PhD with a specialisation in International Economics

The PhD program is a challenging degree tailored for exceptional students with a strong commitment to economics and a proven ability for inquisitive, independent work.

What is it?

The 4 years PhD program is centered around a research dissertation. This work represents a substantial contribution to economics and demonstrates your ability to combine independent research with the formal methodologies and tools of modern economics.

Who can apply?

Admissions are decided on the basis of individual files. Most candidates hold a Masters degree in economics with high marks. We consider both candidates from our own MIS program in economics, as well as candidates from outside universities with top reputation. If you are interested in the PhD program but do not yet hold a Masters degree, an option is to enter the Masters in International Economics, and apply for the PhD in your second Master year using our new "fast track" option. For more details see the Master page.

What does it prepare you for?

The PhD program trains you to undertake innovative research in economics at a top level. Research work is at a level that can lead to publication in top level scholarly journals in economics. Our graduates have secured positions in prominent policy institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the research departments of prominent central banks. While our training is focused on policy application, many graduates have secured positions in academia.

How is the program structured?

The program consists of classes (in English), and the research dissertation.

  • Classes cover a sequence of two courses in the first two semesters, either in international macroeconomics, or international trade. In addition, students follow two classes in advanced econometrics in the second semester.
  • While there is no requirement to take elective classes, you have the option of following classes in economics or other departments of the Institute as an auditor, subject to approval of the Professor.
  • The dissertation is the central element of the program. You will choose a Professor to be your academic supervisor in the first year. You will submit and defend a dissertation proposal (“mémoire préliminaire de these”) by the end of the third semester. That proposal describes your research plan, and you will be expected to have clearly identified your research question, show a good grasp of the related literature, as well as have a clear plan for the methods and data you intend to use. The dissertation usually takes the form of three chapters written under the direction of your supervisor, each of which being suitable as an independent paper. We allow for co-authorship of chapters, but expect you to demonstrate the ability to undertake research on your own. Students usually have one chapter ready by the beginning of their fourth year, which they use as their job market paper to secure employment.
  • The credit requirements are for 24 credits (ECTS) from the four core classes.

Can I follow classes outside the Institute?

Yes. You can take classes in other institutions as auditors, subject to approval by your supervisor.

You can also apply for the Gerzensee doctoral program in economics administered by the Gerzensee training center of the Swiss National Bank. While the Institute does not grant academic credits for these courses, we encourage you to follow them as they give a unique opportunity for being taught by renowned economists.

Is financial support available?

Yes. Financial support takes the form of teaching assistantships, scholarships (both administered by the Institute) and research assistantships (usually administered by Professors using external funding). You can apply for support for your first year when applying to the Institute. Applications for support for subsequent years are submitted during the spring semester for funding starting in the next fall semester.

While we cannot commit to fund all of our PhD students, the recent experience is that all of them obtained some funding.

How is the work atmosphere?

Very collegial and stimulating. Each year we only admit 8 to 10 PhD students. This allows for good contact between students and faculty members. The economics section fully recognized that PhD students will become colleagues in a short time, and we value the contribution of the students in the life of the economics section.

There is also a cooperative atmosphere among students. PhD students elect a representative who is in regular contact with the faculty and the administration. In addition, one Professor serves as the “PhD uncle” and is available to address issues that could come up during your studies.

What are the opportunities to learn about and present research?

Several. We hold a research seminar where outside speaker come about every two weeks to present papers that are either recently completed or in progress. This seminar series attracts prominent researchers and gives students an exposure to the current research topics in international economics. The economics departments of the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne are also a short distance away and offer seminar series.

In addition to the seminar serie the section hosts a weekly workshop where PhD students present work in progress. This is a very useful opportunity to learn what your fellow students are doing and get feedback on your own research.

We also hold a “PhD day” once per semester. Each PhD students give a 10 minutes overview of her / his current research, and obtains feedback from other students and faculty members.

The economics section also encourages students to present their work at economics conferences and submit it to journals, and offers a contribution towards the expenses this involves.

Where Do PhD graduates work afterwards?

The Institute is well known for preparing students to work in international organizations, central banks and national administrations, and some graduates choose to pursue academic carreers. The combination of advanced knowledge of up-to-date theories and methodologies and our emphasis on real-life uses of economics is highly appreciated by employers like the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD and many other policy-oriented institutions where alumni develop highly successful careers.

Find more information on the hirings of recent graduates.

How to apply?

Admission is organized at the Institute level. Interested students are kindly asked to follow the General Admission Procedure to the Institute's programs. In addition to the general admission conditions, the Economics department requires applicants to the Master and PhD program to take the GRE test (school code: 2258; department code: 1901).

What else Do I need to know?

For more general information, you may check out the links below:

If your questions remain unanswered ask current students about their experience: econ.students@graduateinstitute.ch.