Supervision (new regulations)

Each PhD candidate is supervised by a thesis committee consisting of the thesis advisor, a co-referee, and a mentor.

Thesis committee

The thesis committee along with the doctoral student shares the responsibility for the progress of the research work. It provides support, advice and the necessary infrastructure.

At least two of the supervisors (thesis advisor, co-thesis advisor and co-referee) must be habilitated or possess equivalent experience.

Thesis advisor

The thesis advisor has the ultimate responsibility for the overall supervision of the doctoral student.

The thesis advisor must be employed at one of the involved faculties of the University of Bern (Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Human Sciences and Vetsuisse Faculty) in one of the following positions:

  • Full Professor
  • Extraordinary Professor
  • Associate Professor
  • Assistant Professor with Tenure Track
  • Assistant Professor
  • University Lecturer (Privatdozentinnen und Privatdozenten)
  • Habilitated Lecturer
  • Habilitated full-time Post-doc
  • Unhabilitated Post-doc in the category „Advanced Postdoc“ or „Senior Research Assistant“

The thesis advisor participates as examiner at the first- and second-year exams (can be replaced by the co-thesis advisor if applicable). He/she evaluates the thesis together with the co-referee and grades the thesis defense.

The thesis advisor and/or the co-thesis advisor signs the Annual Progress Report together with the doctoral student.

A co-thesis advisor can be appointed to support the thesis advisor. The co-thesis advisor is normally a part of the research team or close network of the thesis advisor and takes on supervisory tasks and any requirements alongside the thesis advisor (please see the table below). The co-thesis advisor role can be taken on by eligible staff from the University of Bern or other higher education institutions (e.g. a University of Applied Sciences) in accordance with the list above. The Steering Board can, on request, appoint additional staff as co-thesis advisors.

The participation of the co-thesis advisor at the 1st and 2nd year exams in substitution of the thesis advisor is possible.

The co-thesis advisor evaluates and grades the thesis and the defense together with the thesis advisor. The co-thesis advisor cannot replace the thesis advisor by the evaluation of the thesis and the defense.

If both the co-thesis advisor and the thesis advisor participate, they agree on one common grade.


is appointed by the thesis advisor and co-thesis advisor. The co-referee should be an expert in the research area of the thesis project but must not be affiliated with the same institute/clinic as the thesis advisor. The co-referee meets with the doctoral student at least twice a year to discuss and assess the progress of the thesis work, as well as advise and support the doctoral student. The co-referee participates as examiner at the first- and second-year exams. He/she also evaluates the thesis together with the thesis advisor and grades the thesis defense.


is a member of the relevant Expert Committee and is assigned during the interview after the application to the GHS. After the formal acceptance into the GHS, the mentor meets with the doctoral student and guides him/her on the tailor-made training program reported in the Doctoral Agreement. The mentor also evaluates the yearly Progress Reports.

The mentor represents the GHS in the thesis committee and is the contact person in the event of conflict between the thesis advisor and the doctoral student.

The mentor chairs the thesis defense and writes the protocol but does not give a grade.

Independent expert

Independent experts are internationally recognized researchers from another university in the research field of the corresponding dissertation who have not published together with the PhD candidate or the thesis advisor in the last three years.

An independent expert must participate as examiner at the second-year exam, in the evaluation of the written thesis and at the thesis defense. The independent expert participating at these three exams/evaluations can be the same person but does not have to be.

The independent expert is not part of the Thesis Committee.