When I was applying for PhD I was considering Germany, UK, Austria and Switzerland in my search for a position. So far, I found that each university/region has their own policies in application submission process.

For instance, I found that most of the Swiss universities ask for a direct recommendation letter from the recommender and it is not acceptable to submit it as a general one and it is only acceptable if it's sent directly from the recommender's institute email to the target university. In contrast, in Germany where applying now at a higher ranking university than the Swiss one, professors, and universities are more flexible and accepts them as a general one, so no need to be specifically produced for the particular university.

I tried hard to find a place in Swiss universities, but I ended up rejected with no response from my previous professor as it considered time consuming for him, and I don't blame him since general recommendation letter is enough in other universities.

Do universities that ask for such a thing consider them self better than the others and will lead them to better candidates?

The question is, why such universities make it hard for the student who apply for PhD? Is a general recommendation letter (I have 4 letters from different professors) from your previous professors where they indicate positivity about the candidate enough for such a PhD application?

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    Also, could u please clarify what do you mean with "general ones"? You mean recommendation lettres that you submit on your application and are addressed to whom it may concern? – PsySp Mar 16 '17 at 14:34
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    @PsySp being a professor with a very busy schedule will not help. Filling up the forms to two/three different swiss universities and then send them will be frustrating. And yes , General one means as you indicated. – Krebto Mar 16 '17 at 14:36
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    I do not sympathize with it. I agree its tedious and borderline boring but if a prof. agreed to provide recommendation letter, that's it, there are no excuses. It's part of the duties. – PsySp Mar 16 '17 at 14:40
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    @PsySp: "But that's the job/duty/responsibility of an academic adviser."; "It's part of the duties." - there have been some other discussions related to this topic elsewhere on this site. It seems that the degree of obligation to write letters of recommendation varies considerably by culture, covering the full spectrum from "definitive duty" to "generous voluntary favour". – O. R. Mapper Mar 16 '17 at 21:32
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    @PsySp: "This is not an unknown practice." - but it is not the only one, not generally the default one in all places, and thus not necessarily the implied one when originally asking for the favour. "promising and not delivering" - nowhere did I suggest that, so that is beside the point. On the contrary, I wrote: "I keep what I initially promised to do" – O. R. Mapper Mar 16 '17 at 22:01

By forcing the letter to be sent directly from the institutional email of the Professor, the university makes sure it is a truthful recommendation and not a modified or faked one. Such practice of faking documents in unfortunately happening in any recruitment environment, not only academia. Even worse and common practice in academia, my own phd adviser asked me to write my own recommendation letters because he lacked time, and he just signed them. Such practice as described in your message partially prevent this.

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    "Such practice as described in your message partially prevent this": such practice surely don't prevent that". – Massimo Ortolano Mar 16 '17 at 19:44
  • At least you are sure of the identity of the senders, so for sure it prevents the case where people make up previous experiences – Biokick42 Mar 27 '17 at 9:27

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