Our doctoral programme offers Master’s-level graduates in economics, political science and law the opportunity to further their professional and academic careers.
A PhD at the WTI
Welcome to the Graduate School of Economic Globalisation and Integration at the World Trade Institute
As a PhD candidate, you will benefit from a structured programme that is designed to offer you maximum support in writing your thesis. This includes continuous feedback and academic guidance from our extraordinary global faculty – composed of leading scholars and practitioners from the world’s most renowned universities, policy research institutions, law firms and international organisations.
Dr Doris Oberdabernig
Dr Octavio Fernández-Amador
For information about living and studying in Switzerland, click here
Why the WTI doctoral programme?
We take an interdisciplinary approach, continuously exploring the interconnections between economics, political science and law and how such linkages can be developed to enhance scientific theory and practice. In fact, this programme is targeted at doctoral students who are interested in writing theses that cross the boundaries among the three disciplines.
When you enter the WTI, you become part of a unique community of scholars, thought leaders and policy shapers. You join a group of people from around the world who are making a difference. The doctoral programme is structured in such a way as to encourage you to contribute to the overall experience and to help make it a success not only for yourself, but also for your colleagues.
PhD courses at the WTI are aimed at providing PhD students, young postdocs and practitioners with an opportunity to update their training in fields within the range of expertise of the WTI.
At least two one-week summer courses are taught each year, in August and September.
Courses are taught in English, and limited to a maximum enrollment of 35. To derive maximum benefit, we recommend that during the week of the course participants devote themselves exclusively to course work.
Details of the courses held in 2017 are in the section below.
Courses in 2017
Winter course dates: 4–8 December (4 ECTS)
Topic: Treaty Interpretation
An interactive course that offers students a detailed understanding of the historical development of the rules of treaty interpretation, and will provide an in-depth analysis of those rules.
I. The historical development of rules of treaty interpretation
a. Origins of the rules of treaty interpretation
b. The codification of rules of treaty interpretation in the VCLT
c. The limits of the codified rules of treaty interpretation
II. The rules of treaty interpretation
a. Textual analysis and the general rule of treaty interpretation
b. Treaties evolving over time: subsequent agreements/subsequent practice/evolutionary interpretation
c. Use of other relevant rules of international law and harmonious interpretation
d. Negotiating history
e. Principle of effectiveness
f. In dubio mitius
III. The function of treaty interpretation
a. Quality and character of judicial reasoning and justification
IV. The context of treaty interpretation
a. Historical context
b. Institutional context
c. Political context
V. The future challenges of treaty interpretation
For more details, see the attached flyer.
Supervision, coordination and support
The supervisor is responsible for ensuring that you carry out and report on your PhD research and that you skilfully apply theories and research methods to your thesis.
Members of the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences of the University of Bern oversee the WTI's doctoral programme. Please look closely at the research interests indicated by the professors in their personal web pages to learn more about the kinds of research topics that can be supervised at the WTI. The more general lines of research pursued by the professors who are available to supervise new researchers are set out below.
- Economics: International Trade Economics and Policy, International Migration, Climate Change, International Economics, International Macroeconomics and Finance
- Law: International and European Economic Law, WTO Law, Intellectual Property Law, Competition Law and Media Law
- Political Science: International Political Economy of Trade, International Organisations, International Economic Courts, Investment, Commodities
For study-related questions, the programme coordinators Dr Doris Oberdabernig and Dr Octavio Fernández-Amador are your first point of contact. They are responsible for the doctoral programme. Their role is to organise the core set of activities comprising the mandatory curriculum and to guide PhD students through the different steps of their studies. They regularly schedule events that provide PhD students with an opportunity to present and discuss research with peers.
English language support
The strength of your PhD is demonstrated not only by the content of your research, but also by how convincingly you present your argument. At the WTI, English language support is provided by the University of Bern's academic English services.
Your PhD at the WTI
PhDs generally take 3-5 years to complete. Once enrolled, WTI doctoral students will be required to collect a minimum of 24 ECTS credits in courses and other mandatory activities offered under the WTI Doctoral Programme. One credit equals approximately 25-30 hours of work.
The core set of activities composing the mandatory curriculum is meant to provide doctoral students with a uniquely structured programme which guides them through the different steps of their PhD studies and encourages interdisciplinarity. PhD students are also encouraged to earn extra credits (up to a total of 30 ECTS) through additional external activities such as presenting papers at conferences and publishing their work in academic journals.
One of the many benefits of being a PhD candidate at the WTI is obtaining peer feedback. You will be asked to present the results of your work at least once a year at a Doctoral Seminar and to attend your colleagues’ presentations. Doctoral Seminars take place once a year and provide a venue for the exchange of ideas, suggestions and comments. This is also where your thesis supervisor will provide guidelines and direction. The whole exercise provides a platform for you to practise the oral defence of your thesis.
Interdisciplinary seminar series
Every month, one doctoral student has the opportunity to present a piece of selected literature relating to trade and investment. The theme of the interdisciplinary seminar series changes every year and is selected by the doctoral coordinators and the thesis supervisors. This year PhD students are presenting a chapter from the book by Dunoff & Pollack, Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations: The State of the Art (IL-IR). This is introductory compulsory reading for all PhD students at the WTI.
Doctoral programme conference series
To help you expand your professional network, the Programme Director will support you in organising a conference related to your specific PhD topic.
Experts who are invited to be panel members at your event will receive a copy of your CV. This ensures that even if the invitation is declined, your research becomes known to specialists in your field who may remember you when you are searching for a job after graduation.
Database and citation software training
Several different software programmes for citation will be available to you, including Zotero. Zotero is a reference management programme that facilitates the collection, organisation, citation and sharing of research resources. You can take advantage of technical training in Zotero at the WTI.
Along with citation software training, you can benefit from training on legal and economic databases by librarians and external experts.
To be admitted to the WTI Doctoral Programme, the PhD applicant must be accepted for supervision by an eligible professor and enrolled at the University of Bern.
Applicants must successfully complete two steps:
- First, apply for supervision by submitting the application form (see Word document on the right) and all specified required documents by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Second, applicants accepted for supervision must enrol at the University of Bern and register with the Admissions Office of the University of Bern. Accordingly, they need to fulfil the formal requirements established in the regulations of their thesis supervisor’s faculty.
Applicants can only be officially accepted by the WTI Doctoral School if they have successfully completed the process of admission to doctoral studies at the University of Bern.
How to apply
To apply, and for details of our requirements, please download the application form (Word document) on the right.
Send your complete application by email to email@example.com with the subject line: Application Doctoral Programme – ‘Discipline’ (‘Law’ or ‘Economics’ or ‘Political Science’).
For Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship applicants (see below, Fees and Funding > Funding opportunities), it is recommended that applications be sent by 1 September for the next academic year with the subject line: Early Application Doctoral Programme – ‘Discipline’ (‘Law’ or ‘Economics’ or ‘Political Science’)’’. Early notifications will be sent to successful applicants to support them in their scholarship application.
For any questions related to the application process, please contact our PhD programme coordination office.
Application process: important steps
31 January: Application process for supervision procedure opens
31 March: Deadline for regular applications
May: Decision notifications for regular applications
June-September: Administrative enrolment of successful applicants with the faculty of interest of the University of Bern
1 September: Deadline for early admissions to the programme starting in the next academic year
September: Academic year begins
mid-October: Decision notifications on early admission applications
The deadline for submitting the application form along with all required documents is 31 March. Applications may be submitted until midnight (24:00 CET).
Fees and funding
The University of Bern determines tuition and semester fees for all programmes (see link on right). Students who have paid registration fees to the University of Bern are not charged a fee for the doctoral programme.
There are a number of ways to receive funding for your doctoral studies:
- The Swiss Federal Commission for Scholarships for Foreign Students (FCS) awards postgraduate scholarships to foreign scholars and researchers (see link on right to Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships). Deadlines vary depending on the country of residence.
- The SECO/WTI Academic Cooperation Project may fund your PhD studies if you are a native of one of their partner countries. This scholarship covers your entire tuition fee and includes a monthly living allowance for your time in Switzerland. The funding decision is made after your admission to the doctoral programme. In the absence of eligible candidates from SECO partner countries, natives of SECO priority countries may be considered for this scholarship.
- Swiss National Science Foundation Doc.ch and Doc.mobility schemes. In both cases the application deadlines are 1 March and 1 September.
We encourage you to apply for outside funding with governments, foundations and other institutions once you have been academically admitted to the programme.
Current doctoral students - with year of commencement in brackets
Ahmad, Zaker - Common Concern in International Law: Case Study on Climate Change and Trade (2015)
Beyleveld, Alexander - Common Concern in International Law: Case Study on Investment (2015)
Bhattacharya, Alexandra - Extraterritorial Application of Intellectual Property Law (2016)
Bodganova, Iryna - Common Concern in International Law: Case Study on Human Rights and Labour Rights Protection (2016)
Claros, Roberto - Exceptions that protect National Security and Public Order in IIAS: Challenges and Prospects for Latin American States (2014)
Haqnazar, Umida - 'SPS in Eurasian Economic Union, comparison with WTO SPS and EU law (2017)
Markitanova, Ana - (2017)
Namo, Freddi - (2017)
Nybert, Beatrice - The Evolution of Patent Law Enforcement (2014)
Peng, Delei - The Balance between Foreign Investor Protection and State Regulation under New Treaties: China as a Host State (2016)
Satragno, Lucia - Common Concern in International Law: Case Study on Financial Regulation and Monetary Affairs (2014)
Schäli, Judith - Plastic Garbage in the High Sea: Analysis from an International Law Perspective (2012)
Schläpfer, Andrea - International Financial Assistance Agreements and Policy Conditionality: An Analysis of Legal Frameworks for Conditional Sovereign Lending (2015)
Siziba, Clarence - The Regulation of Goods Originating in Conflict Zones in Public International Law (2014)
Stacy, Sean - The Role of Law Reform Programs for Economic Growth (2016)
Vasquez, Maria del Carmen - Big Data, The Interpretation of Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) Clause in International Investment Arbitration Settlement (2017)
Wang, Anqi - The Interpretation of Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) Clause in International Investment Arbitration (2017)
Weissert, Irina - The BRICS: A New Source of International Intellectual Property Standards? (2016)
Yildiz, Aylin - Working title: Understanding the global governance of environmental change, migration and human rights at the local level: the Pacific Small Island Developing States as our Common Concern (2017)
Ahmadzai, Khwaja Muhammad - Impact of Trade Liberalisation on Economic Growth in Landlocked Low Income Countries (2016)
DeSilvestro, Valentino - The Effects of Investment and Trade Agreements on Foreign Direct Investment, Technology Transfer and Global Value Chains Participation (2015)
Vogt, Achim - Non-tariff measures in international trade - Perspectives on costs and benefits (2016)
Angeli, Marietta - Preferential Trade Agreements and Developing Countries: The Challenges of Market Access (2017)
Klotz, Sebastian - Regulatory standard-setting and preferential trade agreements (2016)
Ren, Wanlin - Outflow Chinese foreign investment and labour protections (2017)
Surbeck, Jenny - Intellectual Property Rights in Preferential Trade Agreements: Design and Effects (2014)
Wagner, Patrick - Contagion Effect of Patient Zero: Inter- and Intraregional diffusion of labor standards through trade and foreign investment linkages (2017)