School work and thesis

The Graduate Institute offers two kinds of graduate degrees: Interdisciplinary Masters (shortened as MINT), and Disciplinary Masters and PhDs. Equally important, the different programmes nonetheless have different requirements and objectives, and the nature and the amount of workload can therefore differ. In general, the Disciplinary Masters are recommended for those wishing to pursue a PhD. Each of the Masters programs consists of 3 semesters of coursework and one semester to prepare a dissertation. Typically, one semester consists of 5 courses, with each course having 2 hours of class time per week, often with additional sessions led by Teaching Assistants (TAs).

The PhD programmes last up to 8 semesters while the fast-track Master and PhD combined programme can be completed in 10 semesters as opposed to 12.

Academic information

The primary point of reference for students is the Students section of the Graduate Institute website. Here, one can find the course schedules (Autumn 2019 and Spring 2020) as well as various academic resources, including the following key pages: 2019-20 Course Catalogue and Academic Calendar. The portal also leads you to the Career Services website as well as other useful information. A more detailed description of courses and their syllabi can be found on the department pages of each of the study programs, accessible from the Graduate Institute website. The specific requirements for each program can be found in the Course Catalogue. Other relevant information is also available in the admitted students portal (most recent version).

Again, the student section of the Graduate Institute website is a go-to for any academic information. Here you’ll be able to find everything from academic departments  to the academic policies and regulations. Below are some other resources that will likely be helpful, but it’s a good idea to browse around the student section page to see what is available.


For all courses, student coursework will be evaluated based on criteria defined and communicated by the faculty at the beginning of the course. Evaluation criteria at the Institute are quite diverse, depending on the academic unit as well as professors‘ academic background and individual preferences.

In some units (especially in Law and Development), you will more often experience a “continental European” style of teaching: prolonged lectures with limited intervening space for students, and an exam or research paper to submit by the end of the semester, counting for 100% of the grade.

In other units (mostly in Political Science, International History & Politics, and Economics), classes more often have an “Anglo-American” touch: interactive seminars where students are expected to regularly contribute and are continuously evaluated through class participation, short essays, research papers, oral presentations, and take-home exams.

Apart from enabling the registration to classes, Campus also provides access to reporting. Please note that only the final grades are available for review during the grading period following each semester; the transcript is not available at this time.

Grading system

The Graduate Institute uses the Swiss 6-point grading scale, where 6 represents the highest grade and 1 the lowest possible one, with intervals of 0.25. The only formal rule regarding grading is that succeeding in a class requires a 4; getting less than a 4 is equivalent to failing the class. In many cases, students who receive a final failing grade of 3.75 will be given the opportunity to pass the class through “rattrapage” – an additional assignment that will increase your grade to a passing 4. Beyond this formal rule, professors’ ways of grading are not uniform and vary greatly from one unit to another and one individual to another. Grade averages between 5.5 and 6 are very rare; an average of a 6 is virtually impossible. As a rule of thumb, anything above 5.0 is very good.

Submitting papers

In accordance with the Institute’s policy of bilingualism, students, faculty members and administrative staff are free to express themselves in either English or French. Most papers, take-home exams, etc.are to be submitted electronically but you may be asked to provide a hard copy as well, depending on the preferences of the particular professor. In general, to prevent problems with access it is better to send your papers in .doc or .pdf formats. Most professors do not have a preference for the citation style used as long as it is consistent; if they feel strongly about the matter they will let you know.

Master’s Thesis

The Institute does not expect you to have a precise idea of what your thesis topic will be upon acceptance. Spend your first year taking courses you are interested in and courses with professors you might eventually be interested in working with on your thesis. The late spring and summer between the first and second year is the right moment to settle on a precise topic and ask a professor to be your supervisor. By early September, you will have to officially submit a working title approved by your supervisor. When thinking about whom you would wish to work with as a supervisor, it might be a good idea to discuss with other students who are at the end of their thesis writing process. You can also look at previous thesis works of Graduate Institute students. Part of the richness of the Institute is the diversity of backgrounds and profiles of its faculty, and it is in your interest to ask somebody who will in the best position to help you. Areas of interest should of course be taken into consideration, but it is also important to find someone you trust and are comfortable with. A short plan of the thesis (few pages, depending on your unit and supervisor) is to be submitted before the beginning of your last semester and the final version of the thesis is to be submitted mid-June. You will be informed about all the details and deadlines on the website and typically via email as well.


The Graduate Institute has much to offer, from interesting classes, excellent professors, and great location to networking opportunities – it is up to you to make the most of it. Know exactly what you want to get out of the experience and/or explore your options. Do you want to continue on an academic path, open your door to the Geneva employment opportunities, learn about a particular issue area, or work with a specific person? Make sure to adjust your classes, professors, and grade expectations accordingly. It can be challenging to get high grades at IHEID and even much more so if you want to hold a part-time job on the side. While nothing is impossible and high grades are surely desirable, a Master’s degree from the Graduate Institute on its own also has its weight. Our advice is to take the first semester to see how the Institute works, what you can expect, and how much work you need to put into the classes, and adjust your activities after that according to your specific needs.

Comments are closed.

© 2016 GISA. All rights reserved.