The CUSO blog



Time and timing in doctoral education: Thoughts from the 2022 EUA-CDE Annual Meeting

Caroline Betto-Colliard, CUSO - 25.08.2022

The 15th Annual Meeting of the Council for Doctoral Education of the European University Association (EUA-CDE) was held at Manchester last June. This conference addressed the question of time and timing in the thesis, and took a close look at this key issue for doctoral education. The CUSO team had the chance to attend this Annual Meeting and we would like to take the opportunity to share with you some thoughts we took back with us. 

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Word from Kilian Winz, representative of the doctoral students

Kilian Winz - 24.05.2022

My dear fellow doctoral students,

You first elected me in 2018 to represent you on the CUSO Coordination and Management Commission before re-electing me in 2020 for a second term. As I am about to complete my PhD thesis this summer, I will not be seeking re-election. I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words to express my gratitude for the four years I have spent defending our interests.

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Behind the scenes of MT180 competition: the laureates share their experience

Caroline Betto-Colliard, CUSO - 18.05.2021

On Friday, May 21st, the fifth Swiss finals of the competition “Ma thèse en 180 secondes” will take place. It will be broadcast online from 6pm on the EPFL website, on and on the EPFL YouTube channel.

What is “Ma thèse en 180 secondes” ?
It is a competition that allows PhD students to present their research topic in simple terms to a diverse audience. Usually it takes place in a theatre or auditorium, with the warmth of physical presence, but this year it will be online, for obvious reasons. Each doctoral candidate has to give a clear, concise, yet convincing presentation of their research project in three minutes. To give you a better idea of what this competition is all about, what the challenges are and what the difficulties are, the CUSO secretariat asked the last four winners a few questions, which they kindly accepted to answer.

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"You and your Phd" by Monika Janfelt: ten lessons to remember

Ilaria Orsi, CUSO - 23.03.2021

At the beginning of the year we launched a survey among the CUSO PhD community to better build our offer. In order to encourage as many responses as possible, those who completed the survey had the opportunity to win (by drawing lots) a copy of « You and Your Phd », the recent book by Monika Janfelt ( about career preparation for doctoral students.

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Enhancing the doctoral journey – an asset for success! [invited post]

Colette Niclasse & Marie Lambert, Université de Fribourg - 15.02.2021

We are pleased to welcome Colette Niclasse and Marie Lambert, from the University of Fribourg, for a guest post on the supervision relationship in the doctoral process. Welcome and warm thanks to them for their contribution!

Under what conditions can a thesis be successfully completed? What are the individual characteristics and contextual factors that come into play? How, as a doctoral student, can I learn and progress in this demanding journey? How can I manage the instability and hazards inherent in any research project, while preserving my physical and psychological well-being? A good supervisory relationship is essential, and there are ways to ensure this!

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CUSO by numbers

Caroline Betto-Colliard, Denis Billotte & Pauline Fritsch, CUSO - 12.11.2020

CUSO is a joint organization of the universities of French-speaking Switzerland, whose mission is to offer doctoral training programs to the largest possible number of doctoral candidates in the network. You may be familiar with one or more of these doctoral programs. But what do you know quantitatively about CUSO, its offer and its operations? From a series already published on Twitter, this post provides some answers... in numbers!

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Doing a PhD …and then what ? CUSO’s new series on the after thesis

Ilaria Orsi, Caroline Betto-Colliard & Denis Billotte, CUSO - 01.10.2020

The number of doctoral degrees awarded in Switzerland continues to grow, and statistics show that after obtaining the title the majority of graduates work in a non-academic field (public or private). It is also well documented that it is possible to move back and forth between the academic and extra-academic worlds.

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Basic Tips for Writing a Grant Request

Caroline Betto-Colliard, Ilaria Orsi & Denis Billotte, CUSO - 25.06.2020

Summer is looming on the horizon and our blog will also enjoy a little summer break. We look forward to seeing you back in September with some new posts about the PhD. But before that, we propose you an article dealing with the writing of grant requests.

Research needs funding from third parties, mainly public funding providers. The competition to obtain research grants may be very intense, making it challenging to write a request. Indeed, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) received 7’404 proposals and funded 3’465 of them in 2019, a little less than 50 %. Though writing proposals for grants may be difficult, it is an essential process for scientists who would like to have a successful research program. This process is even more difficult for early career researchers whom are trying to differentiate themselves from their colleagues and need to demonstrate their autonomy from their supervisors while developing their own new and innovative ideas and concepts. For our last post of the season, we present you some basic tips that may help you to write a successful research grant request. Think also about the courses proposed by the CUSO transversal program regarding this topic.

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Virtual Networking, Research and Work: A Mini Guide to Get Started

Ilaria Orsi, Caroline Betto-Colliard & Denis Billotte, CUSO - 18.06.2020

Last week, we made some suggestions for the development and maintenance of your professional networks. Among others, we mentioned the importance of building an online presence, via virtual networks. Today we would like to take a look at the most important platforms in Switzerland that are useful for this purpose and reflect on their advantages and limitations.
Please note that this post does not concern mediasharing (e.g. SlideShare, YouTube, Vimeo...), datasharing (e.g. Dryad Digital Repository, Mendeley...), codesharing, nor traditional office tools (email, shared agenda, slack, MIRO...), nor blogs.

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Developing and Maintaining a Professional Network during the PhD and beyond

Caroline Betto-Colliard, Ilaria Orsi & Denis Billotte, CUSO - 11.06.2020

Establishing and maintaining a professional network is essential for doctoral candidates – not only while studying, but also for their professional future whether in the private sector or in academia, as we recently discussed in one of our last posts.
Networking is based on sharing and exchange, voluntary collaboration and the principle of reciprocity. It allows you to develop your career and to create cooperative partnerships during the entire professional life, and not only just after the end of the PhD. In addition, discussing and collaborating with colleagues from different cultures and backgrounds is an extremely enriching experience for your own personal development. Here, we propose some suggestions and ideas to proactively build, grow and maintain a professional network. Please also note that a specific Transversal Program workshop (Proactive Managing Relationships and Networks) has been conceived to improve your skills in networking!

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The workspace: how to optimize our office?

Ilaria Orsi, Caroline Betto-Colliard & Denis Billotte, CUSO - 04.06.2020

In past weeks, many of us have had to reorganise our domestic space and devote part of the living room, bedroom or kitchen to work. In our first blog post of this series, we mentioned the importance of delimiting areas intended for rest from those intended for productivity. What did we learn from this experience? What can we bring back to the office when we return to university?

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Time Management Tips for Your PhD

Caroline Betto-Colliard, Ilaria Orsi & Denis Billotte, CUSO - 28.05.2020

During a PhD, time always feels scarce and the days seem to fly by pretty quickly. Combining this with the pressure of the number of things you have to accomplish, the need to achieve a high standard and perhaps a certain lack of clear guidance, you may easily feel stressed. Moreover, completing a PhD is usually an individual process where your progress mostly depends on your own motivation and your organizational skills. For sure, having good time management strategies can be vital and may help reduce anxieties. Time management is all about to make the most efficient and effective use of the time you have, and allows you to deal with your duties, to meet deadlines, and to progress towards achieving your private and professional goals.

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“ Creativity is intelligence having fun” - A. Einstein

Ilaria Orsi, Caroline Betto-Colliard & Denis Billotte, CUSO - 14.05.2020

In one of our articles, we underlined the importance of reflection time in order to develop new ideas that could be useful when returning to campus. Indeed, creativity is closely linked to research process when it comes, for example, to developing new hypotheses, transmitting acquired knowledge or building the foundations of a project. The innovative process is vivifying, vibrant, sparkling, stimulating, but generating ideas and organizing them is sometimes complicated, messy, even frustrating. Did you know that as early as the Middle Ages (Quaestiones disputatae) there was a concern to facilitate and stimulate exchanges between scientists in order to generate original answers to theoretical questions? The aim here is not to retrace the history of brainstorming or freewheeling, but to propose some concrete tools to structure the production and organization of new ideas, in groups or solo.

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What career path after my doctorate?

Caroline Betto-Colliard, Ilaria Orsi & Denis Billotte, CUSO - 07.05.2020

Did you know that in Switzerland only 33% of PhD graduates embark on an academic career after completing their thesis? According to a study by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) published in 20181, more than 58% of young PhDs in Switzerland are working in another field one year after the end of their thesis. The doctorate is therefore not only the first step for any academic career, but often represents the first stage for plenty of professions.

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Towards progressive deconfinement: what do we want to keep from this experience?

Ilaria Orsi, Caroline Betto-Colliard, Denis Billotte, CUSO - 30.04.2020

A new phase seems to be on the horizon: we are all going to have to reorganize our lives and our routine once again. Nothing is certain, except that we still have a good opportunity to exercise our thinking... And many of us may be able to pick up on some of the experiences we've had during this period.

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Tips for Conquering the Blank Page when Writing your Thesis

Caroline Betto-Colliard, Ilaria Orsi & Denis Billotte, CUSO - 23.04.2020

Staying in front of the blank page and its blinking cursor for minutes, hours or days… or drafting only a little paragraph in an entire day because you erase and rewrite every sentence you type out. Which early stage researcher has not been confronted with these problems? Publishing quality research papers effectively is certainly one of the keys to a successful academic career. However, most researchers begin without any formal teaching, causing thesis writing to be often stressful and inefficient…

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Some tips to optimize your video conferencing meetings

Ilaria Orsi, Caroline Betto-Colliard, Denis Billotte - 16.04.2020

Feverish and phlegmatic, dense and empty, slow and quick: managing our tasks is now a real challenge. Time perception has become blurred and the rhythm of our daily life is completely disrupted.
In our previous articles we offered some tips to ease the transition to smartwork.
Here we collect some good practices to optimize video conference meetings. These tips are based on our personal experience: feel free to complete them and post your comments and ideas!

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Physical and Mental Well-being in Times of Pandemic and Thesis

Ilaria Orsi, Caroline Betto-Colliard, Denis Billotte - 09.04.2020

Containment is not new to doctoral students, as Mathilde Maillard and Mathieu Rouault note.  In particular, working on a thesis in the humanities and social sciences involves overwhelming but necessary phases of confinement, involving social isolation and lack of physical activity.

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Tips for PhDs on working from home

Caroline Betto-Colliard, Ilaria Orsi & Denis Billotte, CUSO - 01.04.2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented situation throughout the world, but also within the academic sphere. As universities have closed, researchers are now dislocated and a lot of PhD students are currently experiencing a transition to working from home, far from their office, their lab or their library. The anxiety of this exceptional situation is compounded by personal concerns: coping and supporting family and friends who are ill or at-risk, taking care of children during school closures or fighting feelings of social isolation. This article tries to provide some tips for PhD students to help them to alleviate pressure, organize the transition to working from home and maintain mental wellness.

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"My thesis in 180 seconds": entertainment, communication and doctoral education

Denis Billotte, CUSO - 19.08.2019

The original article is published in "The Doctoral Debate", blog of the Council for Doctoral Education of the European University Association (EUA-CDE).

Link to the article:,-communication-and-doctoral-education.html

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