Frequently Asked Questions

Starting your PhD

What is important to know at the start of the PhD?

The most important information is to know the regulations for your PhD, i.e. the  ‘Promotionsordnung’ (legal regulations) and ‘Wegleitung’ (guidelines). Make sure you know all administrative steps over the course of your PhD.

Faculty of Medicine
Find the timeline and important documents on their website. An English translation of the two documents can be requested by writing an e-mail to the PhD student office. That translation is not legally binding.

Faculty of Science
All information and documents are available in German and English.

Don’t forget to have a look at our “PhD Guide

Are there Welcome Events that I can attend?


PPHS organizes a welcome event for new students twice a year. Find more information here.

GRACE also offers a welcome day for new students. Find more information here.

What does my supervisor expect from me?

Each supervisor is different. We recommend to talk about your expectations, for example by filling out the “Alignment of expectations sheet“.

PhD Programs & PPHS

What is a PhD program?

A PhD program supports students in building the skills and abilities needed for both their PhD studies and future career steps. In addition, a PhD program creates extra possibilities to exchange with other PhD students. Thus by joining a PhD program, you are exposed to more courses, tools, and support compared to an individual doctorate.

Which PhD program should I join?

As a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering, you can register to the PhD Program Biomedical Engineering and/or the PhD Program Health Sciences, PPHS.

As a PhD candidate in Clinical Research, Public Health/Epidemiology incl. Insurance Medicine, Medicine Development, Nursing Science or Sport Science, you can choose between the PhD program Bioethics, health policy and legal medicine or the PhD Program Health Sciences, PPHS.

PhD Program Health Sciences (PPHS) – link
PhD Program Biomedical Engineering – link
PhD Program Bioethics, Health Policy and Legal medicine – link

Is there an extra workload when I join PPHS?

In comparison to an individual doctorate where you obtain at least 12 ECTS, registration to PPHS results in an increase of 6 ECTS. As 1 ECTS corresponds to 25-30 hours, the increased workload is 6×30 hours.

Courses & ECTS

How do I get 18 ECTS?

It sounds a lot at first: you just started your PhD and now you must plan 18 ECTS of courses for next 3 years. Of course, you can take a deep dive into the course directory or another search engine and find courses that sound interesting. We recommend a more strategic approach:

  • What do you want to learn? Which skills and competencies do you want to develop? Have a look at the “Minimal Standards for Competencies” to clarify what you want to learn.
  • Talk to your supervisor: do they have recommendations?
  • Talk to your peers: which courses do they find most valuable?
  • What are the requirements of your faculty?

After identifying the skills and competencies that you want to improve:

How do I get ECTS for courses offered by the University of Basel?

Courses that you register for via the University of Basel Course Directory or via the GRACE Transferable Skills website are automatically transfered to your Credit Points Account (accessible via services.unibas.ch)

Faculty of Medicine students need to include these courses in the learning agreement.

How do I get ECTS transferred for external courses?

If you want to take external courses (courses from PPHS, other universities in Switzerland or universities abroad) you need to create a learning contract in agreement with your supervisor. Make sure to always choose your first supervisor as the assessor.

Can I add language courses to my learning agreement?

This depends on your faculty.

Faculty of Medicine – You can’t add language courses to your learning agreement.

Faculty of Science – Language courses unrelated to the dissertation project cannot be used for ECTS.

Learning Contract vs Learning Agreement

What is a learning contract and how does it work?

A learning contract is a contract that you need to create for some courses to receive ECTS. The courses that need a learning contract are courses that are not offered via the course directory (University of Basel) or GRACE.

When you log in to Online Services, click on ‘learning contract’ to start the process. There you can also read the ‘guidelines’ document.

For our course “Meet to Write” we created and example learning contract.

  • PhD students at the Faculty of Medicine follow these steps:
  1. Include the course in your learning agreement (part of your PhD proposal/progress report) and let it get accepted by the Dean’s office’s ‘PhD Ausschuss’
  2. Create a learning contract. Note: choose your first supervisor as assessor! If your first supervisor’s name doesn’t appear in the drop-down list, you need to choose ‘external’ and will be able to enter the details.
  3. Once you have received the certificate/confirmation of the completed course, your first supervisor can assess the learning contract as successfully completed.

What is the difference between a learning agreement and a learning contract?

The learning contract is a document that you need to prepare if you want to get ECTS for a course that is not offered via the University of Basel course directory or GRACE Transferable Skills.

The learning agreement is part of your PhD proposal or PhD progress report. It lists an overview of all the courses that you either plan to do or already took during your PhD. You update your learning agreement in the yearly progress reports.

Transferable Skills

What are Transferable Skills?

Transferable Skills are courses that cover multiple competencies and can be used in different aspects of your PhD and beyond. The course offerings is very diverse

There are different sources to find Transferable Skills courses:

How do I get into a Transferable Skills courses from GRACE?

In short: adhering to the registration deadline and a little bit of luck

In long: course registrations are collected for 24 hours from the registration start (usually beginning of February and August), and places are allocated by lot. If the course is full after the initial 24-hour period new registrations will be put on the waiting list. Some courses are very popular, thus if you didn’t get in a course: don’t worry, you can try again next year!

In addition, it’s worth it to ask other students which courses they have taken in the past. That way, you can receive recommendations for courses.

Academic Writing

How can I best proceed through the proposal phase?

These are a few tips from us:

  • Take the PPHS proposal course that is offered each semester
  • Join ‘Meet to Write’ to receive tips about academic writing and create a writing habit
  • Ask other PhD students about their experiences and get tips via Slack


What kind of funding can I apply for at PPHS??

There are different kinds of funding that you can apply for as PPHS student:

Conferences and events

Which conferences are recommended to me?

As conferences are generally topic/work field specific, we advise you to talk to your supervisor and other members of your research group about this. In addition, we keep a selection of different kinds of events on our webpage.

Which networking activities are available at the University of Basel and PPHS?

There are various options for networking at the University of Basel.

PPHS offers the following oppertunities:

There are also numerous student associations that you can join. AVUBA is the Assistant’s Association of the University of Basel. They organize events at which you can meet other PhD’s and Postdocs.

Career Development

I’m worried about finding a job after my PhD. What can I do now?

There are many things you can do: coaching, self-assessments, courses, and more. Have a look at our Career Page to find out what PPHS offers. If you still have questions, feel free to talk to Anja Anja Matthiä in one of her virtual office hours. More courses/workshops regarding career are offered in the GRACE Transferable Skills program.

Finishing the PhD

What kind of publications are accepted for finishing my PhD?

Faculty of Medicine:
To graduate at the Faculty of Medicine (University of Basel), you need at least 3 first-authored publications: at least 1 accepted and 2 submitted papers are required to initiate the doctoral degree procedure. Publications are peer-reviewed original papers. Is an ‘Equal-First author’ publication part of the dissertation, another first-author publication must be accepted at the time of applying for graduation.

For further information about publications, send a request to the PhD Board via the PhD student office.


Do shared first-authorship publications count for the PhD?

Yes, but only one of the first authors can submit this publication as part of a PhD thesis. You need to confirm that you are the only one using the publication for an academic title.


What is the interuniversity graduate campus (IGC) by SSPH+?

The interuniversity graduate campus (IGC) is a hub of inter-university high quality SSPH+ PhD courses, trainings, and events to strengthen academic skills, competencies, career paths and networks.

We recommend to register to SSPH+ IGC because you profit from cost-free access (except for a 30 CHF processing fee) to courses and reduced fees to summer and winter schools. Note that you can only register if your supervisor is part of SSPH+.

Are the course times usually in the morning or afternoon or other time?

Courses take place at different times, it’s very diverse. There are courses that only last a few hours and are repeated on a regular interval, or courses take place in a row of one or several days. All combinations are possible!

We recommend to always check the times of courses and block your calendar after you registered for a course.