Ph.D Programme


Ph.D’s in international relations, governance, security and development cover such disciplinary angles as political science, economics, history, sociology, anthropology, geography, economics, law, management and philosophy.

They feature permanent, individualized guidance by two faculty advisers, supplemented by written documents on (general and operational) methodology. The student/adviser interaction takes place regularly through email and Skype conferences, or through face-to-face interviews in Geneva by appointment with faculty advisers. Work concentrates on the research at hand : there is no additional coursework. This means that permanent residence in Geneva is not required of students.

Study towards a PhD at GGSG is designed to last from two to five years. Two-year Ph.D’s are reserved for students who have already done a fair amount of work on their research subject, either at another institution or in a professional capacity. Public defence of a 350-500 page-long thesis before an international committee of prominent scholars specializing in the researched topic completes the cycle. Publication of the thesis is the norm whenever the committee awards it a cum laude distinction.

Dissertations use either English or French.

Since GGSG’s main area of research concentration gives pride of place to the international dimension, dissertation topics should at a minimum include a cross-border comparison.

Ph.D’s start at any time of year : our rolling admission policy allows applicants, should their application be granted, to choose the starting date most convenient to them.

The Curriculum proceeds in scheduled stages, which may be adapted given progress and availability :

Year One

  • Handing out of a methodological reader containing directives and guidance on how to write a thesis in the social sciences (month 1)
  • Selection of a research question, part one (month 1)
  • Review of the literature on the research topic (months 2-6)
  • Preliminary non-directive interviews with people acquainted with the topic through experience or research specialization (months 2-6)
  • Progress report (end of month 6)
  • Selection of the research question, part two (refinement in view of the literature, interviews, and knowledge interests – month 7)
  • Theory and method (months 8-9)
  • Discussion of general methodological issues and most suitable theoretical framework (end of month 9)
  • Analytical model : selection and interrelation of hypotheses (most plausible answers to the research question), definition of concepts and dimensions (month 10)
  • Operational methodology : analysis of documentary evidence, questionnaire surveys, interviews, participant observation, network analysis, etc. – month 11)
  • Submission of a detailed observation plan (month 12)

Year Two

  • Project summary draft (month 1)
  • Collection of data (months 1-5)
  • Analysis of data (months 5-9)
  • Detailed evaluation of findings in light of hypotheses (month 10)
  • Presentation and discussion of findings and conclusions (end of month 10)
  • Detailed plan of the dissertation (months 11 and 12)

Subsequent Year(s)

  • Dissertation writing
  • Review and corrections
  • Public defence of the dissertation before a thesis committee comprising in-house and external academics (end of third academic year, or any time of the year past the 3-year mark)


Application Procedure : see Admissions


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