The PhD program consists mainly of the PhD thesis involving 3 to 4 years (full time) of research work in a project within one of the research units of the faculty affiliated to the Graduate School of Climate Sciences. The PhD thesis is usually written in the form of research articles in international peer reviewed journals.

Completion of the program entitles with a "PhD of Science in Climate Sciences, University of Bern" issued by the Faculty of Science. PhD students of other faculties of the University of Bern can also be admitted to the PhD program if they are members of the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research. These PhD students are subject to the regulations of the relevant faculties and are also enrolled in the relevant faculties.

The PhD program is not a structured training program, but with the studies program 2018 (Studies program 2018 (PDF, 1020KB), students are obliged to prepare a doctoral agreement (Doktoratsvereinbarung) and complete 12 ECTS coursework during their PhD

Doctoral Agreement (Doktoratsvereinbarung)

The Doctoral agreement (Doktoratsvereinbarung) en (PDF, 292KB) puts rights and duties of the PhD candidate and the supervisor(s) on record. Even though not legally binding, it is valid during the PhD project and aims to set an optimal framework for the PhD candidate. The doctoral agreement can be modified and should be reviewed regularly. It must be completed within the first month of the PhD project and submitted to the deputy studies director.


According to the studies program 2011, PhD students are obliged to complete 12 ECTS coursework during their PhD studies. The type of courses is specified in the Appendix to the Studies Program (PDF, 847KB):

Compulsory courses (9 ECTS):

  • International Swiss Climate Summer School (3 ECTS)
  • Colloquia, seminars and/or Oeschger Seminar Series (6 semesters, 3 ECTS)
  • Participation in an international conference, with talk or poster (2 ECTS)
  • OCCR Climate Young Researchers Meeting (1 ECTS)

Elective courses (3 ECTS):

  • Course(s) of your choice from the MSc program (U Bern and ETH Zurich)
  • Any other course(s) (different summer schools, specific training courses, etc.) upon approval by the studies director

Together with your supervisor, you specify the courses you plan to take in the Doctoral agreement (Doktoratsvereinbarung) en (PDF, 292KB). Get the approval by the studies director for elective courses that are not in the Appendix to Studies Program (Overview Master and PhD Courses with ECTS) (PDF, 847KB). Register for the courses in KSL and collect certificates of attendance where applicable; submit them to the studies directorate. For coursework at ETH Zürich, you need to register as special students.

Scientific Writing – Tutored Editing for PhD students

The Graduate School of Climate Sciences offers training opportunities for scientific writing. The course “Writing for Publication in Climate Sciences” is intended for PhD students in the first half of their project and focuses on general writing skills for research articles. The course is not accountable towards the corsework of 12 ECTS (see above).

Tutored Editing
In addition, all PhD students are entitled to one package of individual consultations regarding a scientific article (see Tutored Editing Service (PDF, 235KB)). These consultations are designed to work specifically on texts that are ready for submission / publication. In the consultations, grammar, style and tangibility of your texts will be improved. Before you contact the lecturer, please write to for more information.

PhD examination and completion

The graduation process and formalities are defined by the Faculty of Science. It involves some important steps:

  • Designate an external co-referee for your dissertation. Fill out the request for authorization,  and hand it in to the studies directorate of the Graduate School of Climate Sciences, who will approve and forward it to the Dean's Office.
  • Check the registration and submission deadlines for the evaluated dissertation.
  • Set the date, time and location for your PhD defense with your supervisor(s) and the chair examiner. The chair examiner must be a Full or Associate Professor with the Faculty of Sciences. Fill in the "Application Form for Completing a PhD" and follow the instructions.
  • IMPORTANT: Please notify the studies directorate about time and venue of your PhD defense, we do not receive this information from the Dean's Office.

Please refer to the
Forms and Guidelines of the Faculty of Science