Curriculum and Dissertation

PhD students should complete coursework 12 ECTS points. Students should fulfill the core/mandatory requirements and complete elective modules with the most relevance to their research interests.  The program will offer a variety of modules covering theoretical areas in biomedical ethics as well as research methodologies. The selection of electives should be approved by the student’s supervisor.

See curriculum:

Mandatory Requirements (12 ECTS)

Offered by the Institute of Biomedical Ethics Foundations of Biomedical Ethics 3 ECTS
Contemporary Issues in Biomedical Ethics 3 ECTS
Methods in Biomedical Ethics


Choose one to complete mandatory course ECTS  Approaches and Ways of Legal Thinking 3 ECTS
Introduction to Medical and Health Care Law 3 ECTS

Additional Mandatory Requirements

Institute of Biomedical Ethics Teaching Requirements  
Research Colloquium  

Electives (will appear in Academic Record if offered by UZH)

Electives are comprised of selected courses and conferences offered by the IBME or by other Institutes, either in Zurich or in other Universities. They must be relevant to the PhD students research interests and have to be pre-approved by the PhD supervisor. 


Active participation in international meeting   tbd
Mentoring-Program   tbd
Soft skills courses, transferable skill for doctoral candidates As Needed (MMed/PhD courses) tbd
Mandatory Requirements: 12 ECTS

Core Courses

The core courses are offered by both the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and the Faculty of Law and are mandatory for all PhD students. Core courses can yield a total of 12 credit points. The goal of the core courses is to ensure that PhD students have a deep understanding of the key concepts, issues and methodological approaches in their field of study. It is highly recommended that core courses are completed during the first two semesters of study. Students who have completed these general courses will be better positioned to identify their research interests and select their research topic, while they will have the opportunity to explore the most suitable methodological approaches.


At least one peer-reviewed publication is a mandatory requirement for the successful completion of the program. It is expected that the publication will derive from the PhD research project and may be a chapter of the dissertation or one of the published articles that will comprise the dissertation.

Research Colloquium

Research Colloquia are bi-weekly and feature presentations by either a guest speaker, IBME staff, or a PhD student. They provide a great opportunity for interaction and academic exchange and are an important activity for the PhD program. To obtain the credit points for the semester colloquium students should attend all sessions during the semester and be active participants. (Absences should be discussed with the supervisor and they will be documented)

Foundations in Biomedical Ethics

This course presents the development of the field of biomedical ethics analyzing the historical and social changes that have played the most significant role in shaping the field. It focuses on the methodological approaches that have emerged in addressing ethical dilemmas in biomedicine in particular, principlism, rights-based approach, casuistry, virtue ethics etc. The goal of this course is to equip students with the different methodological approaches of argumentation and how they can be applied in the debate of bioethical issues. It only takes place in Fall Semesters

Contemporary Issues in Biomedical Ethics

The course is a survey of the current controversies in biomedical ethics. It addresses a representative selection of the most debated topics in the field including issues in clinical ethics, research with humans, international health and justice. The goal of the course is to ensure that participants are acquainted with the key debates in the field, and have an in depth knowledge of the most relevant literature which will also facilitate their search for defining their research project.

Methods in Biomedical Ethics

This module aims to introduce PhD students to various methodological aspects and practical skills they need for their research, including bibliography search, writing skills, research integrity issues, data protection and ethics self-assessment, research proposal writing, and a short introduction to quantitative and qualitative empirical methods.

Teaching Involvement

This requirement consists in completing a minimum of 100 hours of teaching along the PhD studies. “Teaching” is understood in a broad sense, which includes not only lectures or any form of assistance in the preparation of teaching (like teaching material), but also presentations, the organization of workshops, the tutoring of Master’s students, etc. This requirement applies only to PhD students starting from the spring semester 2022 onwards.


Every student has a supervisor. Depending on the research project a student may have two supervisors. The supervisor/s should be defined as early as possible and no later than the end of the first semester.


The dissertation is generally a cumulative dissertation consisting of various original articles, whereby at least one publication with first authorship must have been published or accepted for publication in an internationally recognized scientific journal. First authorship may be shared and the dissertation should include at least three publications. The dissertation may also consist of a monograph.

Dissertation Committee: The dissertation committee is responsible for planning, scheduling, supervising and evaluating the work that leads to the PhD degree. At the initiative of the PhD student the dissertation committee should be formed by the end of the first semester. The signed dissertation committee form should be returned to the secretariat at the end of the semester. It consists of the following members:
1. the supervisor, who must have at least a doctoral degree (if the student has two supervisors, both should be members of the committee).
2. a professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the UZH;
3. an external member (i.e. not from the UZH or ETH) with relevant expertise.
At least half of the committee members should be affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of the UZH. The dissertation committee should receive regular progress reports and hold a meeting with the PhD candidate within the first six months and once a year thereafter.

Dissertation Commitee Form (PDF, 91 KB)

Dissertation Defense Examination: Once the dissertation is completed and after the agreement of the Dissertation committee has been obtained, the PhD candidate sets a date for the dissertation defense examination. The dissertation defense examination consists of two parts: public presentation and open discussion of the PhD findings and a separate discussion between the candidate and the Dissertation committee. Examiners are the members of the Dissertation committee. The exam is graded on a pass or fail basis. In case of failure, the exam can be repeated one more time.