Structure of the PhD Program


The Vienna Graduate School of Finance is a structured PhD program which offers a top-notch training in Finance. Beside local faculty, internationally renowned
scholars regularly teach at VGSF and give weekly seminars at the new WU Campus. Due to this outstanding education and international network, students can look forward to a rewarding career in leading institutions around the world.

The program consists of two parts: courses and research. Students typically start their program by taking most of their mandatory courses and bridging courses (extracurricular) during the first year.

To complete the study part of the program, students should also take six electives courses. students usually take these courses during second and third year.

The PhD thesis consists of three papers (one of which is the job market paper). Students start working (i.e. searching for a topic, writing and presenting proposals) on their papers in the first year. Students present their findings continuously and once a year they are expected to present their research to VGSF faculty and students.


The curriculum consists of three years of course work. During the first two years students take the following mandatory courses:

  • Quantitative Methods covers various methods required for doing research in finance (essentially stochastic calculus and optimization methods).
  • Financial Econometrics covers important topics in empirical corporate finance and applied cross-sectional econometrics (e.g. endogeneity, measurement errors, simulation estimators, estimation of dynamic models).
  • Corporate Finance deals with the financing of the corporation and in particular with the determinants of corporate capital structure choice. The purpose of this course is to acquaint students with the relevant theories in this field. A main objective is to provide them with the knowledge to assess the latest research, and to be able to formalize corporate finance problems of their own. A special focus will be a contract theoretic approach to corporate finance.
  • Asset Pricing covers the essentials in asset pricing like market efficiency, state prices and arbitrage, CAPM and APT: theory and evidence as well as multi-period, consumption-based models.
  • Continuous Time Finance presents the fundamentals of arbitrage theory for pricing contingent claims in continuous time (e.g. incomplete market, the martingale approach to arbitrage pricing, interest rate theory).
  • Finance Paper Reading deals with key papers in financial economics, required for understanding more recent papers, and to facilitate the process of reviewing the literature for their own research.
  • PhD Research Seminar is intended as a platform for students to present their own research (proposals), and to receive feedback from faculty and colleagues. Students have to present their papers twice year and discuss two papers of their fellow students. The course is guided by VGSF faculty members.
  • Paper Writing focuses on replicating and extending a paper (or selected aspects covered therein) published in major finance or economics journals. After preparing a proposal, students have to seek an advisor from the VGSF faculty. The final version of the paper is presented in an annual local conference, and should be suitable for submission to a conference or journal.
  • Finance Research Seminar informs students about the current research in finance. Renowned scholars from leading universities present and discuss their (working) papers. Students meet with the guest speaker to discuss the paper and ask questions about it. A list of  talks in the current semester can be found here.

In addition, students take at least six elective courses.


  • Game Theory
  • Real Options
  • Advanced Corporate Finance
  • Advanced Asset Pricing
  • Empirical Asset Pricing
  • Interest Rate Models
  • Credit Risk Management
  • Market Microstructure
  • Financial Intermediation

Recent elective courses have been taught by (amongst others)

  • Christopher Hennessy from LSE ("Advanced Corporate Finance")
  • Nicolae Garleanu from the Haas School of Business, Berkeley ("Liquidity and Asset Pricing")
  • RĂ¼diger Fahlenbrach from EPFL ("Empirical Corporate Finance")
  • David Lando from the Copenhagen Business School ("Credit Risk Management")
  • Rossen Valkanov from the University of California San Diego ("Financial Econometrics and Empirical Portfolio Choice")
  • Gordon Phillips from the University of Maryland ("Interaction of Finance and Industrial Organization")
  • Jacob Sagi from Vanderbilt University ("Advanced Asset Pricing")
  • Jiang Wang from the MIT ("Advanced Asset Pricing")
  • Toni Whited from Michigan Ross ("Financial Econometrics")