTS. Certain requirements need to be met in all cases; please refer to the BIOMED course description for details.

    BIOMO/PHYVI/ECOVO: A master student for 6 months full time will give 3 ECTS.

    BIOMO: A supervision of a pre-master internship in biology (~40h) is rewarded by 1 ECTS.

    PHARM: no credits are given for Master student supervision.

  • Before the start of the project: please contact the Doctoral school and provide the following documents:

    • A proposal describing a comprehensive project (context, aim, strategies, duration…). The Master student should have his/her own project, loosely related to the main thesis project of the PhD student.
    • A document signed by the PI where he/she agrees on the supervision.

    After the end of the project: please provide the Doctoral school with the following documents:

    • A brief scientific report of the Master project. This report should include a small introduction, a result section and a short discussion (there is no lower length limit and the format is flexible; for example, a poster where both Master and PhD student are co-authors is acceptable).
    • A confidential evaluation form in which the Master student gives feedback on the quality of the supervision received. The form is filled in by the Master student and sent directly to the coordinator/program director.


  • Download the "Thesis Checklist" here.

  • 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. The starting date, not the starting semester, is considered when calculating the regular study time. 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 passed a TAC exam at the end of year 1 and completed at least 20 ECTS by the end of year 3.

    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.

  • Register through the student database no later than 30 working days before your planned defence date. For information on the thesis committee composition, see How do I choose a thesis committee; if you have any questions, please contact the program coordinator of the faculty you are affiliated with. If your choice of jury members (as detailed on the registration form) agrees with the regulations, the program director will accept the registration request to approve the thesis committee. You can then download the registration form, which must be signed by the doctoral candidate and the thesis director (and the thesis co-director); e-signatures are accepted. Please email the signed form to your PSLS program coordinator as below:

    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 register for your defence at least 30 working days (6 weeks, if no public holidays) 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, if no public holidays) before your planned date of defence.

    Bear in mind that the program coordinators and program (co-)directors may be away (especially during holiday season), so if you are working to tight deadlines, ask them well ahead of time whether they will be available on the date you need them.

  • 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:

    1. all members of the jury must hold a doctorate,
    2. the thesis director, and co-director, if applicable, are members of the jury.
    3. one member of the jury belongs to the doctoral program concerned,
    4. one member of the jury is external to the University of Geneva and not directly involved in the thesis project,
    5. preferably, one member of the jury belongs to the other Faculty than the one at which the doctoral student is registered,
    6. at least one member of the jury, not directly involved in the thesis project, must hold a doctorate in the sciences.

    Your thesis supervisor should designate a jury president who will lead the defence session. Please see: How do I choose a president of the jury?

  • As soon as the program director has validated the composition of the thesis committee by accepting your request for registration and the program coordinator has verified the format and done the plagiarism check on your manuscript.

    For BIOMED, the program directors will also review and provide feedback which should be implemented prior to sending the thesis to your jury members.

  • The president should be chosen from among the members of the jury, other than the external expert and the thesis director. The president of the jury must be a member of the Faculty of Medicine (BIOMED and GESAN programs) or Science (ECOVO, PHARMA, BIOMO and PHYVI programs) and will chair the session. You may choose a President of the

    Jury who is not a jury member and only presides over the defence session (i.e., is not involved in evaluating your thesis). The President of the Jury must attend the thesis defence in person.

  • As soon as possible, ideally >30 working days before the defence, send your program coordinator an e-copy (to verify the format and plagiarism) as indicated below:

    Once your coordinator has given you feedback, send an e-copy to your approved thesis committee and to your program director (for information).

    1. The registration form signed by you, your PI, and the program director (e-signatures are accepted). The program coordinator collects the program director’s signature.
    2. An e-copy of your thesis. (Please see Are there any requirements for the format of my thesis?)
    3. The first page of your manuscript (with name, title, affiliation... in pdf format)
    4. Your supervisor’s thesis report signed by all jury members (e-signatures are accepted). The thesis report is confidential and thesis director should send the report directly to the program coordinator.
    • Your PI should help define your thesis committee.
    • Your PI writes the thesis report, and has it signed by all members of the thesis committee (electronically 15 working days before the defence, and on paper at the defence). The thesis report should remain confidential until after the defence - your PI should send the signed thesis report to the program coordinator and/or program director.
    • At the defence, your PI should have the PV de soutenance signed by all jury members.
    • After your defence, your PI should verify your corrections and then, sign the Mode de Publication.
  • You can download a template for the front page of your thesis here.

  • Please use this template for your thesis front page.

    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 the results obtained.

    All programs except PHARM: please also refer to this document explaining the regulations in plain English. It will give you instructions on how to integrate articles that you have authored as chapters in your thesis.

    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.

  • Please send an e-copy to your program coordinator to verify the format (phd-lifesciences-sciences@unige.ch, progdoc-pharm@unige.ch or phd-lifesciences-medecine@unige.ch, according to your PhD program). Your thesis committee should also give you feedback on any issues with the format of the thesis (e.g., length, sufficient introduction and discussion).

  • Your thesis number will appear on your imprimatur.

  • Plagiarism is checked by the program coordinator; we use the UNIGE software Compilatio. Please provide an e-copy of your 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!

  • You are responsible for booking the room (if you need help, please contact the administrative assistant of your department/section). Available rooms can be found and booked through the ‘Bureau de reservation des salles’. If you prefer a virtual or hybrid event, you can find help on organising this here.

  • Once the Dean’s Office has approved your thesis, the ‘Avis de soutenance’ is issued to all members of your program, usually about a week ahead of the defence. You are responsible for announcing the thesis defence to your friends and colleagues. The defence will also appear on the Events page of the PhD School. For students from the Faculty of Medicine, the defence will also be announced in the agenda of the Faculty of Medicine.

  • Once the Dean’s office has approved your defence, your PI can download the ‘PV de soutenance’ from the student database. The Student Office (Faculty of Science) or the program admin team (Faculty of Medicine) can also provide the ‘PV de soutenance’.

    1. The President of the Jury opens the session by introducing the candidate, the jury members, the thesis title, and the main steps of the defence.
    2. The floor is then given to the candidate for ~45 min of presentation.
    3.  After the presentation and before the Q&A session, members of the public who do not wish to attend the Q&A may leave the room.
    4.  The Q&A session starts with the external expert and ends with the thesis director who comments on the candidate’s performance throughout the PhD.
    5.  The jury may remain in the room to deliberate and send the candidate and any remaining members of the public outside or may go to a different room to deliberate.
    6.  The President of the Jury announces the decision: “The jury confers upon the candidate the title of PhD in Life Sciences, Specialisation in … / Le jury accorde au candidat le titre de Docteur ès sciences en Sciences de la vie, mention…”
    7.  The President of the Jury, on behalf of the jury members, with exception of the thesis supervisor complete the Thesis defence jury remarks.
  • All members of the thesis committee must sign the thesis report bearing the date of the defence and the ‘PV de soutenance’. The ‘PV de soutenance’ only bears the decision ‘réussi’ or ‘échoué’ (Pass/Fail); there is no grade or ‘mention bien/très bien/assez bien’.

  • 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, you will make any outstanding corrections to your thesis. Once your thesis director has approved your corrections, they upload the signed thesis report and ‘PV de soutenance’ to the student database and register the successful defence.

    For the Faculty of Science, please also upload the "Mode de publication" (after all corrections have been included). This document is necessary to inform the ‘Archive ouverte’ on possible moratoriums before your thesis is made publicly available (in case of unpublished but confidential data).

    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.

    In order to edit your imprimatur (an authorisation to print your thesis), the student office needs the following 3 documents:

    • The final thesis report with the signatures of all jury members
    • The PV de soutenance signed by the jury members
    • The form “Mode de publication” duly completed and signed by the thesis supervisor and yourself. The thesis supervisor should only sign this form once all the corrections have been made to the thesis.

    The 3 documents must be uploaded by the thesis supervisor to the student database and register the successful defence.

    When the imprimatur and the mode de publication are signed by the Dean’s Office, the Student Office will send an e-mail to the PhD student inviting him/her to come and collect the documents.

  • Please consult the information on submitting a thesis on the Archive-Ouverte website (available in French and English).

  • Once your thesis has been submitted to the 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. See below on how to get a translation.

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

  • Please contact your coordinators at phd-lifesciences-medecine@unige.ch or phd-lifesciences-sciences@unige.ch or progdoc-pharm@unige.ch (according to your PhD program).