7 April 2014

PhD in Law (University of Geneva)

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Giuseppe-Matteo Vaccaro-Incisa

Current positions

  • Research fellow in International Investment and Trade Law, Bocconi University (Feb. 2013);
  • Lecturer in International Law, Bocconi University (Sept. 2012);
  • Lecturer in Public International Law, Institute Catholique de Lille (Sept. 2010).

Education prior to the Ph.D.

  • Combined Bachelor and Master of Science in Law (3 + 2), with focus on Comparative and International Law, Bocconi University (2002-2007).
  • MIDS – Advanced LL.M. in International Dispute Settlement, Université de Génève & IHEID- Institut de hautes études internationales et du développement (2008-2009).

Ph.D. you are doing

  • Ph.D. in International Law, Université de Génève, 2010-2014 (expected)
  • Ph.D. in International Law and Economics, Bocconi University, 2010-2014 (expected)

When and why did you decide to do this Ph.D.?

My Ph.D. in Geneva began in March 2010, immediately after I achieved the Advance LL.M. in International Dispute Settlement. Indeed, it started from my thesis in Public International Law, with which, among the four cornerstones of International Law, I felt the greatest affinity. The supervisor, Professor Boisson de Chazournes, offered me the opportunity to further develop it, together with Professor Sacerdoti at Bocconi University, into a doctorate thesis as a Dual Ph.D.. Therefore, in September (after some red tape) my research was ‘coupled with’ Bocconi University.

What does the Dual Ph.D. at Université de Génève entail?

In the beginning, the Dual Ph.D. would cause the bureaucratic part to double, as, dealing with two different institutions, it is necessary for the two of them to coordinate with a convention: the Dual Ph.D. does not exist as a title so the universities would need to make an agreement (on the professors’ initiative, presented to their Faculty Council, and thanks to the activation of their legal offices). At the end, both universities would issue a title of Ph.D. on the same thesis. Therefore, two titles would be obtained on a unique research. The prestige of the research depends on the institutions and on the professors that support it. Such Dual Ph.D.s are usually relatively few.

What are the requisites for being accepted?

It would depend on the institution. Some may request professors’ references, specific qualifications, language certificates, and a certain CV. At other institutions, instead, the requisites may be more linked to the results obtained with the professor with whom the Ph.D. will be done. The clue, anyhow, remains the interest of a professor in your intended research.

Cost of the Ph.D. at Université de Génève and average cost of a Ph.D. in Europe?

It would depend on the institution. At Université de Génève the cost is relatively low, consisting in the biannual university taxes (about 70 CHF). Nothing else is required, not even attendance to the courses. You would only need to go back within four years with your research completed, which may be very convenient especially for those who already work (however, chapters are usually to be sent to the professors according to their request!). In the past this was the typical Ph.D. structure, while nowadays it has changed in many institutions. For example, Bocconi doctoral candidates would need to attend courses and lectures, as well as write papers and articles, for a year, which is more or less equivalent to a LL.M. as for the intensity. Candidates would have a professional or academic experience (usually abroad) during the second year. During the third year, they would generally write the thesis.

Since I am based in Geneva, and associated with Bocconi University, I have not had compulsory courses to attend, although I have followed some courses which I found very interesting and which focused on my research. This was done while I was still working professionally and academically both in France and at Bocconi.


As to the hypothesis of receiving compensation while doing your Ph.D., scholarships are not the routine, and usually they are not very high either (this is normal, though). Some financial support may be given to the doctoral candidates in their last year, thanks to an annual university tender notice.

Which were your ambitions before the Ph.D. and how have they changed?

Since I have not finished my Ph.D. yet, I can only say that I am doing it because I wish to go on being a researcher. A Ph.D. is usually a preferential (i.e. essential) qualification to have access to further placements in the future. My future expectations are to have a position both professionally and academically. Of course, in order to establish oneself academically, it would be necessary to do much research, so that it may not be possible (at least not for me) to continue the professional activity full time.

What advice would you give to those who want to do a Ph.D. at Université de Génève?

As I have said for the LL.M., I personally believe that it is important to have previously had some professional experience: otherwise, there would be the risk to lose contact with reality (that is to say, with the judicial problems that judges and professionals deal with daily and whose research is supposed to contribute a solution).

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