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Program description: courses, exams and requirements

PhD timeline

Week 1 –Week 4: Enrolment to the PhD programme and registration with the UNIL

1) The student and their supervisor sign the enrolment form for the PhD program  declaring that they accept the specific rules of the programme. This form also requests that the student chooses a PhD programme committee member as a PhD programme representative, who will follow their progress during their thesis. The enrolment form also requires that the student lists the proposition of courses they intend to participate to in the first year of their PhD  to give a total of 4 ECTS. Note: Within the first year, there must be 2 credits obtained from UNIL tutorials or various CIIL courses  out of the 4 credits required. Students must obtain at least 12 ECTS credits before their final thesis defense. Link


•The enrolment form needs to be returned to the PhD programme coordinator within the first month of starting your PhD.
• Note: As part of their obligations, PhD students enrolled in UNIL laboratories teach practical classes for Biology and Medicine students of the University of Lausanne (this is indicated in the “cahier de charges” part of your contract).

2) Registration procedure at the UNIL when you start your PhD

The student should enrol themselves as a student of the UNIL: This procedure is preformed on- line via the UNIL Imatt. Office. Please check the deadlines  and follow the steps carefully on  

   - with a Swiss undergraduate University degree : click   

   - with a foreign undergraduate University degree: click


Note: If the application is sent after the deadlines, the registration will be postponed to the next semester (or, in case the late application is accepted, the prospective student will have to pay an extra fee of CHF 200.-).  For more info


Please note that you will be requested by the IMMAT office to pay 200 CHF at the beginning of your PhD, plus 80 CHF at the beginning of each semester.

Within the first 6 months:

The PhD student arranges a short meeting with his selected PhD program committee member representative to briefly discuss how they have settled into the new environment and into their project.

Within 6-9 months: First year evaluation:

Within the first 6-9 months from the official day of starting the PhD there is an exam with the thesis jury (thesis director, committee member representative and an additional member that is in a different department but amongst the participating labs of the PhD Programme) to evaluate the student’s performance and potential. The exam consists of a short written report (4 pages maximum, see instructions below), an oral presentation (approx. 30 mins) and a discussion. The report must be submitted to the members of the thesis committee 2 weeks before the exam. A copy of the report should also be given to the PhD programme coordinator together with the composition of the thesis committee form.


â–ºInstructions for preparation of the first year evaluation

• Use Arial font 11 for the text and font 8 for the figure legends.
• Total of 4 pages divided in the following sections:
1.overall working hypothesis, specific aims and brief description of approaches to be used to achieve the goals: 0.5-1 page
2.summary of significance: max. 4 sentences, bullet point style
3.background with novelty/significance of the questions to be addressed: 1 page
4.preliminary results: 1-1.5 pages
5.project plan: future approaches : 0.5.1 page


• The Figures and figure legends are included within the 4 pages. The references may be added in addition to the 4 pages.

Please note that the purpose of the first exam (to be held within the first 9 months), is to evaluate the potential, dedication and capacity of the student to focus. The exam is not meant to assess the results already obtained. If the committee finds that a student is unlikely to be successful in completing their first year. They will be informed and, following a potential additional probation period, their contract will be terminated (by the end of the first year).

Within 24-28 months: Intermediate thesis exam:

Graduate students take an intermediate exam 24-28 months after having started their PhD studies. The exam committee will be composed of the thesis director and two other members, including the students PhD program committee representative and an external expert (that is not in the same Department or a direct collaborator). The exam consists of a written report (10 pages maximum), organized as a final thesis, an oral presentation (approximately 40 min), and a discussion. The report must be submitted to the members of the thesis committee two weeks before the exam and the composition of the thesis committee form is to be sent to the PhD prgramme coordinator also two weeks beofre the exam. The purpose of the exam is to evaluate the student's progress and make constructive suggestions regarding the thesis project. If the intermediate exam shows a lack of progress, the student will be told so by the thesis committee. After a potential additional probation period, the may be excluded from the PhD Program and their contract terminated (by the end of the third year of studies).

Three years (36 months):

Three years (36 months) following the start of the PhD thesis the form “ 36 month Progress Report/UNIL”  is completed by the student (and signed by the thesis director and PhD committee representative) and sent to the coordinator of the PhD programme (Françoise Flejszman). A short discussion about the work in progress is also made with the PhD programme committee representative

Three to 3.5 years (36-42 months):

If the student anticipates that their thesis will last more than 4 years they are required to complete and submit the form “ Request for an extension of the thesis deadline” (Available from the PhD Programme Coordinator). The maximum period of extension is 6 months.

Four years (48 months): Final thesis exam:

Note: Before submitting the thesis the student must have accumulated at least 12 ECTS credits (this includes the 4 ECTS obtained in the first year). The course certificates are kept in the doctoral programme coordinator’s office (Françoise Flejszman) until deposit of the final version of the thesis. Publications are strongly encouraged but are not a requirement to obtain a PhD degree


Note: The UNIL doctoral school rules and guidelines apply for the final thesis private and public exam

8-10 weeks before the private thesis exam:

After 4 years of thesis work, graduate students have a private thesis exam in the presence of the thesis committee. Typically three weeks later they present their work to their family, friends and co-workers in a public thesis exam.


To do:

-The form “ Composition of the thesis committee"  is submitted to the coordinator of the PhD Programme for approval by the UNIL Doctoral School.

Final thesis committee-jury (maximum 6 members) consists of :

  • The Thesis Director (the co-director or the rapporteur if one has been assigned)
  • The students PhD programme committee representative
  • An External expert (outside of UNIL and CIIL)
  • A University of Lausanne representative-(member of the PhD programme or a PI from UNIL)
  • The President (assigned by the UNIL-FBM doctoral school)

The composition of the final thesis committee is agreed between the student, the thesis director, the PhD Programme committee coordinator and the FBM-UNIL Doctoral School. No committee members (except the thesis director/co-director) can be co-authors of papers with the candidate. The members of the thesis committee offer guidance, advising students on the feasibility of their research project and evaluating their progress. The PhD programme director should be consulted by the student and/or his director on issues related to the project, or in case of conflict.


The jury composition, date, time and place of the private thesis exam as well as the title of the thesis are proposed by the student to the local PhD programme coordinator (F.Flejszman) at the latest 10 weeks before the private thesis defense. The coordinator of the PhD programme validates the composition of the jury. The PhD programme coordinator (F.Flejszman) verifies that the candidate has 12 credits and prepares a letter for the UNIL Doctoral School stating the completion of credit requirements.


The proposition of the thesis jury is then submitted (by F. Flejszman) to the FBM-UNIL Doctoral School at least 7 weeks before the private thesis defense. The composition of the thesis committee is approved by the Doctoral School which nominates the president of the jury.

5-8 weeks before the private thesis exam:

At the latest 5 weeks before the private thesis exam the student has preparedtheir'thesis manuscript' according to the rules of the FBM-UNIL Doctoral School. One copy of the manuscript is submitted to the FBM-UNIL Doctoral School office in Dorigny (Bâtiment Biophore) along with the approved form "Proposal of thesis jury", a letter confirming the 12 credits acquired, CV, list of publications/commmunications/conferences, scientific abstracts in French and English and a lay description of the work in French. The student pays the exam fee to the UNIL FBM-doctoral office. Finally, the student submits his 'thesis manuscript' to all  their final thesis exam committee members.

Before the end of the 4th year: Private thesis exam:

Presentation of approximately 30 minutes plus discussion with the thesis jury: For more information click here

Approximately 3 weeks after the private thesis exam: Public exam:

The public thesis defense takes place at least 3 weeks (and maximally 6 months) after the private defense. The modifications to the thesis manuscript requested by the jury must have been completed and a new manuscript approved by the thesis director must have been submitted to the UNIL Doctoral School before the public exam. The announcement of the students public exam will be prepared by The UNIL-FBM Doctoral School.


The candidate defends their thesis publicly via a lay version of their thesis work. The presentation should be approximately 45 minutes followed by questions by the experts and the public. The language in principle is French. A different language may be authorized upon request to the jury.

After the public exam:

Based on the thesis  jury’s decision the UNIL Doctoral School will prepare and attribute the PhD "Imprimatur" (official statement of successful PhD completion) and the PhD diploma (see below).


After having received the "Imprimatur" the final version of the thesis manuscript is deposited by the student to the UNIL doctoral school at the latest 6 months after the public defense. The student also needs to deposit the final version of their thesis with the imprimateur to their PhD programme coordinator, Thesis director and all members of their jury. Three copies also need to be deposited at the  UNIL library (Bibliothèque Cantonal et Universitaire Lausanne) and a form signed.

Please note the the PhD student has to remain enrolled at the UNIL and the Doctoral School until the thesis has been deposited at the library and doctoral school.


Online publication of the thesis The thesis can be published online at he University of Lausanne, through the SERVAL website


Order your diploma :Fill in the online form: "Application de commande électronique de grade" (availble in the booklet provided by the Doctoral School).

Type of exam Date Requirement Research proposal Oral or Written Exam Committee composition

Qualifiying exam


Within the 6-9 first months from the official day of entry in the program


2 pages and figures
(4 pages max)


Oral :
30 min


- Thesis director/co-director
- PhD Committee member
- 3rd person from the PhD programme

Mid-thesis research proposal At the end of the 2nd year
(24 to 28 months)
10 pages max Oral:
40 min

-Thesis Director/Co-director

-PhD committee member
-External expert***

*** for the half thesis, the external expert is external to your Department but can belong to UNIL, CHUV, LUDWIG (art. 5. al.2 from the UNIL rules). The reason is that the Faculty of Biology and Medicine does not reimburse any expenses at the half thesis level.


At the end of the 4th year     -Thesis director/Co-director
- PhD committee member
-An External expert
-A University representative


Check list for the thesis

Doctorat in Life Sciences

Forms - pdf

Qualifying Exam - 6 to 9 months

Intermediate thesis exam

36 month Report

Ch. des Boveresses 155 - CH-1066 Epalinges
Tel. +41 21 692 57 00
Fax +41 21 692 57 05