Selectus for PhD applications at the Swiss Finance Institute
Since October 2022, Selectus has been used for the registration and selection of PhD students at the Swiss Finance Institute.
In many European countries, structured doctoral programs similar to those in the US and UK are on the rise. In these programs, doctoral students usually complete specialized courses in their discipline during the first year and devote the following two to three years to conducting research and writing their dissertation. The structured doctoral programs also lead to changes in recruitment: Whereas in the past it was mostly the professors themselves who hired their doctoral students, in the structured programs the selection is managed centrally by the doctoral program. Interested students apply once or twice a year in response to a centrally managed call for applications for the program.
For students who are interested in a PhD – especially if they come from other universities – such a process has the advantage of being more transparent. For the universities, quality control is easier, since all doctoral students are assessed using the same criteria. However, challenges arise out of the large number of applications that are submitted and have to be evaluated within a short period of time.
At the Swiss Finance Institute, the program takes place at different locations in cooperation with several partner universities: Léman (Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne, University of Geneva, University of Lausanne), Lugano (Università della Svizzera italiana), Zurich (University of Zurich) and St. Gallen (University of St. Gallen). Students can apply to one or more of these campuses. A committee of professors from the respective partner universities evaluates the applications and selects the PhD students, with a certain degree of coordination between the different campuses. Hence, a well-structured application and selection process is needed to cope with this complexity.
Selectus supports this selection process by simplifying the procedures for applicants as well as the work of the administration and committee. On the one hand, the established features of Selectus, such as the ABC rating, the review tool or the template-based e-mail communication with applicants play an important role, on the other hand, the tool has also been tailored to the specific needs of the PhD application process:
- Applicants answer a standardized questionnaire directly in Selectus about their background, motivation, and research interests. Because this questionnaire may differ for different SFI campuses, a new custom field type “multi-line text” has been developed in Selectus.
- Recommendation letters play an important role in PhD applications. Thus, some applications may fail because not all referees submit their letters in time. To address this issue, the new Referee Management Dashboard for applicants is used at SFI. With the confirmation e-mail, the applicants receive an access link which they can use to check the submission of their reference letters and, if necessary, send a reminder e-mail to their referees. In addition, applicants have the possibility to designate alternative referees if one of their original referees is not available.
Currently, the first application and evaluation round for the SFI PhD program is in progress. We are looking forward to hearing about their experiences and will report about it in due course.