Doctoral programme in Economics

PhD Positions

The PhD programme in Economics at USI Lugano is designed for students interested in pursuing advanced study and conducting original research in Economics.

The application deadline for the PhD program is typically January 15 and special announcements will be posted on IONOMICS and related platforms around November. Please check these websites regularly. (From time to time, special doctoral job openings will also be posted on these websites as they become available.)

Programme Description

The PhD Programme in Economics consists of two stages, i) course work with a combined credit value of 30 ECTS and ii) the completion of a dissertation.

Year 1 is devoted to developing a strong foundation in the basic tools of economics, including full-year courses in microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, and econometrics (core courses). Successful candidates are required to apply to the Swiss Program for Beginning Doctoral Students in Economics at the Study Center Gerzensee of the Swiss National Bank (SNB). Candidates must submit their application, including GRE test scores, around March or April. In the 1st year, successful candidates will devote most of their work time to this programme and the remaining time to teaching and research activities at the Institute of Economics (IdEP). (The PhD Programme Director and the Graduate Studies Committee may approve different study plans submitted by PhD candidates or their main advisor.)

Year 2 is devoted to field courses (deepening courses) to bring successful candidates to the research frontier of their field(s) of interest. Students are free to choose these courses offered either at USI or at other academic institutions after coordinating with the PhD Programme Director. During this time, students are strongly encouraged to start developing their dissertation topic. Starting from year 2, in addition to the course work, successful candidates will provide part-time assistance in the Institute’s research projects and/or teaching activities.

Years 3 to 5 are devoted to completing the dissertation, which consists of at least three original research papers. Successful candidates will present their research progress regularly to their supervisor(s) and in informal seminars to the rest of the faculty and doctoral students, who will provide constructive feedback that will improve the research.
Courses and research are in English. The completion of the PhD Programme requires a final defense of the PhD thesis.

The typical student receives funding for five years (currently around 50'000 Swiss Francs per year), but students who graduate in four years are not unusual. Students aiming for an academic career might consider adding a sixth year to prepare for the academic job market. Opportunities for funding a sixth year will be discussed with the thesis supervisor(s) and the PhD Programme Director. 


For further information please contact us at [email protected]

FAQ - Phd applications

  1. In order to receive funding, do I have to apply to some scholarship or to some specific program or are all doctoral students regularly receive funding?
    Each PhD position is fully funded for 5 years. Admitted students are offered the opportunity to be employed full-time by the university in return for providing teaching or research assistance to the institute. These employment contracts include full tuition waivers. PhD students who do not want to be employed full-time by the university are considered 'external' and are subject to tuition.
  2. Can I submit my application even if on the day of the deadline (January 15) I will not have graduated from the master program yet?
    You do not need to have your Master diploma by January 15, but you will need it before you start your PhD (August 1) or shortly afterward. For example, if you obtain your diploma only in November, then you should apply in one year, not now.
  3. Is there a scholarship?
    There's no scholarship other than the tuition waiver. PhD students are employees of the university and earn a salary with teaching and research assistance.
  4. I do not have an international certificate in English. Can I apply for a PhD in an economic program?
    Yes, you can.
  5. Is the process the same if I would be funded by an external sponsor?
    Yes, the admission process is the same.
  6. I wish to apply for the Economics PhD in Economics Programme at USI and I completed my GRE exam having with a quantitative score of less than 160. Am I eligible to apply?
    Yes, you can apply. However, you should consider retaking the GRE to obtain a better quantitative score.
  7. Is the GRE is optional when applying?
    Yes. It is optional, but applicants with a completed GRE will be given a strong preference. Moreover, to be admitted to the Study Center Gerzensee, you will need the GRE.
  8. I am a student with a Master degree from University X. I wonder if my academic background meets the specific prerequisites for this doctoral program.
    Ideal candidates have, or are upon completion of, a master's degree in economics, econometrics, or a related field such as computer science or mathematics. Candidates with a general interest in quantitative empirical research and who have already completed the GRE will be given a strong preference.
  9. I would like to inquire about the minimum required score for the IELTS and the latest acceptable test date
    Regarding the IELTS, it is also optional. However, for your reference, below are the English proficiency requirements from other universities in Switzerland: A recognized language diploma at level C1 (CEFR), such as an IELTS Academic Score of 7.0 or a Cambridge Advanced Certificate. TOEFL Internet-based Test (iBT) with a minimum score of 100 points.
  10. Are there any specific requirements regarding the residence of PhD candidates? Because in my case, currently my residence is in Italy.
    Once the contract commences, all PhD candidates must reside in Lugano. Prior to the contract start date, their place of residence doesn't affect their candidacy.