Frequently Asked Questions_171201

Admission requirements

Application process

PhD studies, Tuition Fees, Employment, Living in Switzerland

Admission requirements

Can I apply before I receive my degree?

Yes. Applications can be submitted before obtaining the degree, you should, however, obtain your degree within six month after the application deadline. If your Master degree is not available at the time of your application, we kindly ask you to upload a copy of your Bachelor degree and your latest academic transcript instead.

I hold a medical degree (MD). Am I eligible?

Students holding a Medical (MD) or a Veterinary Degree (DVM) cannot enroll directly, as MD/DVM Degrees are not considered an equivalent of a MSc Degree. However, they can enroll via the MD-PhD program. For more information, check the website of the MD/PhD program of the Universtiy of Zurich.

I hold a degree from a university of applied sciences (Fachhochschule). Am I eligible?

Students with a MSc of a university of applied sciences are welcome to apply. However, please note that the Life Science Zurich Graduate School - as it does with all applicants - will only evaluate your scientific ability. After the successful acceptance to the Life Science Graduate School all applicants have to apply for their formal admission as PhD students at the University of Zurich or ETH. The admission might not be granted because of formal reasons or it might be granted with or without further admission requirements.

I hold a Bachelor's Degree/B.Tech/B.Sc (Hons) and have research experience, which gives me access to a PhD in my home country. Am I eligible?

Unfortunately, our universities do not consider a Bachelor's Degree/B.Tech/B.Sc (Hons) as equivalent to a Masters and therefore an application is not possible.

I hold a Master in Public Health/a Master in Clinical Research/a Master in Psychology/ another biology related M.Sc. Do I qualify for the program?

In this case, please contact the coordinator of the program you would like to apply to prior to registering for STEP1, as it will have to be looked at individually. Eligibility depends on the specific curriculum/credit points.

Does the LSZGS have specific language requirements?

The program language is English throughout. Proficiency in English is therefore required. A formal proof of competence in English (IELTS, CPE or TOEFL) is recommended but not mandatory.

Does the LSZGS require candidates to have taken a GRE test?

At present, the LSZGS does not ask for a GRE test.

Is there an age limit?

Although we do not have a strict age limit, we think that PhD students should not be older than 30 years when they start their dissertation. This limit may be disregarded if special circumstances (to be explained in the curriculum) give a convincing reason for a delay.

Application process

How much is the application fee?

The Life Science Zurich Graduate School does not charge an application fee.

How can I correct mistakes in STEP 1 of my application?

Please contact the administrator of the program you applied to or the LSZGS by mail and write to them what needs to be corrected.

Can I upload my academic transcripts instead of filling in the section "coursework"?

You are welcome to upload your academic transcripts, if you wish to do so. However, we kindly ask you to list at least the most important courses in the section "coursework" or those which inform about your specialization or your personal interests. Do not leave the section "coursework" completely empty and do not forget to indicate the best and worst grades used by your university.

My university uses a percentage system instead of grades or scores. What do I indicate?

In this case, please indicate the percentage you obtained and which percentage is required to pass.

Can I exchange one referee for another one?

You may replace one referee by another. Please send all the required information (title, family name, first name, university, institute, street, postal code, city, phone at work, email) regarding the referee you would like to add to the administrator of the program you have applied to or to the LSZGS. Indicate clearly which referee we should replace.

Can I add an additional (third) referee?

It is possible to add a third referee after having submitted STEP 1 of your application. Please send all the required information (title, family name, first name, university, institute, street, postal code, city, phone at work, email) to the administrator of the program you have applied to or to the LSZGS and we will add the third referee to your application.

My referee has not obtained an invitation to send a letter of recommendation.

Check whether his or her email address is correct. If it is wrong, please send the correct email address to the program administrator. If the email address is correct the following might have happened:

a) The email ended up in the junk box of your referee because the spam filter blocked our email -> Resend the email and, importantly, tell your referee to check also the junk box.

b) There was another problem and the email was not delivered -> Resend the email and inform your referee accordingly.

Can I upload scanned copies of recommendation letters instead of having them submitted online?

No, it is not possible to upload letters of recommendation. Your referees must fill in our online form.

Can I change the chosen program after the application deadline?

Your application will be evaluated by your first choice program and your admission interview will also be with this program. However, once you are accepted to the LSZGS the acceptance is valid for all our PhD programs. In the end, you will participate in the PhD program of which your direct supervisor is a member. If he or she is a member of more than one program, you may choose together with him or her which program you will join.

Do I need to choose and contact a specific group leader with whom I wish to work with before applying to the LSZGS?

No. It is neither necessary nor recommended to contact group leaders individually. Students who are invited for an interview will get access to a list of open positions and project descriptions before coming to Zurich.

Where do I find a list of open positions?

The list of open positions is only published after the application deadline. Invited students will automatically have access to the list of open positions.

Can I save the data of my STEP 2 part and resume completing the application after a while?

The "save" button at the end of each section in STEP 2 is also a "submit" button. You may save your text as often as you wish and return any time back to the form as long as the deadline has not expired.

Will I receive a confirmation after having submitted STEP 2 of my application?

No. Please note that the "save" button is also a "submit" button and that you may resume working on your application until the deadline expires. In order to check what your application looks like, you can download a pdf version. For this, see the heading "current status of your application". The pdf of your application is identical to the document our admission committee will evaluate. You will find information about the status of your application on the dashboard during and after the application deadline.

Why am I not able to download a pdf of my application?

Most likely one of the documents you uploaded is not a pdf or bigger than 1 MB. The difficulty may also lie with the security settings of the pdf, which is often the case with certificates. Please make sure the pdf you upload is viewable (click on it after the upload and check whether the download works). If the upload or download does not work, it is best to convert the documents once more into a pdf, ideally by using the pdf converter link offered in STEP 2.

How can I check the status of my application (letters of recommendation, correct upload of certificates, result of my application)?

1) Letters of recommendation: You can easily check yourself whether the letters of recommendation have arrived or not. On the dashboard the names of your referees will be listed in a small table with different background colors. A detailed explanation of the meaning of these colors is given below the table (red= you still need to invite your referee; yellow= you have invited your referee but she or he has not sent his letter yet; green= your referee has sent his or her letter of recommendation).

2) Upload of certificates: To check whether you uploaded your documents correctly, you can download the pdf version of your application. You will find the corresponding link on the dashboard. If you are not able to download the pdf, this means that your documents are not correctly uploaded.

3) Result of your application: The status of your application will be indicated on the dashboard in a chart as well as in words.

Do I need to have my certificates translated into English and authenticated?

There is no need to have your certificates authenticated prior to the online application and you may provide the translation yourself for this purpose. Official translation and authentication of the certificates and degrees is required, however, for the registration at the ETH or the University of Zurich.

Should I send a hardcopy of my application and curriculum vitae by post as well?

No, there is no need to send a hardcopy as the whole application process is online and no post mail is exchanged. However, you will need to bring along the hardcopy originals of your certificates when you start your PhD, as you will need them for registration at the University or the ETH Zurich.

My first choice program has turned down my application. Will my application be considered by the second choice program?

No. Our programs all apply the same quality standards, which would not be guaranteed if a program invited a student who has been rejected by another program.

Am I allowed to apply a second time?

Yes, you are welcome to apply a second time to a PhD program of the LSZGS. However, please be aware that we will not accept a third application.

In case you have been shortlisted and have attended the interviews you cannot apply a second time irrespectively of whether you have successfully passed or failed the admission interview.

How and when will I hear about the outcome of my application?

Students who submitted a complete application will be informed on the dash board about the outcome. If possible, they will know about the result by the end of the month of the application deadline (end of July, end of December). There will be no e-mail correspondence on the decision.

What is the meaning of "University best-scale-value"/ "University worst-scale-value"?

The "University best-scale-value" is the best grade your university awards (e.g. 6 in Switzerland, 1 in Germany), whereas the "worst-scale-value" is the lowest degree (e.g. 1 in Switzerland, 5 in Germany). If a percentage system is used in your country, just indicate the "best-scale-value" and "worst-scale-value" in percentage.

I get an error message when trying to upload my degree copies in pdf format.

PDF files can be created in many different ways. For example, a document  can be saved directly as PDF using programs such as LibreOffice or online PDF converters, or it can be created when scanning a paper with a scanning machine. Unfortunately, some manufacturers do not strictly follow the PDF standard when building their software or machines.

Documents created with such non-conforming software or machines may look and behave like "normal" PDF documents, but they can not be automatically processed.

Since we do process all uploaded PDF documents automatically, we can only accept PDF documents which fully comply with the PDF standard. If you receive an error message when uploading your documents, please try the following:

Open the file in Adobe Acrobat, then choose from the menu "File -> Print -> Print to file -> Print to pdf". There is a good chance that you can "repair" your document this way.

If the above fails, try to scan or convert your documents using a different scanning machine or a different converting software.

PhD studies, Tuition Fees, Employment, Living in Switzerland

When do I start my PhD / when does the PhD Program start?

Accepted students may start their PhD and the PhD program any time of the year. In general, the student will agree with his or her prospective supervisor on a specific starting date.

How long does it take students to complete their PhD?

Students of the Life Science Zurich Graduate School are expected to submit their thesis within three to four years.

How do I proceed to enroll at the ETH and the University of Zurich?

After having been accepted to the LSZGS and accepted a job offer from one of our group leaders, you will have to enroll at the institution your prospective group leader is affiliated with. The enrollment procedures of ETH and University differ considerably; therefore make sure that you stick to the right requirements. Both institutions may ask you to complete specific admission requirements such as examinations. You will be informed whether you have to fulfill such requirements after your enrollment. For detailed information see the regulations of ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich.

For the enrollment at ETH please refer to the following web pages:

You will find all necessary information about the enrollment at the University of Zurich here:

Please be aware that you will have to enroll at the general office (Kanzlei) of the university as well as the dean's office for doctoral studies of the relevant faculty!

Are there any tuition fees?

ETH: Before beginning your PhD studies you will be asked to pay an application fee of 150,- CHF. Should you have to fulfill additional admission requirements (qualifying examinations) a fee of 120.- CHF is due. In addition to that, there is a one-time global fee of CHF 1'200 which will be charged at the end of your doctoral studies. Compulsory semester fees are currently CHF 32.- .

University: PhD students have to pay a tuition-fee of Fr. 299.00 CHF per semester.

How will I finance my PhD studies?

Research groups within the Life Science Zurich Graduate School provide financial support in accordance with the Ph.D. student salary set by the Swiss National Science Foundation (at present CHF 47'040.- in the 1st year; 48'540.- in the 2nd year; 50'040.- in the 3rd and 4th year). Please note that these are gross amounts from which approx. 15 % will be deducted for social security, taxes, etc., not including the private health insurance which is compulsory (approx. 250.- to 300.-/month depending on the scheme you choose). The income is generous compared to international standards and sufficient to make a decent living in Zurich. Living costs (including accommodation, health insurance, transport, meals) sum up to approx. CHF 2'000 per month.

How do I prepare my entry in Switzerland?

Students from EU and EFTA countries only need a valid passport. For students from the new EU states, transitory regulations apply. Please contact the Swiss embassy or consulate in your country for information about the immigration procedure. Students from countries with a visa requirement need to apply for a visa at the (link auf: Swiss embassy or consulate general: of their home country at least three months before entry. Please note that students from the above mentioned countries cannot be matriculated at our universities without having a valid visa. If you have accepted a position with ETH or the University of Zurich, the personnel department of that particular institution or the person responsible for personnel in your future research group will contact the immigration authorities and file an official demand for the work permit. You will probably be required to provide additional personal information needed for this procedure. Within approx. one month, you will receive a confirmation letter with which you can obtain the visa for your entry to Switzerland at your local embassy. Once in Switzerland, you have to report to the immigration office who will then finalize the work permit formalities. As a rule you have to reckon with about two months for immigration formalities prior to traveling to Switzerland.

Can my spouse join me if I accept a PhD position in Zurich?

If you are not from an EU or EFTA country, it will be up to the immigration office to decide whether your spouse will receive a permit to join you or not. In general, a PhD salary is not considered sufficient to make a living for two adult persons. Nonetheless, it might be possible to obtain a permit, if your spouse can prove that she or he has enough personal savings or that she or he has a working contract with a company domiciled in Switzerland or a funded PhD position.

How do I go about finding accommodation in Zurich?

Do I need to organise my own health insurance in Switzerland?

Where do I find practical information regarding life in Switzerland?

You will find an answer to all the above and many more questions you may have at the ETH welcome center:

For UZH related information on these topics please refer to: