Welcome to the SSM PhD program

The PhD is a globally recognized postgraduate research degree, the highest level of degree you can achieve. PhD students are critical, curious, creative thinkers who undertake original research over at least 3 years.

The SSM PhD Program’s mission is to educate outstanding scholars who will be sought after in the job market. At SSM, a commitment to training the next generation of Leaders is central to our overall mission.

We are fully committed our PhD students’ success. Through rigorous coursework and supervised, our students are equipped to work and thrive at the frontiers of knowledge in their chosen subject area.

Quality of thought is a public good here at Swiss School of Management, with improvements in your own thinking generating a positive spill-over to the entire community of students and faculty. You will be expected to work hard but, rest assured, your efforts will bring the highest payoff.

The main characteristics of our PhD program are:

  • High level of support at all stages of your research
  • E-learning support
  • Low drop-out rates.

In the spirit of problem-oriented learning, the program will not overload the PhD-candidate with coursework. Rather, we will take the initial research idea as the starting point. As the research progresses from idea, to literature review, methodology and data collection and analysis, candidates will be guided in learning about the appropriate tools & techniques. Guidance comes from dedicated supervisors and from our research labs.

The program is divided in three stages: coursework; data collection & analysis; and write-up & defense.


In the first stage you will be trained in basic research methods, and in quantitative and qualitative methods and techniques. The coursework gives the candidate an overview of the entire research process, and is aimed at acquiring fundamental research skills. The courses enable the candidate to develop a high-quality research proposal, under the guidance of a supervisor. The research proposal contains the first three chapters of the doctoral thesis: introduction; literature review; and methodology. The first stage takes one year.

Data Collection & Analysis

In the second stage, the candidate will collect, edit and analyze data. Supervisor will guide the candidate in this process. In addition, our research labs will assist in selecting and using the right tools & techniques to do the job. By the end of the second year the candidate is in a position to wrap up the analyses, and prepare for the write-up. A draft of the fourth chapter of the thesis (data analysis and findings) should be ready!

Write-up & Defense

The third and final stage of the process is the write-up. Normally this will require additional analyses, and the time-consuming task of presenting findings clearly and without errors. After six months a draft version should be ready for submission to internal and external readers. Processing readers’ comments may take up to three months, after which a date will be set for the viva voce.

Workshops and modules

The coursework consists of three workshops which are linked to five modules.

The workshops have to be prepared by self-study. The aim of the workshops is to help the candidate develop the research idea into a high-quality research proposal.



Each workshop is assessed with an assignment. The assignments are typically composed of two parts.

  • The first part tests the candidate’s module-specific knowledge and understanding.
  • The second part challenges the candidate to apply the knowledge gained to his or her own research project. This helps the candidate in rethinking the research, and building the research proposal in a gradual (and often iterative) manner.


Students who have defended their thesis successfully, are awarded with the PhD-degree of Swiss School of Management. The degree is IACBE and  accredited.



The Doctoral Programs are aimed at candidates who have obtained a Master Degree from a respectable university.

Applicants with a first (undergraduate, or Bachelor) degree from a respectable university can enroll in the program. They are required to top-up the standard coursework of five modules to the Master of Business Research degree.


Program Structure


The program consists of:

  • Three workshops plus self-study of five modules (year 1)
  • Data collection and analysis, with supervision (year 2)
  • Write-up and defense (year 3).

The normal duration is 12-18 months for coursework and development of the research proposal; 18-24 months for data collection and analysis; and 6-9 months for write-up, editing and defense.

Workshop OUTLINES - Modules

Research Methods

Professional and academic research are vital necessities for modern management to forge ahead. Research is the process of asking the right and relevant questions, and of gathering and analyzing the necessary data in a systematic and methodologically sound manner. An important aspect of sound professional and academic research is to embed the research within the body of existing knowledge (applied research), and to add to it (generating new knowledge).

This module will guide you through the research process, from the formulation of the topic, to critically detecting and reviewing relevant literature, designing the research project and choosing appropriate methodologies, collecting and analyzing the data, and writing the report. Especially for those who are new to research, this workshop will offer a helicopter view of the approaches that researchers use to answer research questions. The other workshops will zoom in on specific parts of the research process, and on specific methodologies that can be employed.

Learning Objectives

  • Formulate research topic in clear terms.
  • Formulate research objectives and questions, and hypotheses and propositions.
  • Carry out a critical review of literature relevant to the topic at hand.
  • Essential skills in reviewing literature: search for recent and relevant articles in (electronic) libraries and on the Internet; using tools to structure the review; know how to use systematic referencing; summarize the review concisely.
  • Understand the key methodologies used in modern research. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of quantitative and qualitative approaches. Creatively combine various approaches to generate relevant data.
  • Have a good knowledge of the various methods of data collection.
  • Be familiar with statistical concepts like sampling, and hypothesis testing. Have an understanding of the main statistical (descriptive and inferential) techniques used to analyze data.
  • Know how to structure the report, and the main requirements of a high quality professional or academic report.
  • Be familiar with ethical considerations in research, including the concept of plagiarism.


The assessment will be based on one assignment. The assignment consists of two parts. In part one you will be asked to evaluate parts of a sample research proposal written by somebody else. In the second part you are invited to draft a rough plan for your own research project.

In the assignment you are asked to:

  • Clearly describe the topic;
  • Formulate research objectives and questions;
  • Identify and summarize at least five articles relevant to the study;
  • Design your research (in terms of approaches; methodologies; and strategies), and to motivate why the chosen design is effective in meeting the research objectives.
Quantitative Methods & Survey Design

Numbers play an important role in research. Statistical skills are critical to understanding a lot of what goes on in society. Many of us find statistics hard.

One reason is that understanding statistics requires mathematical skills. The mathematical skills needed seldom go beyond operations that all students are familiar with – adding, subtracting, multiplication and division. This module will introduce basic and advanced statistics in an intuitive way. Concepts are introduced using examples that students will easily recognize from daily life. Although we refrain from discussing advanced topics in statistics, the workshop paves the way to exploring more advanced statistics.

A second reason why some students have a fear of statistics is the gap that exists between understanding the statistical concepts on the one hand and applying the concepts to reality. This workshop introduces the student to descriptive and inferential statistics. All techniques will be illustrated with easy-to-understand examples.

In the process, this workshop will zoom in on important topics in survey design: sampling techniques; validity and reliability; and data cleaning.

Learning Objectives

  • Ability to design a survey (sample; questionnaire)
  • Understand basic descriptive statistics
  • Understand the concepts used in inferential statistics
  • Understand which statistical tests and techniques can be used in a variety of settings
  • Be able to perform, interpret and report statistical tests.


Students will be assessed in one assignment.

The assignment will challenge the candidate to draft a plan of analysis, for his or her research, based on a draft of the data collection instrument to be used in the research.

Qualitative Methods

This workshop is designed to help qualitative researchers with all aspects of their qualitative research project from start to finish. It discusses the key philosophies underpinning qualitative research and design – with a focus on research in management – and assesses the key advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches.

We will zoom in on aspects of research design for qualitative studies. The core part of the workshop elaborates qualitative research methods that have been touched upon in the workshop on research methods: action research; case study research; ethnographic research; grounded theory; interviews; participant observation; and document analysis. All techniques will be discuss the various approaches of that technique, along with strengths and weaknesses, and examples.

In a separate block the workshop will discuss the analysis of qualitative data, which is fundamentally different from analyzing quantitative data. After an overview of the various methods and techniques that can be used when analyzing qualitative data – including the use of dedicated software – the principles of hermeneutics, semiotics and narrative analysis will be taught and trained.

In a concluding block the workshop will address issues of write-up and publication, with a focus on the differences from writing up non-qualitative studies.

Learning Objectives

  • Familiarize the participants with the fundamentals of qualitative research
  • Understand the pros and cons of qualitative research as compared to quantitative research
  • Have a sound understanding of the various methods and techniques in qualitative research
  • Ability to use the various methods and techniques of qualitative research
  • Obtain the various skills needed for carrying out qualitative research: formulating and asking questions; listening; summarizing; analyze qualitative data; write-up.

This course will not make use of software dedicated to analysis of qualitative research. The use of Nvivo is the topic of an elective course.


The assignment will be based on the application of various methods and techniques of qualitative research to one’s own research (even if the study will be mainly quantitative).

Essential Tools

The module will introduce you to essential tools for doing research at doctoral level. The toolbox offers a rich set of tools. The focus will be on STATA. The STATA package is one of the main packages used by researchers doing serious research. A fully operational permanent license for the latest version of STATA is included in the study fees. This module will also introduce you to a variety of other software packages, most of which are open source and can be downloaded and used for free.

Top-up to Master of Research

In many cases, candidates will need to master techniques that are only touched upon in the workshops and the related mandatory modules. Whenever this is the case, they will be given access to modules available on our e-learning platform. All students have the option to upgrade the mandatory coursework to a Master of Business Research, by studying three elective modules. Doctoral candidates will have access to elective modules at a 50% discount of the normal fees. Elective modules recommended or prescribed by supervisors, can be accessed for free.


Candidates are requested to submit and defend a doctoral thesis.

The topic of the thesis has to be one of the following broad field of research:

  • Strategic Management
  • Functional Areas of Business
    • Finance
    • Human Resource Management
    • Marketing
    • Production and Operations Management
    • Logistics Management
  • Business Environment
  • Public Policies
  • International Economics
  • Specific Sectors of the Economy

Study Fees 2018/2019


The tuition fee for the doctoral programs is CHF 40,000 (Swiss Francs).

The tuition fees can be paid in instalments, in accordance with a step-by-step plan consisting of 20 steps that will give structure to your study. Broadly speaking, candidates are expected to pay 35%; 35% and 30% of the total fee, in year 1, 2 and 3, respectively. At the start of the program, study & payment plans will be tailored to the needs of the individual student.

For Africa, PhD-candidates with research topic relevant to the Roundtable Africa program, can benefit from partial scholarships of up to 60% of the normal fee.


Application Procedures




NOTE: Do not fill in by hand and scan.
Hand written forms will not be accepted.

Application have to be sent
to the following address:
Swiss School of Management
University of Washington Rome Center
Piazza del Biscione 95
00186 Rome, Italy
Phone:  +39 06 4004 93 20


Apply for the PhD Program

PhD Application

Fill out the application form for the SSM program and send it back to us at to begin the process of applying.

Note: Application will not be reviewed until all documents have been received electronically and the application fee has been received.