PhD's programme at the Academy

The PhD is the highest academic qualification awarded by the USI. At the Academy it is possible to conduct doctoral studies leading to the awarding of the single qualification of Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture (Dr. Arch.), Doctor of Philosophy in Technical Sciences (Dr. Sc. Tech.), Doctor of Philosophy in Human Sciences (Dr. Phil.).
The qualification certifies that its holder has conducted personal, original research at a high scientific level and it is conferred after having successfully defended the PhD thesis. The doctoral programme has a maximum duration of 12 semesters. The principal objective of the doctorate is the training of future academics; however the skills and experience acquired during the doctoral course are also important for those who work in architectural practices or in other fields.

The Doctoral School

The Academy of Architecture recommends that its doctoral students enrol in the Doctoral School (see below for how to apply). The doctoral school is conceived as an inter- and transdisciplinary programme reflecting the strength and originality of the research produced at the Academy. 

The Doctoral School aims to strengthen a full range of scientific and academic skills: specific and transferable methodologies in the various subject areas, scientific writing, communication and didactics, digital literacy and data management, individual study and the ability to write one's own thesis. It does this by offering a series of courses, seminars, and workshops. The School also supports academic networking by encouraging and recognising participation in academic events and courses organised by other USI faculties and other academic institutions (see the Directive for details).
Participation in the doctoral school implies the acquisition of 12 ECTS credits over the course of the PhD. At the end of one's dissertation, this translates into the award of a certificate and transcript listing all the activities carried out during the PhD.
The Doctoral School Board is composed of: Prof. Sonja Hildebrand and Prof. Sascha Roesler as co-directors, Dr. Elena Chestnova and Dr. Mosè Cometta as scientific coordinators and Stefano Bastianelli as administrative coordinator. 



To enrol in the Doctoral School, a request must be sent to [email protected]. Once enrolled, participants will be able to access the GESTU platform at the beginning of each semester and register for the courses offered.


Credit recognition

Apart from the elective courses offered by the Doctoral School, the following activities may also be considered:


  • doctoral courses offered by the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society at USI
  • thematic scientific conferences organized at the Academy of Archicture, participation with presentation of one's own research or written review of the conference, to be evaluated by the thesis director (1.5 ECTS)
  • scientific conferences organized by another university, participation with presentation of one's own research or written review of the conference, to be evaluated by the thesis director (1.5 ECTS)
  • thematic course at master’s level offered by the Academy of Archicture, another Faculty of USI or another University doctoral course, Winter/Summer school or thematic school organised by USI or another university

To get these elective courses recognized the PhD candidate must ask her/his supervisor for approval and sent it, together with a confirmation of attendance, to [email protected].


Funding opportunities

The doctoral school provides opportunities to finance various activities. 
To obtain a financial contribution for participation in congresses and conferences, please write at least one month in advance to [email protected] stating date and place of the conference, travel and accommodation budget, and written approval by the doctoral supervisor. If presenting a paper include the abstract of the paper; if attending to write a conference report include a 500-word statement outlining the reasons why you would like to attend this conference and the benefit it could bring to your doctoral studies.
Finally, a yearly budget is dedicated to activities organised by the doctoral students themselves. The students must form a small committee and submit their proposal to the doctoral school board.



[email protected]

Admission requirements

Admission to PhD studies at the Academy of Architecture is possible for:

  • Holders of a Master of Science in Architecture degree or a Master of Arts in History and Theory of Art and Architecture degree awarded by the Academy of Architecture
  • Holders of a Master of Science in Architecture, a Master of Science in Civil Engineering or a Master of Arts in Art History awarded by a Swiss university or a university with specific agreements with USI
  • Holders of diplomas in other fields and/or from other university institutions deemed equivalent by the Doctoral College

The candidate is obliged to propose a thesis project that is structured and specific in terms of methodology and objectives (see Guidelines, in Italian) to a professor at the Academy of Architecture who is willing to act as supervisor (dissertation director). The PhD programme requires close collaboration between the student and the dissertation director. For this reason, admission to the PhD programme requires an explicit declaration by a professor of the faculty (whether full, associate, assistant, or adjunct professor) that he/she is willing to supervise the research. Lecturers and researchers may follow doctoral studies as co-supervisors. The list of professors and their respective fields of research can be found here. Without the letter of support from the supervisor professor, it is not possible to apply for admission to the PhD study programme.

For further information, see the PhD Study Regulations (in Italian).
The studies involve the traditional formula of autonomous work carried out under the supervision of a professor of the Academy of Architecture. There is no compulsory course attendance. However, attendance at doctoral meetings and Work in Progress seminars is recommended (for further information see here).

Admission procedure

Candidates whose thesis project has been approved by a professor at the Academy of Architecture who is willing to act as supervisor must submit an application (either by e-mail or by registered mail) to the Doctoral College ([email protected]) using the form accompanied by a copy of their diplomas, a letter of motivation, a letter of support from the supervisor professor and a description of their thesis project (see Guidelines, in Italian). Applicants with a degree from a university outside Switzerland must submit at least one additional letter of recommendation. The complete list of required documentation can be found here. Incomplete dossiers will not be considered.

Papers must reach the secretariat by 1 June (for enrolment in the autumn semester) or 1 November (for enrolment in the spring semester). The Doctoral College meets twice a year and evaluates the applications. Selected candidates are thereafter invited to an interview.

The candidate who has passed the entire admission procedure for PhD studies is enrolled at the Academy of Architecture.
Enrolment in the PhD programme entails payment of a fee, as stipulated in the Regulations for admissions and matriculations (in Italian).

Admission to the PhD programme does not automatically imply a position as a doctoral assistant with an employment contract.


Internal PhD students and external PhD students

The Academy recognises both internal PhD students and external PhD students.

Internal PhD students have an employment contract. They work as a Doctoral assistant to a professor or as a PhD student within the framework of an SNSF project. Doctoral assistants carry out both research and teaching support activities. Assistantship contracts are annual and renewable up to a maximum of 10 semesters.

There are several possibilities to become a Doctoral assistant:

  • The notices for any open positions for Doctoral assistant can be found here. Interested candidates may apply by following the specific instructions given in the call for applications
  • Sending an unsolicited application to an individual professor(s) describing a research project and the motivation for undertaking PhD studies and collaboration with the Academy. The list of professors and their fields of research can be found here. Please select the professor(s) you wish to contact carefully, based on your research interests, and do not send random applications.

External PhD students do not have an employment contract with the Academy of Architecture and are required to pay the application fee as stipulated in the Regulations for admissions and matriculations.

Information on the availability and accessibility of scholarships can be found here.


Advancement and final stage of the thesis

The PhD student, together with the dissertation director, defines an individual learning path, which the dissertation director submits to the Doctoral College for approval no later than two months after admission to the PhD programme (see PhD Study Regulations, § 8.3).

The PhD student submits an annual report on the progress of his or her research work (see Guidelines and PhD Study Regulations, § 13).

For detailed information on the final stage of the dissertation (style and formatting of the dissertation, delivery, Jury, oral argument, publication of the dissertation) see the Guidelines for the Dissertation Submission and Discussion Procedure.


Further information

The procedure for admission and conduct of the PhD programme (including the role of the doctoral college, thesis director, thesis jury, etc.) is set out in the PhD Study Regulations.


Doctoral College

  • Prof. Dr. Daniela Mondini, President (History and Theory of Art and Architecture area)
  • Prof. Jonathan Sergison, President (Architecture and Urban Studies area)
  • Prof. Dr. Christoph Frank (History and Theory of Art and Architecture area)
  • Prof. Franz Graf (Construction and Technology area)
  • Prof. Dr. Mario Monotti (Structures and Exact Sciences area)
  • Prof. Dr. Sascha Roesler (History and Theory of Art and Architecture area, Sustainability and Urban Studies)

Coordination: Dr. Mirko Moizi
For further information about the PhD at the Academy of Architecture, please contact: [email protected]