Choice of thesis supervisor

As far as thesis supervision in Switzerland is concerned, the traditional model of the thesis supervisor prevails.

The regulations give priority to full, associate and extraordinary professors. Senior lecturers are frequently accepted as thesis supervisors and occasionally privat-docents and tenured professors.

The institutional and faculty regulations of Swiss universities can also provide for other supervision arrangements :

Co-direction provides for two thesis supervisors: one from the original university and the other from a different university in Switzerland or abroad, or another faculty of the same university. The doctoral student is supervised by both these professors (who will be jury members) but only the original university/faculty awards the final qualification.

Cotutelle  provides for two thesis supervisors. The thesis forms the subject of a single oral examination but the awarding of two degrees, one from the original university and the other from the partner institution (each making reference to the cotutelle). It is based on an agreement between the two universities.

These solutions provide more extensive supervision and allow integration into a broader scientific network. Furthermore, they avoid dependency on one single person in case of conflict.

However, they require that the responsibilities be clearly established between the different parties. It is also advisable to ensure beforehand that there are no major theoretical and methodological disagreements between those involved in the thesis supervision so that the doctoral student is not confronted with conflicts of loyalty.

Whatever the chosen form of supervision, the persons who are likely to play a part in supervising the doctorate must be contacted sufficiently in advance.

As well as making formal contact, colloquiums or conferences provide good opportunities for approaching a professor.

There is a centralised database of professors working in Switzerland that may be useful for finding a professor’s contact details.

Remember that the administrative procedures for cotutelle and co-direction can be time-consuming.