Curriculum and Dissertation


PhD students should complete coursework for a minimum of 30 ECTS points. Students should fulfill the core/mandatory requirements and complete elective modules with the most relevance to their research interests. (The ratio for core/electives is expected to be 3:2.) 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 (18 ECTS)

Offered by the Institute of Biomedical Ethics Foundations in biomedical ethics 3 ECTS
Contemporary issues in biomedical ethics 3 ECTS
Offered by the Faculty of Law Approaches and Ways of Legal Thinking 3 ECTS
Introduction to Medical and Health Care Law 3 ECTS

Additional Mandatory Requirements

Electives (minimum 12 ECTS)

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)

Mandatory Requirements: CP18

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 (See Dissertation options). Tutoring for the preparation of the publication will be provided and the tutorials along with the publication will amount to 3 credit points.

IBME Semester Colloquia:

Semester 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.



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. The credit points for each of them is determined by the PhD Coordinator on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the length of the course/conference and the amount of work completed by the PhD student (oral presentation, readings, written assignment, etc.). For the award of the credit points, it is required to complete the ECTs Credit Points Transfer Form, which is available at:


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 research project should lead to a dissertation in the form of a monograph. The monograph can contain a collection of articles which have been published or accepted for publication in national and international scientific journals.
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 (if the student has two supervisors, both should be members of the committee) 2. a member of the PhD Program Commission BmEL/MeF; 3. an additional scholar (depending on relevance to the research project). A committee member may be from a faculty other than Medicine or Law if the research project requires additional guidance. If none of these members belongs to the Faculty of Medicine, a Faculty of Medicine member should be added to the committee. The objective of the Dissertation committee is to supervise, guide and mentor the PhD candidate during his studies. To ensure these functions are fulfilled, the committee should receive regular progress reports and hold regular meetings with the PhD candidate.

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.