PhD Thesis Defense & Degree

All paper and electronic documents (including assessments) have to be submitted 4 weeks before the specified date of the thesis defense at the latest. The thesis must be submitted no later than one year after finishing experimental work, i.e. within 4 years (3 years experimental work + 1 year after). GCB doctoral candidates who request exceptions to the rules, e.g., submission of the thesis from the 4th year, must do so in writing and addressed to the GCB PhD Committee. Evaluations of prolongation requests are made on a case by case basis. GCB Promotion Regulations - relevant Articles (The following excerpts are from an English translation of the original and signed “PROMOTIONSREGLEMENT der Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences der Universität Bern” issued in German. The German version is legally valid): Art 7§1 The PhD program generally lasts three years. Applications for part-time studies must be submitted to the Expert Committee. In the case of part-time studies, the duration of study is extended accordingly. [Version dated 10.10.2019/12.12.2018/24.6.2019] Art 10 §3 The dissertation must be submitted at the latest one year after completion of the research work. Requests for exceptions must be submitted to the PhD Committee. [Version of 10.10.2019/12.12.2018/24.6.2019]

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

PhD Thesis Defense and Degree

1. Planning

The Excel worksheet is a simple tool to identify key dates when planning your written thesis submission and oral thesis defense. Enter your planned thesis defense date in the indicated field. All other dates will be calculated according to a formula to approximate the key submission deadlines.

What are the qualifications for an external co-referee?

The external co-referee specifications are laid out in the GCB Promotion Regulations, Art. 13 2External examiners are independent research group leaders who have expertise in the research area of the doctoral candidate and have not published any research paper together with the doctoral candidate or the thesis supervisor during the last five years. An external examiner may be the same as the external co-referee of the written dissertation and is either present in person or connected via videoconference.

  1. May I include a manuscript in my written thesis that has not yet been submitted for publication? Yes.
    Entire manuscript (including bibliography): Specify your own contributions on the page preceding the manuscript.
    Partial manuscript: any collaborative work must be accompanied by a clear written statement with appropriate acknowledgement of the relative contributions of all parties.
  2. May I include a published paper in my written thesis? Yes.
    Conditions: You are a first or second author of the paper. Entire manuscript (including bibliography): Specify your own contributions on the page preceding the manuscript.
    Partial manuscript: any collaborative work must be accompanied by a clear written statement with appropriate acknowledgement of the relative contributions of all parties.


  1. What size of font am I required to use?
    The font size is not pre-determined. You choose.
  2. Format and Structure? You are required to use the GCB-defined structure for your written thesis, including:
  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Hypothesis and Aim of Thesis
  • Results
  • Overall Discussion and Outlook
  • Curriculum Vitae (including your Publication list)
  • Originally signed Declaration of Originality


  1. My supervisor, my co-supervisor or my co-advisor is not able to attend the thesis defense. What can I do? You must find a date and time when all will be present, see the GCB promotion regulations. Please refer to GCB Promotion regulations, Art. 13 1The doctoral examination takes place in the form of a thesis defense, which consists of a public part with a 40 to 45-minute lecture and a 60-minute discussion without public access. Examiners are the thesis supervisor, the co-supervisor, at least one external examiner and the mentor. The mentor holds the chair.
  2. My mentor is not able to attend my thesis defense. What can I do?
    Please contact the GCB office to try to find another mentor, who can attend in place of your mentor.
  3. My external co-referee is not able to attend the thesis defense. What can I do?
    The external co-referee who grades the written thesis and the external co-referee grading the thesis defense does not necessarily have to be the same person. Therefore, if you can find another external co-referee and have them approved by your thesis committee and by the GCB coordinator.


  1. May I get an official letter of confirmation confirming my PhD title after my oral defense?

    Yes. According to the GCB promotion Regulations, Art. 18, 2The use of the title of Doctor is permitted after receipt of the doctoral diploma. In the intervening period, the candidate is sent proof that he or she has passed the doctoral studies. The GCB will issue a confirmation letter for your title. This is valid proof for any employer, for grant applications, etc. until you receive your actual diploma.

    The conditions are that the GCB has received and confirmed the following documents:
    a. Three hard copies of the final written thesis
    b. The thesis defense record confirming successful defense (the final oral defense grade is recorded on the Thesis Defense Record) and submitted to the GCB office by the mentor, as well as a protocol of the closed 60 minutes discussion.

  2. When can I expect to receive my diploma?
    The process can take as few as 2.5 months and up to 5 months, depending upon a variety of factors.
    The diplomas and diploma supplements are printed in batches 3-4 times annually. Then, the diplomas and diploma supplements are verified. Appointments for signatures are made with the deans of all three GCB governing faculties (Medical, Science, Vetsuisse) and then signed individually by each dean. Following that process, the University rector signs each diploma individually, and stamps each diploma with the University of Bern official crest.

  3. When I can officially use my new PhD title?
    The use of the doctoral title is governed by the GCB promotion Regulations, Art. 18, 2The use of the title of Doctor is permitted after receipt of the doctoral diploma.

  4. During the pandemic, what form of the thesis defense is recommended?
    Please check on our website (scroll down a bit on the first page) for any guidelines or updates.

  5. Is the thesis published electronically by the GCB?
    The GCB does not publish the thesis in any way (including not on BORIS) electronically.
    At the end of the PhD, three printed and bound copies of the thesis are handed in. One copy will go back to the student, signed by hand by the three Deans. The two remaining copies are for the University and the state library. There, they can be borrowed out, but are also not available online. If there is any sensitive data in the thesis, the GCB can be notified to withhold them until further notice when handing them in.

Guidelines for the Submission of the PhD Thesis

General Information

It is the candidate's responsibility to schedule their defense date. This is done in agreement with your PhD thesis committee. Be mindful to allow sufficient time (refer to the steps below) for your external co-referee to complete and submit the evaluaion of the approved thesis.

Instructions for the preparation and submission of your PhD documents are detailed below. Candidates of Vetsuisse Zurich follow the instructions for the Front Page and the Payment Fee according to the Guidelines for GCB candidates of Vetsuisse ZH (DOCX, 19KB).


Step-by-Step to the PhD Degree

  • Inform the GCB secretariat two months before the thesis defense of your schedule and planned thesis defense date at
  • provide your supervisor, your external co-referee and the GCB with a copy of your thesis - general rule two months prior to the scheduled defense
  • Submit ALL PhD documents to the GCB office the very latest 4 weeks prior to the specified date of the thesis defense
  • Send electronically to, All documents prior to the thesis defense
  • Submit to the GCB the exact same thesis, as the one you sent to your supervisor and external co-referee for evaluation
  • Instruct your Supervisor and external co-referee to send their assessments directly to the GCB-coordinator PD Dr. Monica Schaller and Cc to at least 4 weeks prior the defense date. Also inform them, that the the GCB is an international Graduate School in English language and therefore, the assessment should be written in English.
  • Upload electronic copies (PhD Degree Form, PDF of PhD thesis) via SWITCHfilesender and address to
    Login on SWITCHfilesender with your campus account (username & password).
    Name files using the following naming convention: your «LastName_FirstName_PhD_DegreeForm» and «LastName_FirstName_PhDThesis». PhD thesis files must be 100 MB or less.
    If your Email program permits, you may also send files them directly as a pdf to
  • Please be aware, that the title of the thesis has to be exactly the same as in the PhD Degree form.
    Furthermore, no changes to the title page of the thesis (including tittle of the thesis and PhD title) are allowed after submission to the GCB. Especially not for the final version.
    Only exception is, if you agreed on this with the secretariat of the GCB.
  • Only for Vetsuisse Zurich students immatriculated at the University of Zurich: Please check this document and follow the instruction on it: Guidelines for GCB candidates of Vetsuisse ZH (DOCX, 33KB)
  • All required ECTS earned are reflected in the signed doctoral agreement and accounted for in CTS/KSL
  • Scientific Integrity successfully completed
  • Mid-term Evaluation successfully passed
  • At least one 1st author paper published or accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal; exemptions must be supported by the external co-referee and accepted by the responsible Expert Committee
  • Positive thesis assessment received from supervisor
  • Positive thesis assessment received from external co-referee

Please note:

It is essential that you carefully follow the instructions below and on the Front Page template. In order to avoid mandatory corrections, it is highly recommended that you submit the Front Page of your thesis to the GCB Administration for inspection in good time before handing it in.

The thesis in A4 format must have been approved by the supervisor and must contain the following sections:

  • Front Page (DOCX, 60KB)
  • Abstract
  • Comprehensive introduction into the field
  • Hypothesis and aim of the thesis
  • Results, can be added as published or submitted manuscripts. If this option is chosen, a separate page needs to be inserted before each manuscript in the thesis, where the title of the manuscript and a short description of your own contribution is stated (i.e., which experiments, which figures are yours).
  • Overall discussion and outlook/perspectives
  • Curriculum vitae and list of publications
  • Declaration of Originality (pdf, 61KB), which must be dated, signed and also be included in the electronic copy of the thesis, with your scanned-in or electronic signature. Hard and electronic copies of the thesis without signature cannot be accepted. You only need to bring a three hard copies of your thesis to our office after the thesis defense.

Layout: The cover page and deans’ signature page must be printed on one side only, while for the remaining pages of the thesis duplex (double-sided) print is preferred.

It is only allowed to include published articles in the thesis, if the student is first, shared first, second or shared second author. If the student is third, fourth, fith…. author, a short summary of the publication needs to be done and included in thesis. Please do not forget to cite correctly.

Each PhD thesis submitted to the GCB will be screened for improper citations and potential plagiarism by means of a specialized plagiarism-detection system. For guidelines on scientific integrity and prevention of plagiarism, please consult the links referring to Scientific Integrity in the box «Find out more» at the bottom of this website.

The thesis is independently assessed by the supervisor and by the external co-referee.

About 8 weeks before the date of the thesis defense, the candidate should submit the following document to the GCB office:

No later than 4 weeks before the date of the thesis defense, the candidate should submit the following documents to the GCB office:

  • Completed PhD Degree Form (PDF, 905KB), 4 pages. Fill in the form and then save it on your computer (File → «Print as PDF» → save on computer). Type the date and your name in the box «signature» (or use an electronic signature) for the electronic copy.
    − hand in the PhD Degree Form electronically together with the remaining required documents (see below) and send all documents to
  • Written information on date, time and venue (room and exact address) of your thesis defense
  • Current official registration confirmation from the Admissions Office of the University
  • Proof of payment of examination fee of CHF 500.–, to be paid to:
    Berner Kantonalbank BEKB AG
    Bundesplatz 8, 3001 Bern
    IBAN: CH42 0079 0020 9334 6666 3
    Universität Bern, Dekanat der Med. Fakultät,
    Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences GCB, 3012 Bern

The PhD Degree Form and the assessments of the supervisor and the external co-referee will be forwarded by the GCB to the members of the thesis committee and the respective GCB Expert Committee. The members of the Expert Committee decide no later than one week before the specified date of the thesis defense upon acceptance of the thesis and admission to the thesis defense.

On request, an electronic copy of the thesis (PDF) can be made available for inspection to the members of the GCB Expert Committee.

Additionally, the GCB provides the mentor with an electronic version of the PhD Degree Form, the submitted thesis, and with appropriate instructions concerning the format of the thesis defense.

As of February 1, 2020 the thesis defense consists of your public presentation of 40-45 min and a closed discussion of 60 min. The closed discussion with your examiners can also take place on a different day. However, there will only be one grade given by each of the four examiners for the oral thesis defense.

Examiners are:
(1) the supervisor,
(2) the co-advisor,
(3) external co-referee, and
(3) the mentor, who is also chairing the thesis defense

The grades are recorded on the Thesis Defense Record and submitted to the GCB office by the mentor. Furthermore, a protocol is written of the closed 60 minutes discussion and submitted to the GCB office by the mentor.

The final assessment is summarized on the Graduation Record and is obtained as defined in the «Rules» of the GCB («Promotionsreglement»), consisting of:
(a) the supervisor's assessment of the thesis
(b) the external co-referee's assessment of the thesis
(c) the examiners' assessment of the thesis defense (mean of examiners' individual marks)

No later than 2 weeks after the thesis defense, you must submit the following to the GCB office:

  • Three additional paper-bound (not spiral-bound) deposit copies of the final version of your thesis (required corrections implemented).
  • If you have made changes to the text after your PhD Degree Application: One new electronic, dated & signed copy of the final version of the thesis, to be uploaded on SWITCHfilesender and addressd to

Furthermore (optional):
You may submit one electronic copy in PDF format on CD/DVD directly to the University Library (UB) Bern—see the UB website for further information.

The PhD Degree is jointly awarded by the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Science, and the Vetsuisse Faculty (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine) upon the proposal of the PhD Committee of the GCB. The PhD documents are only issued upon receipt of the additional deposit copies and the electronic PDF copy of the final version of the PhD thesis. You are entitled to bear the PhD title after having received the PhD Diploma and Diploma Supplement.

Once you have completed your studies or if you no longer want to continue studying, you have to have yourself removed from the student registry (this does not take place automatically). For this purpose, please use the electronic re-registration form under The form is available from 20.5. - 31.8. for HS and from 15.12. - 31.1. for FS. 

You may attend the Graduation Ceremony of the Faculty with which you were affiliated during your PhD. Information on date, time and venue will be made available by the GCB office.