PhD Program in Methods and Models for Economic Decisions

Director: Ivan Moscati

Duration: 3 years
Number of fellowships: 6 (with scholarship)+ 2 without scholarship
See also the PDF file or the printable version

Topic and goals

A significant part of economic analysis is about the processes of decision making. Consumers and producers, workers and firms, banks and managers, households and policy makers continuously make economically relevant decisions. Economists and management theorists are interested in understanding, predicting, or modifying the processes underlying these decisions.

The analysis of decisions relies on methods and models that differ significantly according to the different fields of research. For instance, classical decision theory is largely based on abstract mathematical modelling, while more recent research in behavioural decision theory significantly relies on experimental methods. Econometric models are used to investigate the determinants of specific decisions, such as those concerning labour, transports, or health. Computational methods are used to simulate how artificial agents interact, and to investigate the effects of their interaction.

The PhD program in Methods and Models for Economic Decisions trains young researchers to master the variety of theoretical and applied approaches that are used in economics and management theory for analysing decision-making processes. The students will acquire a broad set of research skills in model construction and data analysis, and thus become capable of understanding the complex phenomena related to decision making in a multidisciplinary perspective. PhD students will then focus on a specific field of analysis and develop their own research program under the supervision of a faculty member.


The courses are taught in English, and the program lasts three years. At the end of the third year students submit their PhD dissertation, which is usually made of three research papers.

In the first year, students attend the Program’s courses at the Department of Economics of Insubria University, which is located in Varese. These are not the standard first-year courses in quantitative methods, microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics, but cover the specific and more advanced topics in decision theory addressed by the PhD program. Tailor-made solutions for students necessitating to improve their knowledge of quantitative methods, microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics will be identified.

Each first-year course consists of 10 classes (or 20 academic hours). Courses may be either lectures or seminars, depending on the topic, and are divided into two main groups, namely “Theory and tools” and “Empirical applications”.

Theory and tools: In these courses the PhD students learn the main theoretical approaches to decision analysis, and also study their historical evolution and methodological aspects. Students are also trained to use the quantitative tools necessary to understand and construct decision models. The “Theory and tools” courses include:

  • Mathematical Methods for Decision Making (Giovanni Paolo Crespi)
  • Economic Theories of Decision Making (Ivan Moscati)
  • Advanced Econometrics for Decision Making (Raffaello Seri)
  • Decision Making in Economic-Historical Perspective (Carlo Brambilla)
  • Multiobjective Optimisation (Matteo Rocca)
  • Research methods (Paola Tubaro)

Empirical applications: These courses familiarise students with a number of specific empirical applications of decision theory, such as the analysis of decisions concerning labor supply, transports and health. The courses concerning the empirical application of decision analysis include:

  • Taxation, Income Distribution and Individual Decisions (Francesco Figari)
  • Transport Decision Making: Theory and Practice  (Elena Maggi)
  • Applied Health Economics (Silvana Robone)
  • Contemporary Entrepreneurship and Family Business Research  ( Alfredo Biffi – Daniela Montemerlo)
    • Family Business and Organization Research Module
    • Family Business Module
  • Law and Decision Making (Ilaria Capelli – Alba Fondrieschi– Sergio Patriarca – Maria Pierro – Vincenzo Salvatore )

Short courses run by Visting Professors are also offered during the first year.

In the first year, students also identify the broad topic of their PhD dissertation and the member of the PhD board who will serve as their supervisor. Finally, they pin down the topic for their first research paper.

The second and third years are entirely dedicated to research. Students work on their research papers and progressively define theme and structure of their PhD dissertation. Students are expected to attend seminars and other training events held at the Department of Economics.

In addition, students are strongly encouraged to spend part of the second and third years in foreign universities and research institutions. They can choose among universities having exchange programs with Insubria University (e.g. the University of Jena) or institutions particularly active in their field of research.

During the second and the third year, students are also encouraged to present their research papers at internal seminars and international conferences, and then submit them to international journals.

Rules for PhD students

For each PhD cycle, the Academic Year begins November 1st and ends October 31stof the next year.


  • In order to be admitted to the 2nd year, 1st year students need to pass all the exams and submit all the required essays no later than the 15th of September of the first year. Failed exams can be retaken only once. All retakes should be carried out by the 15th of October.Failing twice to pass any exam prevents admission to 2nd year and involves the suspension of the PhD fellowship.
  • By the 15th of September,1st year students also need to choose a PhD supervisor, among the members of the PhD board. A co-supervisor can also be chosen among other academics or practitioners who are not members of the PhD board.


  • In order to be admitted to the3rd year, students need to have written at least one working paper and submit it, through the supervisor, to the PhD board by the 15th of September of the 2nd Failure to submit a working paper with the following requirements will prevent admission to the 3nd year and involves the suspension of the PhD fellowship.
  • The working paper is an original research essay that contains at least some preliminary results with good potential for future publication, according to the supervisor’s evaluation. It needs to appear in the Economic Department WP series or any other official WP series.
  • In a workshop that takes place during the spring of the 2nd year, students present their preliminary work to the PhD board.


  • The PhD dissertation should satisfy the following minimum requirements:
    1. One chapter of literature review;
    2. Two chapters containing two original pieces of research. The two chapters do not need to be already published as peer-reviewed articles, but they should have a strong potential to be published in peer-review journals. It is the responsibility of the PhD supervisor to assess the quality of such chapters and decide whether they are apt for the PhD dissertation.

    Students are strongly encouraged to produce more than the minimum requirements described. Any original result already published or accepted for publication on a peer reviewed scientific journal will be highly appreciated.

  • In a workshop that takes place during the spring of the 3rd year, students will present their preliminary work to the PhD board.


  • Attendance of the Departmental Seminars is mandatory for PhD students when not abroad for research purposes.
  • Mobility of PhD students: the PhD Board strongly encourage students to pursue their research interests in other leading international research Institution.From the beginning of the 2nd year, but not before having completed all first-year exams and duties, students can apply for a leave to visit other Universities, Institutions, etc. The application is subject to approval by the student’s supervisorand the PhD director. Activities to be conducted abroad should be clearly related to the student’sPhD project.
  • Guidelines for the submission of the PhD dissertation and viva vocem examination can be found here.

Lesson Timetable 

All PhD students who are interested in attending other courses that can be useful to improve their academic preparation can check  the following links of the PhD LASER of the Università degli Studi di Milano and the PhD School of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan. 


The official call for applications (for the academic year 2018/2019) to the PhD program in Methods and Models for Economic Decisions is online.

For full details and the link where you can apply: ItalianEnglish

In order to formally apply you have first to make the registration (click here) and then follow the steps listed in the call (PDF file).

Students interested in the program should contact Prof. Matteo Rocca, at

As it is stated in the call, applicants have to submit 3 Recommendation Letters (Max. 3) by University staff and/or employers. The letters will be placed directly by the evaluators in the on-line procedure. Applicants will have to enter in the online registration form the name and e-mail address of the referent identified .

The deadline to apply is July 31st 2018, 12pm (CET)

Funding opportunities

For the academic year 2018/2019 a total of six scholarships for PhD students are available. Each scholarship amounts to approximately € 15,350 gross per year, is paid on a monthly basis, and lasts three years. The amount of the scholarship is increased by 50% when a student visits foreign universities and institutions.

Additional funding opportunities include employment as a teaching or research assistant at Insubria’s Department of Economics.

From the second year onwards, PhD students are also entitled to research funds they can use for their research and participation to conferences

Conference, congress, seminars:

PhD Board

The PhD Board includes members of the Department of Economics at Insubria University as well as scholars from Italian and foreign Universities who collaborate with the Insubria University for teaching and research activities.

Department of Economics, Insubria University

  • Carlo Brambilla, Associate Professor of Economic History
  • Ilaria Capelli, Lecturer in Business Law
  • Gianluca Colombo, Professor of Management
  • Giovanni P. Crespi, Associate Professor of Mathematical Methods for Economics
  • Francesco Figari, Associate Professor of Public Economics
  • Alba Fondrieschi, Associate Professor of Private Law
  • Patrizia Gazzola, Associate Professor of Accounting
  • Chiara Gigliarano, Associate Professor of Statistics
  • Angelo Guerraggio, Professor of Mathematical Methods for Economics
  • Elena Maggi, Associate Professor of Economics
  • Enrico Moretto, Lecturer in Mathematical Methods for Economics
  • Ivan Moscati, Associate Professor of Economics
  • Sergio Patriarca, Professor of Business Law
  • Maria Cristina Pierro, Professor of Tax Law
  • Silvana Robone, Associate Professor in Economic Policy
  • Matteo Rocca, Professor of Mathematical Methods for Economics
  • Vincenzo Salvatore, Professor of International Law
  • Raffaello Seri, Professor of Econometrics
  • Marcello Spanò, Lecturer in Economics

Other Research Institutions

  • Uwe Cantner, Professor of Economics, Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany;
  • Cinzia Colapinto, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Innovation, Graduate School of Business, Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan and Department of Management, Ca’ Foscari University, Venice, Italy
  • Roberto Galbiati, Chargé de Recherche, OSC-CNRS and Sciences Po, Paris, France;
  • Paolo Gubitta, Professor of Business Organisation, University of Padua, Italy;
  • Andreas Hamel, Associate Professor of Mathematical Methods for Economics, Free University of Bozen, Italy;
  • Davide La Torre, Professor and Chair, Department of Mathematics, Nazarbayev University, Astana, Kazakhstan and Department of Economics, Management, and Quantitative Methods, University of Milan, Milan, Italy. Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi, UAE and Associate Professor of Mathematical Methods for Economics and Finance,University of Milan, Milan, Italy;
  • Marco Mariotti, Professor of Economics, Queen Mary University of London, UK;
  • Silvia Massini, Professor of Economics and Technology Management, University of Manchester, UK;
  • Marco Papi, Associate Professor of Mathematical Methods for Economics, Campus Biomedico, Rome, Italy
  • Nicolae Popovici, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania;
  • Davide Secchi, Associate Professor of Organizational Cognition, University of Southern Denmark, Slagelse, Denmark;
  • Mehdi Toloo,  Associate Professor of Mathematics, Faculty of Economics, Technical University of Ostrava, Czech Republic
  • Paola Tubaro, Associate Research Professor, CNRS Paris, France.

PhD Students:

  • PhD students of the XXXIV Cycle (academic year 2018/2019):
    • Agradi Mawunyo
    • Citterio Alberto
    • Regasa Wubeshet
    • Shahir Adnan
    • Fraccalvieri Lidia
  • PhD students of the XXXIII Cycle (academic year 2017/2018):
    • Adu Asamoah Lawrence
    • Hossain Saddam
    • Martinoli Mario
    • Noci Anna
    • Pantelaki Evangelia
    • Workneh Migbaru Alamirew
  • PhD students of the XXXII Cycle (academic year 2016/2017):
    • Abreha Solomon Kibret
    • Alexandru Vlad-Andrei
    • Congiu Luca
    • Di Iasio Valentina
    • Seaux Julien
    • Vasiakina Mariia
  • PhD students of the XXXI Cycle (academic year 2015/2016):
    • Ekaterina Tkach
    • Mensah Emmanuel Kwasi
    • Daniele Grechi
    • Illyashenko Juliya
    • Khazaei Sepideh
    • Matteo Marini