Faculty of Medicine

Study programs

Public Health Sciences Course Program

Defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society,” Public Health is a highly interdisciplinary field. The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the importance and interdisciplinary nature of public health and its sciences. The newly established, structured course program in the Public Health Sciences aims to foster a comprehensive understanding of Public Health and develop competencies focusing on key methods and applications.

The Course Program is recommended to PhD students working on public health-related topics who want to get ready for a post-doc position in academia or an organization close to science. It is also suitable for post-docs, clinicians and public health practitioners who want to learn about specific topics or methods. The Course Program is highly interdisciplinary, with scholars from several faculties contributing. The students will also benefit from access to additional course offers. Single course attendance is possible.

Basic information
Degree: Attestation for the PHS Course Program completion, additional specification on the PhD title (if Graduate School offers this option)
Scope: Min 10 ECTS credits

Training in Public Health Sciences as a supplement to the PhD diploma from the University of Bern

Duration: 2-3 years (some courses will be offered every second year)
Language: English
Admission: Regular registration for PhD at any time after acceptance into PhD Program at Bern University. Case-by-case admission for other scientific personnel.
Entry: Flexible, either for full PHS Course Program or for single courses
Costs: For more information about registration fees, please refer to the document «Registration fees overview» in «Documents & links».
Contact: phs-info.ispm@unibe.ch

Click here for online registration

The PHS Course Program is an optional training program that complements the PhD curriculum defined by the Graduate Schools. The Course Program is not a Graduate School and does not award PhD diplomas.

The four pillars of the Course Program are:

  1. Interdisciplinarity: Public Health is a highly interdisciplinary field, which is reflected in the structure of the Course Program. Lecturers and participants from different faculties are involved in the program.
  2. Comprehensive Public Health Vision: Global understanding of the Public Health Sciences and development of key competences with focus on methodologies is at the core of the program. Learning process promotes engagement with the content to transfer knowledge into action. Lecturers work with modern didactic methods and promote competencies in small groups. Exemplary contents have priority.
  3. Networking: Through the interdisciplinary structure of the program and organized networking activities, participants and professors can build lasting connections, including with alumni. Participants have access to courses offered by universities abroad and broaden their network.
  4. Flexibility: The program structure enables alignment with other PhD work requirements. Entry is possible at any time after starting the PhD program at the University of Bern. Participants design their study plan based on their interests and previous education. New participants discuss their study plan with their PhD supervisors and the Program Manager.

The PHS Course Program is based on a qualification framework with competence goals. The qualification framework represents overall educational objectives of the Course Program. Overall objectives feed into competencies that are defined at the Module level. These Module competencies are acquired by achieving the learning outcomes defined in the various courses. The qualification framework reflects the central competencies of future post-doctoral researchers in the field of Public Health.

The PHS Course Program is aligned with the Agency for Public Health Education Accreditation (APHEA) criteria. The competency framework and requirements of the Course Program are based on these standards. In accordance with higher education regulations, the Course Program completion is based on the attainment of ECTS credits.


The program consists of two Modules subdivided into four themes:

  • Module 1 – Consists of 5 units: an introduction to Public Health Sciences and Course Program, and an introduction to each of the four themes: Core Methods, Population Health and its Determinants, Health System and Policy, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (2 ECTS).
  • Module 2 – Consists of in-depth courses within the four themes (> 8 ECTS).

Course Program participants must start with Module 1 and should complete all 5 introductory units before embarking on Module 2. In Module 2, courses need to be chosen within theme 1 “Core Methods”. Additionally courses from at least one other theme (theme 2 to 4) must be chosen. If they wish, students can choose up to 3 additional themes and attain more than 8 ECTS in Module 2.

In Module 1, participants get a comprehensive overview of the foundations of Public Health, definitions of key concepts, its different disciplines, its history and ethics, and an introduction to the 4 themes. In Module 2, participants acquire specific skills across the 4 themes:

  1. Core methods
    1. Epidemiology and demography
    2. Social Sciences research methods
    3. Statistical and computational methods
    4. Evaluation and implementation
  2. Population health and its determinants
    1. Socio-economic determinants
    2. Environmental and biological hazards
    3. Nutrition
    4. Life course
    5. Global and One Health
    6. Genetics
  3. Health care systems and policy
    1. Health policy
    2. Health law
    3. Health care systems
  4. Health promotion and disease prevention
    1. Participatory research
    2. Behavior change
    3. Knowledge transfer tools

The minimum workload for the entire Course Program is approximately 300 hours (1 credit ≈25-30h) over 3 years, with Module 1 contributing about 50 hours. Participants have the flexibility to earn credits with courses that are most helpful to them. In addition to the minimum credits' requirements, participants may take additional courses at their discretion. These will be recognized as additional learning achievements in the Diploma Supplement.

The courses will be taught in English, held face-to-face at participating institutions or offered online. Courses designed specifically for the PHS Course Program and courses offered at participating institutions that fit the Course Program will be offered. The latter include online courses at the University of Bristol and courses given in Rotterdam at the Erasmus Summer Program.

From 2023, the University of Bern is no longer participating in the Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+). SSPH+ offers a platform to students interested in taking courses in the field of Public Health, but no structured course program. The University of Bern decided to create its own structured course program in Public Health Sciences and mandated the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM) to develop such a program. Students from the Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences, Graduate for Health Sciences and the other Graduate Schools are informed about the new Course Program in Public Health Sciences through their respective Graduate School. Students having started their doctorate prior to 2023 can credit previously taken courses towards the PHS Course Program. If they only need to complete their doctoral training with a few courses, they can also register for individual courses. Please contact us to discuss options and course choices.

Several SSPH+ courses that have been organized by the University of Bern are offered in 2023 by the PHS Course Program. You can find the list of these courses here.

Students who want to enroll in the entire Course Program must first register to Module 1. Once Module 1 is completed, they can start with Module 2 courses. Admission is possible at any time through the online platform. At enrolment in the Course Program, applicants will be invited to a short meeting with the Program Manager to discuss individual course planning, expectations and open questions. PhD students, post-docs or other interested parties not aiming to enroll in the full Course Program can also register online for single courses.

Per June 2023, registration fees are waived for PhD students at the University of Bern who commit to the whole course attendance. Please note cancellation regulations in Terms and Conditions.

Fees for other interested persons depend on their participant status and whether they are enrolled in the Course Program or taking individual courses. The fees for the whole course program include 10 ECTS. Detailed information on admission and fees is available in the document «Registration fees overview» in «Documents & links».

If you have questions about the PHS Course Program, how to proceed with the registration or would like advice on planning your courses, you can contact us to make an appointment.

E-mail: phs-info.ispm@unibe.ch


University of Bern, ISPM, PHS Course Program, Mittelstrasse 43, 3000 Bern

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