Frequently Asked Questions
for Admissions

In English only - Here you will find the most frequently asked questions our admissions office receives. If you do not see an answer to your question below, please contact us. 

Table of Contents

General Information about the Institute


How many people study at the Institute? Where do the students come from?

Since 2007, our student body has been exclusively graduate and post-graduate, with over 100 nationalities represented. For the 2013-2014 academic year, the Institute hosted 839 students, 496 in master programmes, 343 in PhD programmes and 19 in exchanges programmes. 84% of our cosmopolitan community comes from outside Switzerland and 62% is female.

The distribution of the geographic origins of our students is as follows:
16% -Switzerland
6% - Africa
19% - Asia
34% - Europe
12% - South America
13% - North America

What is the average class size?

In core or elective courses, there are between 20 and 100 students per class; in seminars, there are approximately 10 to 20 students. The seminar classes may also benefit from having a mixture of Master and PhD degree’s candidate. Our personalised approach and small classes provide an attractive ratio of students to professors allowing students to receive personal attention and commitment from our faculty members.

What are the career opportunities after graduation?

Past graduate students have gone on to diverse careers in international organisations (WHO, ILO, IMO, UNCTAD, WTO, UNHCR, WIPO, Red Cross…), NGOs, diplomacy and civil service, multinational companies, the banking and financial sector, journalism and media, communication and public relations, as well as academic research and teaching. Our students are known to be hardworking, flexible, open-minded, interdisciplinary and multilingual. During their studies, the Career Services Office sends them internship and job offers by email; its staff further helps students prepare CVs and interviews and organises meeting/conferences with managers and alumni from different sectors.

Can I enrol at the Graduate Institute part-time?

The Institute’s primary commitment is to full-time studies and it does not offer part-time education or evening classes, except for the Executive Education certificates or Executive Masters.

Does the Institute offer distance-learning courses?

Currently, the Institute does not offer distance-learning education. All the courses and seminars are held on campus.

Does the Institute offer summer or winter programmes?

The Graduate Institute currently offers two summer programmes (International Affairs and the United Nations and Global Challenges). If you are interested in obtaining credit for one of these Summer/Winter programmes, you should contact the office responsible for study programmes abroad at your university. For further information, please visit the Short Programmes Webpages or send an email to

Does the Institute offer executive education programmes?

The Institute offers a wide range of executive education programmes such as degree programmes, short programmes, joint programmes as well as tailor-made programmes all geared towards mid-career professionals. For further information visit the Executive Education Website or to send an email to

Can I schedule an individual visit?

Prospective students may join our weekly campus tours from September to June and by registering here. Alternatively they may request an appointment via if they would like to discuss their background in more detail. Additionally, please feel free to join our weekly online information sessions for prospective students.

Where can I find the course calalogue?

Our course catalogue is available online and updated once a year.

What is the Bologna Process?

The Bologna Process established the European Higher Education Area by making academic degree standards and quality assurance standards more comparable and compatible throughout Europe. The Process created the common degrees of Bachelor-Master-PhD and uses a common system of credits called ECTS, equivalent across Europe and recognised around the world. Switzerland and the Graduate Institute adhere to the Bologna system.

What are ECTS credits?

The ECTS system (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) allows for an overview of educational programmes based on the associated credits. These credits express the workload expected from the student in view of all the courses offered throughout the semester. For the Master’s programmes, a semester is equal to 30 ECTS credits. Credits are awarded once a student has successfully completed the course.


About the Admission Process



What is the application deadline?

Applications must be submitted online by January 15 at the latest. However, we have early application deadlines for those who would like to be considered for the first round of evaluations, for a decision in December, in certain cases.

Please note that the Executive Education Degree Programmes have their separate application forms, procedures and deadlines. Kindly refer to their specific pages.

What is the difference between the first and second deadline?

The early admission deadlines allows you to receive an early decision but chances to be admitted or to receive a scholarship are equal for both rounds. To ensure that the quality of admitted applicants is the same throughout the process, we postpone a number of first round applications to be re-assessed during the second round.

How many times can I apply to the Graduate Institute?

There is no limited number of times.

May I apply if I have not yet completed the degree I am working on?

You may apply to the Institute during the last year of the degree or diploma necessary to gain admission to the programme you are interested in (“licence” or Bachelor’s degree for a Master, DEA or Master for the PhD). In this case, if your application is successful, admission will be granted conditionally and the final decision will depend on whether you meet the specific requirements (minimum grade) that the Admissions Office will set and which will be notified to you.

Is it possible to transfer to the Graduate Institute from another university?

No. For the time being, the Graduate Institute does not offer transfers from other Universities.



Where can I find the application form?

The application form is to be submitted online. It can be found on the admissions pages. No paper form will be accepted. A non-refundable application fee of CHF 100 is requested.

Do you have any tips for applying?

The Admission Office advises you to:

  • Gather application materials early and give yourself plenty of time to complete each step as it may take time to obtain certain documents. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
  • Think carefully about who should write your letters of recommendation. Choose people, in most cases, your teachers/professors, who can be specific about your strengths as well as your ability to overcome your weaknesses.
  • In your letter of motivation, let your personality shine through. Present your profile and qualities in a focused, thoughtful and meaningful manner. Write in a natural style and support your arguments with relevant examples.

May I be exempted from paying the application fee?

No. The application fee covers the administrative and IT costs involved in the whole application process, whether or not an admission offer is eventually made. It is therefore non-refundable.

How do I know if my application is complete?

Your status can be checked online by returning to your online follow-up. Please check this information regularly.

When will I be informed whether I am admitted or refused?

The decisions regarding admission and requests for financial support are released to the candidates mid-March (regular deadline applicants) or mid-January (early deadline).

I have been admitted to one of your programmes. Can I defer my offer to next year?

No. The Graduate Institute has a non-deferral policy.


Supporting documents

I left university a long time ago and I am no longer in touch with my professors. How should I proceed to get letters of recommendation?

You are advised to request letters from former teachers/professors, but you may also submit one letter from professional sources if you have left University for some time.

Must I have my official documents translated (diplomas, transcripts, etc.)?

Any documents that are not in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish or Latin must be accompanied by a certified translation. The translation, together with the original document, must be uploaded in a single pdf file (smaller than 2MB).

Can I submit my supporting documents by e-mail?

No. Supporting documents must be uploaded onto the online application form.


Selection criteria and decision

What are the requirements to be admitted to the Institute's Master Programme?

Admissions are decided on the basis of the quality of the overall application file with priority given to academic achievement, recommendations and motivation letter. There are no minimum requirements for grade point average but the process is competitive, as we only admit 30% of the candidates.

The main requirement to apply for one of our Master programmes is a bachelor's degree or a degree deemed equivalent from a university that has acquired institutional university level accreditaiton from the Swiss accreditation agency,, or an equivalent accreditation from the equivalent accreditation body in the university's country of operation. The degree should generally be in one of the core disciplines of the Institute (economics, law, history, political science, development) or a related field (communication, anthropology, social sciences etc...). The Admissions Committee may, however, also consider applications of students from different backgrounds with a strong academic record and a marked interest to pursue their studies in international affairs/development. If you are coming from a different area of study, it would hence be important that you mention all options/ classes/ internships that you might already have taken in international affairs, development or related disciplines. It is also important to state clearly in your motivation letter how your studies at the Institute would fit in your overall career plan and why you have decided to change orientation.

To access our disciplinary master programmes, it is important to have a good knowledge in the field of specialisation chosen (especially for the programmes in economics and law). Hence, a specialised bachelor or an interdisciplinary degree (e.g. BA in International Relations) with a minor in the desired field of specialisation would be a most appropriate fit.

The Master in International Affairs and the Master in Development Studies are open to more diverse student profiles with related professional experience/internships.

What are the requirements to be admitted to the Institute's PhD Programme?

To apply to one of our PhD programmes, you must hold a Masters degree or an equivalent qualification from a university that has acquired institutional university level accreditaiton from the Swiss accreditation agency,, or an equivalent accreditation from the equivalent accreditation body in the university's country of operation. The Master degree should generally be in a discipline relevant to the chosen programme. In addition, to the extent possible, you should have completed a Masters level research dissertation. Please note that you are eligible to apply during the last year of your study programme provided you will have received your final diploma before the start of the PhD programme.

Admissions are decided on the basis of the quality of the overall application file, with priority given to academic achievement, recommendations, motivation letter and thesis proposal. Click here for further information about the specific requirements of the different departments with regards to the thesis proposal. PhD supervisors are only assigned during the first semester of the PhD and potential supervisors need not be contacted in advance. However, it is important that your project proposal is in line with the research and teaching agenda of the academic department to which you apply. To see the fields of expertise of our Faculty, please consult their profiles and areas of expertise.

How important are extracurricular activities in the admissions process?

By far the most important selection criteria are the applicant’s academic curriculum and his or her academic performance. However, extracurricular or professional activities, such as internships or work experience, are an important complement.

Does the Graduate Institute have quotas for a particular region or school?

No. Applicants are compared to all other applicants, both regionally and globally.

Do I need to take the GRE in order to apply? How important are the GRE scores for the application?

The GRE is only mandatory to enter our programmes of  Master and PhD in International Economics and Development Economics. If you have already taken the GRE test, please include it in your application file. Please be aware that scores are reported for five years after taking the test. Specific information can be found on the GRE website.

Does the Institute accept GMAT results?

GMAT results are not accepted in lieu of GRE scores. You can, however, include the results in your application file if you have already taken this test.

Is there an age limit for the Institute’s programmes?

There is no age limit in any of our programmes.

What does “conditional admission” mean?

There are various types of conditional offers of admission:

  • Conditions on language: Candidates are admitted on the condition that they prove a sufficient level in English for the programme to which they have been accepted.
  • Conditions on undergraduate degree: Candidates are admitted, but must provide, no later than the time of registration, proof of successful completion of the degree required by the programme to which they have been admitted. Students who cannot provide proof of a degree are not allowed to register for study programmes at the Institute.
  • Other conditions set by the admissions Committee and detailed on the admission letter.

I have been admitted under the condition of providing English language certification, when is the deadline to provide this?

English language certificates must reach the Institute by May 30th at the latest.


Language Requirements


What is the Graduate Institute's language policy?

The official working languages of the Institute are English and French. Students have the right to express themselves, orally or in writing, in one of these two languages. Applicants need to prove their English proficiency by achieving a certain score on the TOEFL, IELTS, CAE, CEP tests. Knowledge of French is not a prerequisite for entering our programmes, in fact, about a third of our students are admitted with no prior knowledge of French.
Details about our language requirements.

I have no knowledge of the French language. Can I file my application?

As a rule, a knowledge of French (at least passive) is required. However, candidates without any knowledge of the French language can apply for admission and, if admitted, will have to participate in intensive French classes during the three weeks prior to the beginning of their first semester, as well as in a weekly 2-hour French course during their first academic year. Both courses are organised and financed by the Institute. At the beginning of their third semester, these students will undergo a test, the result of which will appear on their transcript and on a separate certificate. Should the test be failed, it will have to be taken again at the beginning of the fourth semester.

What English proficiency tests are recognised by the Institute?

If prospective students are not native English speakers or have not studied in an English-taught undergraduate programme, they must take an English proficiency test. These applicants are urged to visit (for the TOEFL test), (for the IELTS test) or (for the CAE and CEP tests)  as quickly as possible for more information on this examination. Some minimum scores are required for admission to the Graduate Institute.

I do not have a diploma in English and it is too late to sit the test before January 15. What can I do?

You may submit your application together with proof that you have enrolled to take this test, indicating the date on which you will take it. The results should be submitted to the admissions office no later than May 30th.


About Funding Your Studies



Financial Aid

Does the Institute offer scholarships or financial aid?

A substantial number of scholarships (full, partial or to tuition reduction) are allocated each year to Master and PhD students on the basis of their  and financial need and, in certain cases, academic merit.

When must I file my application for financial support?

At the same time as your general application. Candidates will find a direct link to the scholarship application form on the online application form. Please read through our scholarship regulations first.

How long do scholarships last?

Scholarships are awarded for one academic year and may be renewed.

Who is eligible for a scholarship?

The following criteria are used (this list is not exhaustive): financial need, academic and extra-curricular achievements.
For specific scholarships, national or geographic criteria may apply (for instance scholarships from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation are intended for global South or developing countries’ nationals).

What are my chances of receiving a scholarship?

Approximately, 25% of all first year students receive a scholarship.


What is the cost of living in Geneva?

A budget of approximately CHF 18’000 per year is recommended (this budget would allow for a modest student lifestyle).

How much do studies cost?

From 1 September 2015:

  • Non-resident students: CHF 8,000 per year (CHF 4,000 per semester)
  • Resident students*: CHF 5,000 per year (CHF 2,500 per semester)

*  with a Swiss residence permit at the time of application

How can I pay?

Shortly before the beginning of the semester, students receive an invoice in order to settle the payment of their semester fees. Enrolment for the semester is validated once the payment is received. Students can pay at the post office or in a bank in Switzerland, or by electronic bank transfer.

The payment methods are as follows:

From Switzerland: Orange payment slip (post office or bank)
Account name: Fondation pour l'Institut de hautes études internationales et du développement, CH-1211 Genève 21
Account number: 01-12533-5

From abroad: Bank transfer
Bank name: UBS SA Genève, Rue du Rhône 8, 1204 Genève
Account name: Fondation pour l'Institut de hautes études internationales et du développement, CP 136, CH-1211 Genève 21
Payment reference: tuition fees
Account number: 240-484943.00D
IBAN: CH080024024048494300D


Your Decision to Apply for a Masters Programme


What is the admission process?

Admissions are decided on the basis of the overall application file with priority given to academic achievement, recommendations and letters of motivation.
In general, candidates must have obtained either a degree/diploma (“licence” or Bachelor’s degree, DEA or a degree deemed equivalent) in one of the Institute’s key disciplines (Law, Economics, History, Anthropology, Sociology, or Political Science) or in a related discipline (ex: International Affairs, Public Policy, Diplomacy, Area Studies, Geography, Geopolitics etc). For International Affairs and Development Studies, holders of a Bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than human and social sciences but with a high-quality academic record may apply for the programme.

How long is the duration of studies?

A Master’s degree is awarded after the completion obtention of 90 ECTS credits for coursework and the successful completion of the Master’s dissertation, i.e. after the fourth semester of studies (four semesters = 120 ECTS). A few rare students are able to complete their curriculum in three semesters.

What work load is involved in the Masters programme?

In general, we estimate an average of 10 hours per week for class attendance and between 20 and 30 hours per week for home and library work.

Can I do more than one programme at a time?

Students can only pursue one master programme at a time.

Can I transfer or waive classes?

For the moment, the Graduate Institute does not accept transfer credits from other institutions. According to the regulation, students do not waive any of the total number of courses required; they can ask derogations for up to two compulsory classes but must substitute them with others.

Are there Exchange Programmes available?

The Institute has concluded exchange agreements with various universities. Read more about our partner universities.

Students who are interested must apply during the second semester and have completed a minimum of 60 credits ECTS. Selection is competitive and based on academic merit. Courses taken at the host university will count towards degree requirements except for PhD programmes.


Your Decision to Apply for a PhD Programme



Do I need to have a supervisor before applying for a PhD?

No, you do not. After being admitted, external PhD students are assigned a thesis supervisor before the end of the first semester.

How do I find out what the research interests of faculty members are?

Go to the Faculty pages of the Web site. Clicking on a faculty member’s name will take you to their general profile that contains detailed information on their research interests and a list of publications.

Is access from the master to the PhD programmes automatic?

Although completing a master’s programme at the Institute facilitates access to the PhD programme, the decision to admit a student is based on the application file, on the academic results as a whole and on the letters of recommendation. Master students of the Graduate Institute, during their 3rd semester, can apply for the PhD programme via the fast-track route, which allows them to complete their master and PhD programmes in five years altogether.

Can I go on with a PhD after having completed the MIA or the MDEV (the 2 interdisciplinary Masters)?

MIA or MDEV students can apply to relevant specialisations of our PhD, but admission may not be easy. Given that the PhD is disciplinary (international relations/political science, international economics, international law, international history, anthropology/sociology of development, development economics). The discipline in which MIA or MDEV students received their BA is an important criterion for admission to the PhD as well as their MA dissertation.


Research proposal

How close to having a fixed research topic does an applicant need to be at the time of application?

At the admission stage the faculty will be looking for evidence of scholarly achievement, capacity for independent research and sense to choose a significant topic. This will be reflected in the documents that you submit in support of your application including the letter of motivation and the proposed topic of study.

What do you mean by a "research proposal"?

The application form asks you to indicate a proposed topic of study and to submit a research proposal describing your proposed research topic in more detail.
The research proposal is a very important component of your application. Potential supervisors and others in related research areas will be involved in assessing your application and they will be looking at your proposal for evidence that you have an appropriate background for the topic area and for your own ideas about how research on that topic should best be taken forward. What you write is not binding, but it will give an idea of your background, interests and ideas. Click here for details.

My research topic overlaps with other disciplines or fields (for ex. Development, Law, Political Science, etc.). Can I still apply for a specific area of specialisation and will there be adequate supervision for me?

If your topic encompasses more than one field or discipline, it is possible to be admitted to one department but to ask to be jointly supervised by professors from two different academic departments. You have also the possibility to complete a minor in another discipline (please see PhD regulation for more information).

I have already gathered data and have a research manuscript. Can I simply polish the manuscript and submit it to receive a PhD?

No, you cannot. Candidates are expected to develop a research subject and write a thesis under the supervision of a thesis director at the Graduate Institute.



How many courses do PhD students take?

By the end of the second semester, you must obtain 24 ECTS credits. You have the possibility to follow courses in another discipline in order to complete a minor validated with a certain amount of ECTS credits (please see PhD regulations). Please keep in mind that six credits are given for a half-yearly course of two hours per week during one semester, twelve credits for a yearly course of two hours per week. For further information, please check the different curricula available on the website.

How long does it take to complete a PhD degree?

According to our regulations, the PhD programme must not exceed 8 semesters. In general, the first two semesters are devoted to coursework, the third to the preliminary dissertation and the five remaining for research and writing.


Employment opportunities

Can I work as a research assistant or a teaching assistant?

Faculty members sometimes employ PhD students as research assistants on their research projects, and students are strongly encouraged to apply for these positions as they provide good professional experience. These positions vary from year to year, depending on the grant money awarded to faculty members.

Can I work on my PhD while holding a full-time job?

As a PhD student, you are expected to follow a certain number of compulsory courses during your first two semesters, to write your preliminary dissertation by the end of the third semester and to successfully defend your thesis by the end of the eighth semester. If you work full-time in Geneva at the time of your application, you can ask for a specific status allowing you delays for completing your thesis curriculum. All courses, however, take place during the day on weekdays.

Do I need to move to Geneva? Is there a residency requirement?

During the first year, there is a requirement to attend courses. After the completion of the preliminary dissertation, attendance is not compulsory and periodical visits to Geneva can be arranged by agreement with your supervisor.


Student Life in Geneva


What are the advantages of studying in Geneva?

Located in the heart of Europe, Geneva is a truly international city and recognised business centre. The Graduate Institute benefits from its proximity to numerous international and non-governmental organisations, diplomatic missions and multinational companies. Geneva also has one of the largest lakes in Western Europe and is within close reach to the Alps. Our campus extends from Lake Geneva to the United Nations area.
More info on student life in Geneva.

Does the Graduate Institute provide housing to students?

In 2012, the Graduate Institute opened a new student residence "La Maison des Etudiants Edgar et Danièle de Picciotto". The Maison des Etudiants houses 243 beds on ten floors. Thus it is possible to apply to the Maison des Etudiants for housing, but housing is not guaranteed. We strongly recommend applying, but also pursuing other housing options as space in the Maison des Etudiants is limited. Successful applicants will receive information on housing options further to the confirmation of admission.

What other housing resources are available?

The admission office will send you the list of student accommodation in Geneva together with your letter of admission (residence halls, university housing, hotels and furnished flats). As it is not easy to find lodging facilities we advise you to search for accommodation as soon as you receive the confirmation of your admission. In addition the Graduate Institute Student Association (GISA) provides a student-written guide on finding housing. Click here.

What are the restaurant options on campus?

The campus offers one cafeteria. There is also a restaurant, but its meals are much more expensive.

How do students get access to library and computer facilities?

Once registration fees and tuition are paid, access to library resources can be obtained; except for interlibrary loans, library privileges are free for all registered students. Concerning computer facilities, a Getting Started Kit will be provided during registration at the Student Office.

What visas and residence permits are necessary for studying in Geneva?

Depending on your country of origin, you may need a visa to enter Switzerland and/or to stay more than 3 months. Please check with your country’s Swiss embassy for details. Because the visa process may take several months, make sure to apply at your embassy as soon as possible. For more details, you will find the relevant contacts for your country on the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs website. After arrival in Switzerland, all students are required to follow the instructions of the Office cantonal de la population to apply for a “permis de séjour” (residence permit). For more information, visit the website of the Service des étrangers, Office cantonal de la Population (OCP) (in French only).

Can I work during my studies?

Non-European students must have resided in the Geneva canton for at least six months to have the right to work in Geneva. (European students do not need to wait.) Student residence permits allow to work 15 hours per week maximum during semester time and 40 hours maximum during the holidays.

What jobs/internships are available to students?

Over the years, our Career Services has developed close ties with many of the UN agencies and other international and non-governmental organisations as well as multinational companies based in Geneva and can hence offer our students a wide range of opportunities to gain work experience. Students receive job offers and employment opportunities on a weekly basis on their e-mail account. They can also ask for personalised advice. Once a year, our Career Services hold the Connexion Careers Forum where our students can meet prospective employers.

Are there student associations at the Institute?

The Graduate Institute Student Association (GISA) represents students vis-à-vis the Institute and its authorities. At registration, every student automatically becomes a member of the Association. GISA is tasked with enriching the daily lives of students and ensuring that they have the best possible tenure at the Graduate Institute during their studies. To this end GISA also funds and supervises a variety of student initiatives, which you may read about here.

How strong is the Alumni network of the Institute?

Overall the Graduate Institute has 13 000 alumni around the world. Many of our alumni have become prominent figures in world affairs. Some well-known alumni are, Leonid Hurwicz, 2007 Nobel Prize laureate in Economics, Hernando de Soto, President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary General, Micheline Calmy-Rey, Former Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Brad Smith, Microsoft Vice-President.

Do I have access to sports or leisure facilities?

Yes, all of our Master and PhD students have access to the University of Geneva’s sports and cultural facilities. At the Institute, there is a Ciné-club where students can attend free film screenings which are followed by a debate.

Does the Institute have parking facilities?

No, but our campus is easily accessible by public transportation, which most of our faculty, staff and students use. It is not necessary to own a car given  the convenient bus and tram systems.