Doctoral assistants

Doctoral assistants are staff members who hold a Swiss licence or Master’s degree, and who have undertaken to write a doctoral thesis. In principle, applicants must not be over 30 years old, although this can be waived with the rector’s approval if certain criteria are met.

Doctoral assistants are formally appointed by the rector, having been selected by a professor and approved by the dean. Their status is determined by public law, provided no more than 50% of their pay comes from private funds (in which case their status is academic researcher). In principle, they are employed on a rolling annual contract; the normal four years of employment can be extended to five if the professor in question can assure the rectorate that the student’s thesis can be completed within the extra year.

Each doctoral assistant answers to a professor — wherever possible, the supervisor or co-supervisor of the thesis. Assistants participate in teaching, research and administrative or technical tasks.

Doctoral assistants must enrol with the University of Neuchâtel as doctoral students. With the rector’s permission, they may be enrolled in another university – for example, in the case of exchange agreements between universities. Each year, doctoral assistants must submit a progress report to their professors, in order to have their contracts renewed.

The minimum rate of engagement is 50%, and no more than half of a doctoral assistant’s time can be spent providing support to the professor, whether teaching or performing administrative or technical tasks; these latter can take up no more than 20% of the assistant’s time. The professor must ensure that the assistant’s workload leaves enough time for the writing of the thesis, and, in principle, that this is the case throughout the year. Professors and thesis supervisors alike must ensure that the working conditions allow for theses to be completed.

Assistants have the right to six weeks of holiday per year, which must in principle be taken before the end of the year.

The rate of pay is fixed by the Swiss Council of State.