Development Economics, Ph.D.

  • Application Deadline
  • 48 months
  • Tuition
    Tuition (Year)
    Tuition (Year)
  • English, French (take IELTS)


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

What is it?

Over the past decade, Development Economics has arguably become one of the most interesting fields in the profession. From global macroeconomic issues such as the determinants of economic growth, to carefully-crafted microeconomic work in which rigorously constructed theory is tested in developing countries, often using cutting-edge experimental or quasi-experimental techniques, Development Economics is at the heart of many current policy debates.

What works and what does not in terms of social programs geared towards reducing poverty, child malnutrition, or the spread of HIV/AIDS? What policies should a country follow in order to ensure sustained economic growth and an equitable distribution of income?

Attempting to answer such questions stands at the core of our program. Our 4 year PhD program is centered around a dissertation. This work represents a substantial contribution to Development Economics and demonstrates your ability to combine independent research with the formal methodologies and tools of the trade.

Detailed Programme Facts

  • Full-time duration 48 months
  • Credits
    30 ECTS
  • Languages
    • English
    • French
  • Delivery mode
    On Campus

Programme Structure

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

  • Classes cover a sequence of five courses in the first two semesters: micro- and macro-development PhD seminars, two advanced econometrics classes, and one elective.

  • Students are encouraged to take a minor in another discipline, so as to be equipped to deal with complex issues from at least two academic standpoints.

  • Students are also encouraged to carry out fieldwork in the context of projects being supervised by faculty members in developing countries.

  • While there is no requirement to take additional 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 (the so-called preliminary thesis statement) 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 papers written under the direction of your supervisor, each of which is 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 30 credits (ECTS) from the five classes.

Can I follow classes outside the Institute?

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

English Language Requirements

You only need to take one of these language tests:

  • Minimum required score: 7

    The IELTS – or the International English Language Test System – tests your English-language abilities (writing, listening, speaking, and reading) on a scale of 1.00–9.00. The minimum IELTS score requirement refers to which Overall Band Score you received, which is your combined average score. Read more about IELTS.

    Take IELTS test
  • Minimum required score: 600

    The TOEFL – or Test OF English as a Foreign Language – offers a paper-based test (PBT). The final, overall PBT score ranges between 310 and 677, and is based on an average taken from the three test components (listening, structure, and reading). The writing part of this test is scored separately on a scale of 0-6. Read more about TOEFL (PBT).

  • Minimum required score: 100

    The TOEFL – or Test Of English as a Foreign Language – offers an internet-based test (iBT). The final, overall iBT score ranges between 0 and 120, and includes a scaled average from the four components (reading, listening, speaking, and writing). Read more about TOEFL (iBT).

Academic Requirements

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 a 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 program, and apply for the PhD in your second year using our "fast track" option. For more details see the Master page.

The application procedure requires a little time and effort. Please ensure that the Institute offers a programme that meets your aspirations, especially by examining the contents of this programme.

Your complete application will be assessed by a committee of professors who will evaluate in particular your academic transcript, letters of recommendation, and motivation letter. The committees decision is final.

The main requirement to apply for one of our Master programmes is a Bachelor degree, or a degree deemed equivalent, in the social sciences.

The main requirement to apply for one of our PhD programmes is a Master degree, or a degree deemed equivalent, in the social sciences; and, to the extent possible, a Master level research dissertation completed successfully.

Please note that you are eligible to apply during the last year of your current study programme, provided you obtain your final degree by September 2017.

Tuition Fee Per Year

  • EUR 7398 International
  • EUR 4623 EU/EEA
  • Non-resident students: CHF 8,000 per year (CHF 4,000 per semester)
  • Resident students: CHF 5,000 per year (CHF 2,500 per semester)

* A resident is a person holding a Swiss residence permit at the time of application.


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.

StudyPortals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.