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 (PHS) aims to foster a comprehensive understanding of Public Health and develop competencies focusing on key methods and applications.

The program will be attractive 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 will also be useful for post-docs, clinicians and public health practitioners who want to learn about specific topics or methods. The program is highly interdisciplinary, with scholars from several faculties contributing. The students will also benefit from access to the courses of the Swiss Epidemiology Winter school and other international course offers. Single course attendance is also possible.

Basic information
Degree: Attestation for PHS Course Program completion, additional specification on PhD title (if Graduate School offers this option)
Scope: Min 10 ECTS credits
Offer: Training in Public Health Sciences as a supplement to PhD diploma from Bern University
Duration: Starting in Spring 2023: 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 the 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: A global understanding of the Public Health Sciences and applying their methods is at the program's centre. Learning processes promote 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 where they can broaden their network.
  4. Flexibility: The program structure enables adaption to the other PhD work requirements. Entry is possible any time after starting with the PhD at the University of Bern. Participants design their study plan consisting of mandatory and elective courses based on their previous education. Before starting, 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 the overall educational objectives of the Program. The overall objectives feed into competencies that are defined at the Module level. These Module competencies are acquired by achieving the learning outcomes offered 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 program completion is based on the attainment of ECTS credits

In the following document, you will find the courses proposed in the Course Program. This list is not exhaustive and other courses will gradually be added. You can find all the courses and their descriptions on the registration platform.


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).

Participants must start with Module 1 and should complete all 5 introductory units before embarking on Module 2. In Module 2, theme 1 “Core Methods” is mandatory. At least one other theme (theme 2 to 4) must be chosen. Inside each theme there are mandatory and elective courses. If they wish, students can choose up to 3 additional themes and attain more than 8 ECTS in Module 2.

Through 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. Through 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 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 the 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 program and courses offered at participating institutions that fit the program will be offered. The latter include online courses at the University of Bristol and courses given in Rotterdam at the Erasmus Summer Programme.

From 2023 Bern University is no longer participating in the Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), which offers a platform to students interested in taking courses in the field of Public Health, but no structured course program. The University 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 being 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 being offered in 2023 by the Course Program in PHS. You can find the list of those courses under the “Program structure” tab. You can directly register online.

Students who want to enrol in the entire Course Program must first register to Module 1. Once Module 1 is achieved they can start with Module 2. Admission is possible any time through the online platform (see below). 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 enrol in the full Course Program can also register online for single courses.

Fees depend on the type of student 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 available in the document “Registration fees overview” in “Documents & links”.

If you have questions about the PHS Course Program or on how to proceed 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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