Doctoral Programme


A PhD at the WTI

Our doctoral programme gives you the opportunity to further your professional and academic career in economics, political science and law.

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. 

Please note: the WTI is not in the position to fund your PhD. We encourage you to apply for outside funding with governments, foundations and other institutions once you have been academically admitted to the programme. More information in the "Fees and Funding" section below.

Questions or info? Please email
Ready to apply? Please use our online application form.

New PhD Course: Recent Developments in International Investment Law

About the course
The sessions will devote particular attention to the criticism that the current investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system is facing and the various reform efforts that States and other stakeholders are making to address such criticism.

The course will in particular review in detail the recent ICSID Rules amendments which have reformed the ICSID arbitration framework in a number of significant respects and which have come into effect in July 2022. We will in particular look at the new rules on transparency and third-party funding, and at the innovations aimed at making proceedings more time- and cost-efficient.

Moreover, the classes will address in some detail the ongoing work of UNCITRAL Working Group III with respect to ISDS reform.

The course will explore the complex design and legal questions which each of these reform options entails, including the law of treaty questions that arise in seeking to reform the existing investment treaty framework.

Find the full Syllabus here


Dr Michele Potestà, Dr Nikos Lavranos, Dr Sofía Boza, and Dr Andrea Steingruber

Course dates
25-29 September 2023

World Trade Institute (WTI), Hallerstrasse 6, 3012 Bern
This course is offered on-site only.

The course is open for Master and PhD students from the University of Bern or from other Universities worldwide.
A registration fee of 50 CHF is required.

500 CHF
The course is free of charge for students enrolled in Universities in Switzerland.

If you are interested, please send an email to:

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.

Current doctoral students

Current doctoral students - with year of commencement in brackets


Biksadsky, Boris (2018)
Cahueñas Muños, Hugo (2018)
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)
Kucheriava, Yuliia (2020)
Liu, Yinuo (2018)
Peng, Delei - "The Balance between Foreign Investor Protection and State Regulation under New Treaties: China as a Host State" (2016)
RenRu, Ma (2023)
Saadeh, Wafaa (2022)
Singh, Shailja (2021)
Stacy, Sean - "The Role of Law Reform Programs for Economic Growth" (2016)
Tressler, Frank (2023)
Weissert, Irina - "The BRICS: A New Source of International Intellectual Property Standards?" (2016)
Wu, Hsin-Yi (2019)
Yakubkhodjaev, Umid (2018)


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)
Garcés Iriarte, Irene (2019)
Hauser, Selina (2020)
Vogt, Achim - "Non-tariff measures in international trade - Perspectives on costs and benefits" (2016)
Baumann, David (2021)
Jehli, Martin - "Essays in Computational Econometrics" (2021)
Jhunjhunwala, Kirti  (2023)
Rosenow, Samuel - "Empirical Essays in International Trade" (2018)
Orlov, Daniil (2021)
El Chammaa, Roudayna - "Essays on the International Trade of Services" (2023)

Political Science:

Ganeson, Kirthana (2021)
Roux, Marine (2021) - "Trade Treaties and Democracy: Short- and Long-Term Effects of Bargaining Power"

About the PhD courses

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.

For details of courses in the current year as well as past courses, see the section below.

For Economics PhD students:

For Law PhD students: 

Supervision, coordination and support

Thesis supervisor
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

Academic Coordinator
For study-related questions, the programme coordinator is Dr. Octavio Fernández-Amador. His 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. He regularly schedules events that provide PhD students with an opportunity to present and discuss research with peers.

Programme Coordinators
Karin Rosenberg and Sophia Thompson

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.

For questions please email 

Your PhD at the WTI

ECTS credits
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.

Doctoral colloquia
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 colloquium and to attend your colleagues’ presentations. Doctoral colloquia take place at least twice 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.

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.

Admissions procedure

How to apply

FIRST STEP: please apply via the WTI’s online application form. The review of your application can take up to 30 days. Once you have been conditionally accepted by WTI Doctoral School and have a potential supervisor in mind, move on the next application step.

SECOND STEP: if you get accepted, the WTI will send you an acceptance letter. With this letter, you can start the admission process for the University of Bern and the corresponding faculty. Acceptance to the WTI Doctoral School is only final after the corresponding faculty and University of Bern matriculation office have confirmed your acceptance.

For Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship applicants (for more information on funding opportunities see below), it is recommended that applications for the next academic year (fall semester) be sent by 31 August 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, contact our PhD programme coordination office.

The application documents you need:

  1. a detailed CV;
  2. a letter of motivation;
  3. transcripts and degrees of all completed college/university courses
  4. a letter from the university from which you obtained your Master’s degree (within the last 10 years), confirming that you fulfil the requirements for admission to its doctoral programme. Further training qualifications (Master of Advanced Studies, Executive Master) and degrees from a university of applied sciences or a university of teacher education are not accepted for admission to doctoral studies;
  5. evidence of English proficiency for non-native speakers (e.g. TOEFL/IELTS scores);
  6. two letters of recommendation;
  7. research proposal (see template on the website)

Application deadline (all disciplines): 31 July (24:00 CET)
November: Notification of decision on conditional admission
December-March: Administrative enrolment of students with University of Bern and the the faculty of interest

Additional application deadline for law: 30 April (24:00 CET)
May: Notification of decision on conditional admission
June-September: Administrative enrolment of students with University of Bern and the the faculty of interest


English language requirements

When evaluating your application, the selection committee pays close attention to evidence of your proficiency in English. You are required to submit objective test scores of one of the accepted tests listed below:

Test                          Minimum Score  
TOEFL ibT                100 points or above   

IELTS                        7.0 or above
The following applicants are exempt from submitting test scores:

  • Native English speakers
  • Students with an undergraduate and/or graduate degree from an institution in the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand, where English was the primary language of instruction and the degree was awarded no longer than five years ago.

Unsure of your exemption status? Please contact us we are glad to help. 


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.

Funding opportunities
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.
  • Swiss National Science Foundation and Doc.mobility schemes. In both cases the application deadlines are 1 March and 1 September.

As the WTI is not in the position to fund your PhD, we encourage you to apply for outside funding with governments, foundations and other institutions once you have been academically admitted to the programme.