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PhD programme in Care & Rehabilitation Sciences

Academic access for health professions

The PhD programme in Care and Rehabilitation Sciences offers MSc graduates in health professions from universities of applied sciences the opportunity to obtain a doctoral degree in Switzerland. The programme is run jointly by the ZHAW School of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Zurich. It is open to the following health professions: occupational therapy, physiotherapy, midwifery, nutrition counselling, optometry, osteopathy and nursing.

Focus of the programme

The PhD programme in Care and Rehabilitation Sciences promotes high-quality research and offers structured postgraduate training in the fundamentals and methods of research. The focus lies on research with people with or without health issues in the areas of prevention, clinical (outpatient or inpatient) treatment and rehabilitation, and on applied studies grounded on basic research for the development and improvement of interventions and treatments. 

Admission requirements

The PhD programme in Care and Rehabilitation Sciences is open to applicants from Switzerland and abroad who are highly qualified academically and display a strong interest in research in the areas mentioned above.

To be admitted to the programme, applicants must...

  • hold a Master’s degree from a university or an equivalent academic degree from a university of applied sciences in a health profession regulated in the Swiss Healthcare Occupations Act (GesBG); the equivalence of degrees is decided conclusively by the doctoral programme commission on a case-by-case basis. Admission of applicants from other academic health science disciplines in health care (i.e. disciplines which can be studied at universities or universities of applied sciences), including nursing (MSc in Nursing), is decided on an individual basis by the doctoral programme commission; admitted applicants holding a 90 ECTS credit Master’s degree must acquire an additional 30 ECTS credits; ECTS credits acquired previously at a Swiss or foreign university can be recognised upon review by the doctoral programme commission, provided they have not already counted towards a degree.
  • have proof of their academic qualification (for example, in the form of academic transcripts, awards, scholarships or publications),
  • show motivation and commitment regarding their research interests,
  • be proficient in German (oral and written) and
  • have good knowledge of English.

Application procedure

The ZHAW School of Health Sciences makes a preselection of applicants using the admission criteria and quality standards which have been laid down by the doctoral programme commission. All applicants go through the same application procedure, whether they have a Master’s degree with 120 or 90 ECTS credits. To apply, please use the application form.

Documents for the application

The application must include the following documents:

  1. curriculum vitae
  2. academic transcripts
  3. letter of motivation describing the applicant’s interests within the field of research as well as proposed research questions which the applicant would like to address, as well as the applicant’s reasons for applying and future career plans
  4. promotion project: In the project outline, you describe on a maximum of two pages the status of the doctoral project at the time of application: background, research questions, methods, relevance of the expected results for research or care practice.
  5. two letters of recommendation describing the applicant’s qualification and potential
  6. if possible: a suggestion of a potential supervisor from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Zurich
  7. a suggestion of a potential supervisor from the cooperating university of applied sciences
  8. proof of a funding plan for the applicant covering a period of at least three years; the funding must be confirmed in writing by the funding provider

Merge application documents 1-8 into a single pdf-file and send the file with the separate application form to:


The deadlines for application submission are 30 April and 30 September. The dates of the application interviews with the doctoral programme commission are published on the website of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Zurich. 

ECTS credits required

PhD students with a 90 ECTS credit Master's degree must acquire an additional 30 ECTS credits at a Swiss university or federal institute of technology (e.g. ETH). It is also possible to acquire all or some of the 30 ECTS credits at an university abroad.

The following are not counted towards these 30 ECTS credits: CAS, DAS, MAS, summer schools, language courses etc.

Applicants with a Master's degree with 90 ECTS apply for the program as described above. Candidates who still have to acquire 30 ECTS can now acquire these parallel to their PhD. They no longer need to enter a doctoral preparation phase to acquire the 30 ECTS. During your PhD studies you complete both the dissertation project and the doctoral curriculum (compulsory and optional modules) and acquire the 30 ECTS at the same time.

Important: This regulation will first come into effect for doctoral students starting in spring semester 2021 (application deadline September 30, 2020). This regulation is not applicable retroactively.

Ordinance on doctoral studies

The PhD programme in Care and Rehabilitation Sciences is regulated in the Ordinance on doctoral studies, Care & Rehabilitation Sciences. It formalises the promotion regulation for the title Dr. sc. med. (equivalent to a PhD) from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Zurich. Frequently asked questions and answers are only available in German at the moment. You find them on the website of the University of Zurich.