Faculty of Humanities

Study programs

Master's in Political, Legal and Economic Philosophy

Citizens of modern societies are faced with a vast variety of questions concerning the relationship between politics, economics, morality and law. The Master program in Political, Legal, and Economic Philosophy (PLEP) of the philosophical department at the University of Bern aims to provide a context in which students from different countries can address these questions systematically.

This interdisciplinary degree is designed to allow students to study the ethical dimensions of public policy, corporate and non-governmental action in fields as diverse as health policy, employment relations, the environment, and international relations. It aims at providing a structured introduction to appropriate methods of philosophy to ethical reasoning, policy-making, and implementation.

The Master in Political, Legal, and Economic Philosophy is meant to be of interest to students from a variety of backgrounds, including Philosophy, Social Sciences, Law, and Economics. The students will pursue their own research project and will be supervised individually during the whole time of their PLEP studies.

Master Political, Legal, and Economic Philosophy
Basic information
Degree: Master of Arts in Political, Legal and Economic Philosophy, Universität Bern
Number of points: 120 ECTS credits
Degree programs: Mono 120 ECTS credits
Duration: 4 semesters
Language: English
Beginning studies: Fall or spring semester

The Master in Political, Legal, and Economic Philosophy (PLEP) is a Mono-Master Program (120 ECTS credit points) available as a two-year, full-time course of study. Students can enter the program each semester, in spring as well as in autumn.

The PLEP program offers an interdisciplinary analysis of practical-political questions and problems of the social world and allows students to engage in intensive debate on normative dimensions of state action, non-state action, and economic action. You can expect small classes, with students from around the world and great supervision that will help you to develop, broaden and practice analytical capacities, learn how to argue, identify relevant questions and  acquire a good knowledge of the main topics, specific methods and core ideas of philosophy, law, economics, and politics.

The PLEP program provides students with a profound philosophical knowledge and introduces interdisciplinary research at the interplay between Philosophy, Political Science, Economics, and Law. Students will be qualified to understand social problems, especially in the realm of politics, economics, and law, by way of philosophical analysis and to analyze and assess solutions put forward as well as to develop them further. Students also learn to analyze crucial concepts and to understand the structure and functional principles of political and economic ways of decision making. Moreover, in working on specific projects students develop the competence to make fruitful interdisciplinary use of research literature, to think autonomously on the problem at hand, and to put the results down in scientific writing.

Semester Fees for the Program: 805 CHF per semester.

Students have a right to course guidance on a regular basis, ensured by the PLEP manager and conducted by faculty members.

Please visit our PLEP Community Website for more information on studying PLEP.

The PLEP program consists of the following two parts.

a) Coursework
b) Master thesis

Mandatory Coursework

The mandatory coursework and course achievements are as follows:

3 seminars in Philosophy (7 credit points each) Colloquium “Methods of Practical Philosophy” (4 credit points) Colloquium “Master Thesis” (4 credit points) 1 compact course from the philosophy department (4 credit points) 1 project on a philosophical topic (paper dealing with a freely chosen topic in consultation with the supervisor, ca. 8000 words, may contain preliminary work for the master thesis) (6 credit points) Freely chosen courses or course achievements in Philosophy on Master level for an amount of 21 credit points total, including: seminars (7 credit points each), colloquia (4 credit points each), compact courses (4 credit points each), conducting tutorials (6 credit points each) Courses in Economics, Political Science, and Law on the Master's level for an amount of 30 credit points total. Master thesis (30 credit points)

Master Thesis

The master thesis (ca. 25000 words, excluding bibliography, 30 credit points) is a more comprehensive treatment of a specific topic from the areas of political philosophy, philosophy of economics, philosophy of law, or of the ethics of publics affairs. It has to be written (and finished) during the last term and is supervised individually. The topic can be freely chosen in consultation with the supervisor. The master thesis has to be presented and discussed in the mandatory Colloquium Master Thesis. It can be written in German or English.

Example Curriculum

Sem. CC/Seminar Colloquium Project/MT Choice  E/P/Law
1 S[7] C (methods)[4]   S[7] S[6],L[5]
2 S[7], S[7]     S[7 S[10]
3 CC[4];   P[6] S[7] L[3], S[6]
4   C (MA thesis)[4] MA[30]    
  25 8 36 21 30
Sum 120

[ ] = Credit Points (ECTS), L = Lecture, S = Seminar, C = Colloquium, CC = Compact Course, MA = Master Thesis, P = Project

The structure and curriculum of the PLEP program are supervised by our Scientific Board, composed of internationally renowned scholars from philosophy, politics and economics.

Prof. Samatha Besson


Professor of Public International Law and European Law at the University of Fribourg

"The main focus of my research interest lies in European and international law in combination with legal and political philosophy, with special emphasis on human rights theory and democratic theory. In 2010, I edited, together with John Tasioulas, a large collection of essays on The Philosophy of International Law (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2010). My chapter in that collection pertained to the sources of international law and international legal positivism, a topic that I keep working on these days. My main project currently is a monograph on a legal theory of human rights which I hope to complete while at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in 2011-2012."

Prof. Francis Cheneval


Professor for Political Philosophy at the University of Zurich

"Within the field of political philosophy my main research interests are normative problems of European and multilateral integration, property rights, global justice and history of political thought.
I’ve studied philosophy, political science, and corporate finance at the universities of Fribourg, Georgetown, and Zurich and have been lecturer and professor in Paris (École pratique des hautes études), Bogotá (Universidad de los Andes), Bruxelles (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and at several Swiss universities. Next to my academic work, I served as rapporteur for property rights for the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor at UNDP, New York.
Currently I am president of the Swiss Philosophical Society and a member of the Editing Committee International Development Policy Series and the Editorial Board of the „Swiss Human Rights Book“ series. On publications I’d like to mention my latest monograph The Government of the Peoples: On the Idea and Principles of Multilateral Democracy which was published in 2011 and is one of the outcomes of my last years of work. At present, I am professor at the University of Zurich and work on research projects on democracy, citizenship, human rights and migration.“

Prof. Stefan Gosepath


Professor for Pratical Philosophy, Freie Universität Berlin

"I specialize in normative political theory and practical philosophy and have done research on theories of rationality, action theory as well as democracy and human rights. My main focus of interest, though, in recent years has been with questions of local, global and ‚applied‘ justice. As a principle investigator in the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders” at Frankfurt University and director of the Centre for Advanced Studies “Justitia Amplificata – Rethinking Justice: Applied and Global” I am currently working on different issues concerning the topic of normativity in a non-ideal world. The first and most comprehensive focus of this project is on formulating global norms of justice. A second focus is constituted by fundamental methodological questions concerning the relation between morality and politics, in particular concerning the application of normative theories to nonideal conditions. And, finally, a third focus lies on the analysis of normativity in general, specifically of normativity in the moral and political domain.“

Prof. David Miller


Professor of Political Theory, University of Oxford, Nuffield College

"I have wide interests in the field of political theory. Although in the past I have done some work in the history of political thought, my research is now focussed on issues in contemporary political theory and philosophy. These include: theories of justice and equality; democratic theory; the concepts of nationality and citizenship; multiculturalism and immigration; and global justice. My book National Responsibility and Global Justice was published in November 2007, and I am continuing to work on questions that arise from that book, in particular the relationship between social justice and global justice, and the question of how the boundaries of distributive justice are set.  I am also working on the question of territorial rights, and how nations can acquire such rights.  A further related interest is in the idea of collective responsibility, and in particular the allocation of responsibility in situations where there are multiple agents each capable of remedying some harm. I intend in the future to do further work on social justice in multicultural societies, and to continue to engage critically with cosmopolitan conceptions of global justice and governance."

Prof. Fabienne Peter


Senior Tutor for Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Warwick

"I specialize in political philosophy and in issues at the intersection of economics and philosophy. My primary research interest at the moment is political legitimacy. Other main research interests are democracy, justice, and practical reason. I have also written on public health ethics, focusing on the relationship between social justice and health inequalities."

Graduation Deadlines for Fall 2015

For current students: MA Thesis Graduation Application Deadlines

Graduation March 2016
MA Thesis Application Deadline 5 June 2015
Submission of the MA Thesis* 4 December 2015
Application for the MA Degree latest 19 February 2016
Gradation Ceremony 11 March 2016
Graduation October 2016
MA Thesis Application Deadline 18 December 2015
Submission of the MA Thesis* 20 June 2016
Application for the MA Degree latest 16 September 2016
Gradation Ceremony 14 October 2016

*In some cases upon consultation with your supervisor it may be possible to extend your MA thesis deadline. In such cases you must apply to request an extension from the dean's office. Failure to formally extend the deadline will result failing the thesis, and requiring the student to repeat the thesis on a new topic. Applications for extension can be downloaded below.

Individual academic requirements

The following academic qualifications are required for admission to the specialized master’s degree program in Political, Legal and Economic Philosophy PLEP (mono):

Bachelor's degree from a recognized university with:

a) 90 ECTS credits in the branch of studies Philosophy or
b) 90 ECTS credits in the branch of studies Political Sciences or
c) a total of 90 ECTS credits in the branches of studies Business Administration / Management and Economics or
d) 90 ECTS credits in the branch of studies Law

As regards a), if no evidence is provided of 60 ECTS credits in the branches of studies Political Sciences, Business Administration / Management and Economics or Law, suitable courses at bachelor’s level relating to the branches of studies of Political Sciences, Business Administration and Economics or Law to the value of 15 ECTS credits must be completed as admission requirements, which must be fulfilled in order to complete the master's degree program. The ECTS credits will be listed separately in the diploma supplement as extracurricular attainments.

As regards b), c) and d), if no evidence is provided of 60 ECTS credits in the branch of studies Philosophy, the following four introductory courses will need to be completed as admission requirements, which must be fulfilled during the first two semesters of study on an extra-curricular basis:

a) Introductory course (German) “Ethik” (6 ECTS credits)
b) Introductory course (German) “Politische Philosophie” (6 ECTS credits)
c) Introductory course (German) “Rechtsphilosophie” (6 ECTS credits)
d) Introductory course (German) “Handlungstheorie” (6 ECTS credits)

The bachelor's degree may not be more than ten years old. Exceptions are possible where justified.

Language requirements

The courses are conducted in English. Additional attainments (introductory courses etc.) are mainly conducted in German. 

English language skills

You must provide evidence of having achieved the minimum grade in one of the following language tests (the choice is yours) provided this is not more than 36 months old at the time of application. Any test with a date older than this will not be accepted.

Language test minimum result
TOEFL Internet 92
TOEFL Paper 580
Cambridge First Certificate in English

An exemption from the English test is possible if you have completed your studies in English within a language community, in which English is the main spoken language. 

German language skills

If you are applying with a foreign academic qualification and need to satisfy admission requirements (in German) which can be completed during the program of study, you will need – before starting your studies – to demonstrate sufficient proficiency in German comparable with the German test regulations set out by the Executive Board of the University of Bern. Rules for bachelor's degree programs apply in this case. A minimum of level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is required.

For questions regarding application and admission, please contact the Admissions Office.

Current UniBE students

Apply for a change to the M A in Political, Legal and Economic Philosophy, Universität Bern by self-service as part of the re-registration for the next semester.
Renewal of semester registration → Self-service
Recognition of academic achievements
Procedure and timing of the renewal of semester registration

Application with a Swiss degree

Online application
Steps from application to registration

Application with an international degree

Online application
CHECKLIST - Documents for your application / Important information
Steps from application to registration

For questions regarding application and admission, please contact the Admissions Office.

Scholarships, Grants, Financial Support

Please check the website of the University of Bern for information on scholarships, grants and financial support. The PLEP program and the Instiute of Philosophy can unfortunately not offer any financial support, grants or scholarships.

Application Deadlines

Fall Semester

Regular Application: 30 April
Late Application: 31 August*

Spring Semester

Regular Application: 15 December
Late Application: 31 January*

Please apply early, if you are coming from a foreign country (EU and Non-EU), since you need a visa to enter Switzerland. Whoever wishes to study at Bern University has to apply for admission at the Admissions Office.


University of Berne Admissions Office

Hochschulstrasse 4

3012 Bern


phone +41 (0)31 631 39 11

fax +41 (0)31 631 80 08

e-mail: info@zib.unibe.ch
website: Application and Admission


Prospective students from the University of Bern should change their semester registration in the online selfservice to MA PLEP. Students must still meet the requirements of the program.

Prospective students with Swiss university degrees are requested to apply in due time either with the Online Application.

Prospective students with international university degrees are requested to apply in due time with the Online Application. A checklist of all documents to accompany your application can be downloaded here.


Scholarships, Grants, Financial Support

Please check the website of the University of Bern for information on scholarships, grants and financial support. The PLEP program and the Instiute of Philosophy can unfortunately not offer any financial support, grants or scholarships.


Please note:

*   A late application costs an additional 100 CHF.

** Students with international school-leaving certificate or degree: Late applications are only possible if the required documents are complete. We reserve the right to transfer incomplete applications to the subsequent semester.

Application and Registration Fee

According to Art. 110 of the Ordinance on the University (UniO) of 27 May 1998, a fee of CHF 100 must be paid for application for studies. In case of subsequent admission, this application fee can be counted towards the registration fee, which also amounts to CHF 100.

After application, applicants will receive a pay-in slip for the application fee. In case of late payment of the application fee, e.g. the payment is made later than the stated terms of payment, the application is automatically considered as withdrawn and a registration is no longer possible.

Once paid, application fees can neither be refunded nor transferred to another semester. For applications from abroad (and only those from abroad!) a confirmation has to be enclosed confirming that CHF 105 were transferred to the Cantonal Bank of Bern in Bern/Switzerland, account No. 20/245.382.7.93, SWIFT KBBECH22, IBAN-Number: CH32 0079 0020 2453 8279 3, in favor of the Admissions Office of Bern University.

Tuition and Semester Fees

The fees amount to CHF 805 per semester. For students, which exceed without cogent reason the standard period of study defined in the study regulations, the University Directorate may increase the tuition fees at the earliest as from the 7th semester of a Bachelor program and 4th and 5th semester respectively of a Master program (90 and 120 ECTS credits respectively) for each additional semester by CHF 300 at a time. The maximum tuition fees per term are ten times higher than the regular tuition fees.

Tution Fees

Tuition fee per semester CHF 750

Semester Fee

All students pay a semester fee of CHF 34.
This comprises of:

  • Occupational accident insurance 8 CHF
  • University sports CHF 13
  • Social and cultural institutions CHF 13

For students who are members of the Student Union (SUB), the semester fee increases by CHF 21. Consequently, tuition and semester fees for regular students amount to CHF 805 per semester. See Admissions Office → tution fees.

The Admissions Office is neither allowed to waive fees nor to grant delay for payment. Applicants who have run into financial difficulty through no fault of their own and who are not in a position to pay the tuition and semester fees in time should contact as soon as possible the Stiftung Sozialkasse, Mr Markus Krebs, Hochschulstrasse 4, CH-3012 Bern.

For scholarships, grants and other finacial support for registered students of the University of Bern please visit Scholarships, grants and financial support.

The interdisciplinary degree in Political, Legal, and Economical Philosophy (PLEP) is designed to allow students to study the ethical dimensions of public policy, corporate and non-governmental action in fields as diverse as health policy, employment relations, the environment, and international relations.

By providing a structured introduction to appropriate methods of the disciplines of Philosophy, Politics, Law, and Economics and, more particularly, to ethical reasoning, policy-making, and implementation students have the knowledge and skills to persue a whole range of future careers and professional activities.

After finishing the PLEP I....

"...got an internship at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, United Nations and International Organizations Division." - Angela Müller, PLEP 2012

"...found a job at a daily newspaper in Liechtenstein. I work there mainly in the political section." - Martin Hasler, PLEP 2012

"...worked for an animal welfare organization. At the moment I work for the Ethikschule Kind und Tier in Basel (perfect combination of highly urgent theoretical and practical ethical questions)." -Sarah Heiligentag, PLEP 2011

"...worked as Associate Protection Officer for the United Nations High Commissionar for Refugees (UNHCR). My job is to make sure that the Buthanese refugees in Nepal have access to the national courts of justice and that their right to a fair trial is respected." - Julien Peissard, PLEP 2010

"...continued on a PhD at the University of Osnabrück." - Kathrin Schuster, PLEP 2012

"...joined a PhD program in practical philosophy which is part of the Research Priority Program in Ethics at the University of Zurich. I'm currently working on the following subjects: ethics of risk, food security and financial speculation in commodity markets, and the moral evaluation of high frequency trading." - Anna Zuber, PLEP 2010

"...worked at a NGO in Nepal." -Mirko Huber, PLEP 2010

"..did an internship at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and began my doctoral studies at the Goethe-University in Frankfurt am Main." - Julian Culp, PLEP, PLEP 2010


Private/Public Sector Positions

  • Liechensteiner Volksblatt (Liechtenstein national newspaper), Head of the the editorial department economy
  • SRF (Swiss public broadcasting company) Journalist / Videodocumentation
  • Federal Office for Migration
  • Office of Science, Technology and Higher Education at the Embassy of Switzerland in the UK, London, Internship
  • Swiss Road Safety Council, Manager
  • Clinical Ethics Unit of the University Hospital Bern (Inselspital), Internship
  • UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency), Nepal
  • Animal Welfare Organization
  • Womens Hope International (NGO), Fundraising and Public Relations
  • Radio RaBe, Cultural community radio station in Berne, Switzerland
  • Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, United Nations and International Organizations Division, Internship

Example Academic Positions

  • PhD at the University of Bern (CH)
  • University of Zurich (CH)
  • Goethe University Frankfurt (D)
  • Assistant at the Institute of Philosophy in Bern
  • Assistant at the Faculty of Law, Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, University of Bern