Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about PhD and Postdoc (only in English):

Doctoral Student Status

  • What Are the Role(s) and Status of a Doctoral Student?

Someone who works on a doctoral project is a postgraduate student insofar as he/she must enroll and pay the tuition fees (See the Admission section). Besides being a student, though, he/she is a researcher, that is, someone conducting research in compliance with the international academic requirements in his/her field of specialization. He/she may conduct scholarly research part time or full time, out of private funding, on a fellowship or through an Assistantship contract – in the last case, he is at the same time a student and an instructor.


  • What’s the Difference between a Master’s Thesis and a Doctoral Thesis?

Unlike a master’s thesis, a doctoral thesis is expected to contribute to the ongoing academic dialogue in a given field and to advance the research agenda within the domain in question. In other words, a doctoral thesis illustrates an original piece of research contributing to the development of a given area of knowledge. As such, a doctoral thesis is meant for Publication and its evaluation is considered as a form of peer review, as a doctoral student is de facto a junior researcher.


  • What is the Role of a Thesis’ Director within a Doctoral Student’s Research Project? Which Are His Duties towards a Doctoral Student?

No doctoral research project can be implemented without the approval of a thesis’ director (or supervisor), who may also provide the funding for its implementation. The thesis’ director provides support in the theoretical definition and the practical implementation of the project with a view to ensuring that it will be relevant to current research. The supervision also includes Additional Training aiming to enhance the student’s skills and to build a scholarly background through the participation in relevant conferences, summer schools and workshops.    


  • I Would Like to Enrol in a Doctoral Programme. How May I Finance my Research Project?
    Please, visit the Funding Options page.

  • What's the Maximum Duration of Doctoral Funding?

Graduate assistantship contracts signed directly with the University of Fribourg last for five years and are renewable for a further 12 months in case of maternity leaves, research periods abroad, etc. For further details, please check out the HR Department Website.

SNSF fellowships usually last for three years and are likewise renewable for a total four-year period. For SNSF-funded researchers, mobility grants (Fellowships or Mobility within a SNSF Project) may extend the abovementioned terms up to a maximum of one additional year. 

Employment contracts

  • Does a Doctoral Student Have to be Registered at the University?
    Yes. Please, check out the procedure posted on the Admission Service website.

  • Will Anyone Send a Copy of the Contract to the Immigration Control Office (Service de la Population et des Migrants) on Behalf of a Foreign Student? 
    The copies of the contracts are automatically sent by the Human Resources Division (Service du Personnel).

  • Who is in Charge of Notifying the Funding of New Doctoral Students to the SNSF?
    In principle, the recipient of the grant (usually, the thesis director) is expected to update the SNSF Board on any change in funding. Changes and modifications must be notified online via mySNF, the SNSF electronic platform.

  • How is the Doctoral Salary Calculated?
    The SNSF establishes the Salaries of doctoral students involved in SNSF research projects. The University of Fribourg has several employment contract models. The Human Resources Division calculates the salary in compliance with these models. When a SNSF project is concerned, the proposed salary is passed on to the University Financial Services for approval. 

  • If a Student Wishes to Quit the Doctoral Programme before the Defence, Whom Should His/Her Resignation Letter be Addressed to?
    Resignations should be sent to the Human Resources Division (Service du Personnel) by registered mail. A copy needs to be sent also to the thesis director. 

  • Is it Possible to Take Unpaid Leaves to Go Abroad if the Doctoral Project is Financed through an Assistantship Contract?
    Yes, it is possible to go on unpaid leaves of absence, but they should be negotiated with the project manager (the thesis director), before being passed on to the employer, that is, the Human Resources Division. An average of 12 months is accepted, the maximum being of 24 months.

  • Which Kinds of Visa Enable a Foreign Student to Apply for SNSF Funding?
    In order to apply for SNSF funding, it is necessary to have a Swiss permanent residence visa, a residence visa or a cross-border commuter permit (cf. Regulations Doc.Mobility).

Social security benefits

  • Have Doctoral Students a Right to Maternity Leaves?
    Yes, they have a right to maternity leaves - like all other employees at the university. In case of maternity leave, the replacement request is to be addressed to the Administrative Director Assistant or the Chief of Staff. If the doctoral student in question is on the SNSF payroll, the SNSF should be informed as soon as possible.


  • I am Currently a Doctoral Student at the University of Fribourg, and Would Like to do Research Abroad for One or More Years. What are the Funding Options Available?
    These Grants enable students to spend a research period abroad.

  • What are the SNSF Assessment Criteria When Processing the Applications for Mobility Grants?
    The SNSF regulations depend on the type of grants:
    1. Doc.Mobility: pt 3, art. 9
    2. Doc.ch: pt 3, art. 9
    3. Funding regulations: chapter 3, section 2, art.17


  • Are Benefits for a Partner Granted on Condition that the Partner Has No Employment?
    The grants allocated by the SNSF depends on the civil status, family obligations and life costs in the country of residence. For unmarried couples (partnerships) who have been living together for more than two years, benefits for the partner are granted. If the partner earns more than  15'000 CHF per year (current rate, regularly reviewed) during the research stay, the rate for a single person will be applied instead. In order to receive the benefits, the partner has to accompany the researcher for at least 6 months. No benefit will be granted for shorter periods of time.

  • What is the Minimum Length of a Stay Abroad?
    All kinds of mobility are supported. However, several SNSF funding schemes require a minimum of 12 months spent abroad so as to be eligible for future career-supporting grants.

  • May I stay Abroad in Different Places?
    In priciple, this is not permitted. Some exceptions are made when two stays of six months each are concerned. However, this solution must be agreed upon with the SNSF prior to the doctoral student's departure date.

  • Where Can I find Access to Further Information?
    1. The SNSF has published a “Set of information” booklet about the SNSF fellowships. This features practical information for mobile researchers (AHV-AVS contributions, unemployment insurance, healthcare and accident insurance, taxes, useful links for incoming and outcoming researchers, financial aspects and fellowship management).
    2. EURAXESS is a European Commission website designed to enhance researchers' mobility. It is an information platform addressing such practical and legal issues as housing, tax system, social welfare and health. It is divided into four categories: EURAXESS Jobs, EURAXESS Services (a network of 200 centers localized in 37 countries and meant to provide information to mobile researchers and their families); EURAXESS Rights; and EURAXESS Links.
    3. The Forum du Portail Relève académique (French version only) offers the opportunity to ask questions and also is a discussion forum. It is mainly geared at young scholars based in French-speaking Switzerland, but everyone is welcome. 


Postdoc FAQ

  • How Can I Conduct Postdoctoral Research at the University of Fribourg?
    There are two possibilities to work as a postdoc at the University of Fribourg: either through an assistantship or by means of external funding. For further details about both, please check out the Funding Options page.

  • Do Postdoctoral Fellows Need to Register at the University?
    Yes, they do. Fees amount to 50 CHF per semester for candidates with Swiss qualifications and 100 CHF for candidates with foreign qualifications. The maximum duration of a postdoc is six semesters, but this term may be extended upon decision of the Faculty Board.

  • Will Anyone Send a Copy of the Contract to the Immigration Control Office (Service de la Population et des Migrants) on Behalf of a Postdoctoral Assistant?
    The copies of the contract are automatically sent by the Human Resources Division.

  • How Is the Salary Calculated?
    The University of Fribourg has several employment contracts. The University Financial Services calculate the salary according to these models.

  • Is It Possible to Take Unpaid Leaves of Absence to Go Abroad if the Postdoctoral Project Is Financed through an Assistantship Contract?
    It is possible to do so, but it has to be agreed upon with the project manager before passing on the request to the employer (the Human Resources Division) for approval.

  • I Am Currently a Postdoc at the University of Fribourg, and I Would Like my Project to benefit from Initiatives or Partnerships Abroad. Where May I Seek Funding for Them?
    There are numerous Occasional Funding Opportunities available to Postdoctoral researchers who wish to participate in international initiatives and cooperations that may have a positive impact on their research project.

  • I Am at the End of my Postdoc. What Comes Next If I Intend to Pursue an Academic Career?
    To form a better idea of the next steps to take towards the ultimate goal of a Full Professorship, please visit the After Postdoc page.


Research Promotion Service - University of Fribourg - Ch. du Musée 8 - CH-1700 Fribourg - Switzerland -
Tel +41 26 300 73 30 - Fax +41 26 300 97 28 - research@unifr.ch - Swiss University