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Swiss Leading House VPET-ECON

Course Program for Doctoral Students in Economics of Education

The Leading House VPET‒ECON, a research center on the Economics of Education, Firm Behavior and Training Policies, located at the University of Zurich, offers a training program for beginning doctoral students in Economics of Education. The program is similar to the first part of a PhD-program of a top university in the US.

The Leading House is funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education,
Research and Innovation (SERI). It is directed by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Uschi Backes-Gellner (University of Zurich) and Prof. Dr. Stefan C. Wolter (University of Bern).

The course program for doctoral students consists of four core courses and a variety of electives. The courses are usually taught as one week intensive courses to make it possible for doctoral students from other universities to participate in the program. The courses are taught by distinguished faculty members of leading research universities. The core program should be completed within one year, electives within two years. Participants who pass all core courses receive a document certifying participation in the core Economics of Education Program. Participation in only one or a selected sample of core or elective courses is possible upon request. For single courses students earn 3 ECTS per course but no Economics of Education Program certificate will be issued. All courses include mandatory exams and/or presentations.

Target Group

We aim at beginning doctoral students in Economics of Education who hold a university degree in economics, business economics or related fields. Students must be enrolled in a doctoral program of a Swiss university or of a European research university (acceptance pending vacant positions). The program is intended to bring together an international group of students with a joint interest in Economics of Education. Participants of the previous 6 Course Programs came from more than 50 European research institutions. For more information see: Alumni

Program Details

The program starts in spring 2024 with two core courses: “Econometric Methods in Economics of Education” (February 26 - March 1, 2024, Prof. Schwerdt, University of Konstanz) and “Personnel and Labor Economics for Education Economists” (April 8 - 12, 2024, Prof. Eriksson and Prof. Frederiksen, Aarhus University). In fall 2024, two more core courses follow, one on “Apprenticeship Training Institutions and Markets” (September 2 - 6, 2024, Prof. Muehlemann, LMU Munich; and others) and “Microeconomic Foundations of Economics of Education” (October 7 -11, 2024, Prof. Woessmann, University of Munich and ifo Institute). Courses include formal lectures of six hours per day. The remaining time should be reserved for reading and exercises. Usually, classes are taught in English and held on site at the premises of the University of Zurich.

Electives are offered every semester. Examples of previous and upcoming electives are: “Randomized Experiments in Economics of Education“ (Prof. Bettinger, Stanford University), “Matching and Researching Large Administrative Data in Economics of Education“ (Prof. Bütikofer, Norwegian School of Economics), “Personality, Economic Preferences, Skills and Education“ (Prof. Dohmen, University of Bonn) and “Natural Experiments for Causality Analysis in Economics of Education“ (Prof. Webbink, Erasmus University). For more information see: Course Archive


Please visit this page for more information on the application procedure.


No fee is charged for the courses. However, participants have to cover
travel costs and living expenses by themselves. For candidates undergoing financial hardship a small number of modest travel grants is available (detailed explanations and documents have to be provided with an application).


Laura Brunner, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration, Chair Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Backes-Gellner, Plattenstrasse 14, CH-8032 Zurich, Mail: