Doctoral programs are periods of intense work and creativity that offer young researchers real professional experience. Candidates learn the craft of research while actually researching in an international context. The irreversible internationalization of higher education programs has spurred France’s doctoral departments—and their parallel structures abroad—to develop programs for the joint supervision of doctoral research and dissertations.
Such programs carry the advantages of bilateral scientific cooperation—and the participation of 2 expert advisers to shape and guide the original work of doctoral candidates.
International dissertation supervision program (cotutelle de thèse) operates under the terms of a formal agreement governing all facets of a candidate’s doctoral program, from admission and enrollment to the defense of the dissertation and the award of 1 or more doctoral degrees.
In the spirit of the 2005 decree that organized international joint dissertation supervision in France—“to advance the building of an European space for higher education and research“— Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorates (EMJDs) were created in 2009. It organizes specific programs within the framework of a university consortium. Erasmus Mundus doctoral programs accept applicants from all countries. Those admitted receive financial assistance and opportunities for mobility.
International joint doctoral programs
International joint doctoral programs (cotutelle de thèse) is a mechanism that promotes mobility among doctoral candidates while encouraging scientific cooperation between French and foreign research teams. Candidates in a joint supervision program conduct their research under the oversight of, and with guidance from, a dissertation adviser from each of the 2 countries involved in the program. Working jointly, both advisers provide a full measure of supervision for the candidate. The candidate conducts his research in the 2 countries under the terms of the agreement governing the program. The decree of 2005 introduces more flexibility in the definition of these terms and allows to adapt the general framework for each student therefore improving the proper progress of the doctoral studies.
Lists of French doctoral departments, research centers and laboratories are available on the CampusFrance website: > Find your program > Level > Doctoral
What degree does the graduate receive?
International dissertation supervision program operate under the terms of an agreement between 2 institutions, 1 of which must be French. The rules and procedures are the same as those of French doctoral programs and doctoral programs within the foreign university. The 2 universities recognize the validity of the joint supervision and of the degree awarded to successful candidates—a doctoral degree from the French institution and an equivalent degree from the foreign university.
There are 2 possibilities for the granting of the degree:
• The successful candidatemay receive a single doctoral degree conferred jointly by the 2 institutions. The diploma will carry the name of the degree in 2 languages. (For example, Doctorat en littérature française and PhD in French literature).
• The candidate may receive 2 separate degrees, 1 from each institution. In this case, each diploma will bear the name of the degree issued by that institution, will mention that the dissertation has been jointly supervised and will specifie the name of the partner university.
In both cases, the dissertation is defended in just 1 of the institutions participating in the joint supervision agreement, as determined by the 2 research advisers.
How does one enroll?
Prerequisite degree: Master 2 (300 ECTS credits) or equivalent.

  •  Candidates must apply for admission to a French doctoral department and a partner institution abroad.
  •  They must have a dissertation adviser at each institution prepare 2 copies of a joint supervision agreement. The agreement may be a preexisting agreement between the 2 institutions or a new agreement reached specifically for the applicant’s dissertation.

Theymust enroll in the 2 universities: The agreement exempts the candidate fromthe payment of tuition in 1 of the 2 institutions upon presentation of a receipt for payment of tuition and fees at the other university for the year in question. The agreement also specifies the terms of the candidate’s insurance coverage in the 2 countries.
In France, applications are typically examined by a panel consisting of research directors and associate directors of the institution’s various doctoral departments. The panel’s findings and recommendations are passed on to the university’s scientific council, whichmakes final admission decisions.
How does joint supervision work?
• Each year during the preparation of the dissertation, the student registers in the two universities, paying tuition at one university. For the year in which the candidate will defend the dissertation, he or she pays tuition to the university at which the defense will take place.
• During the period of joint dissertation supervision medical insurance is provided by the entity named in the joint supervision agreement. Arrangements for the candidate’s housing in the partner country and for financial support are also spelled out in the agreement.
• The time required to prepare the dissertation must be divided between the 2 institutions in alternating periods. Generally, neither institution should host the candidate for more than 70% of the dissertation period. The typical length of a doctoral program in France is three years.
• The publication, commercialization, and protection of the dissertation and research results are handled by the candidate’s 2 host laboratories in accordance with the procedures specific to each country.
How are jointly supervised dissertations defended?
The dissertation jury is formed by common agreement of the 2 partner universities, with balanced representation of both institutions. The jury should include the 2 dissertation advisers, as well as scientific experts from outside the 2 institutions. Expenses connected with the defense often are met from a special, dedicated fund. Per diem expenses of the jury members are paid by the university at which the dissertation is defended. Jury members’ travel expenses are borne by the other university in accordance with institutional policies. A ceiling on the amount of expenses that may be incurred may be written into the joint supervision agreement.
In what language is the dissertation written?
If the national languages of the 2 partner institutions are different, the dissertation may be written in any language accepted for doctoral dissertations at either of the partner universities. The candidate must, however, prepare an abstract of the dissertation in the language of the other partner university. He or she must either defend the dissertation or summarize it orally in French.
Which documents are required to enroll in a joint dissertation supervision program?
• A Curriculum Vitae ;
• Copies of degrees, with certified translation;
• A dissertation plan;
• Evidence of a financing commitment (nature and amount) for the entire dissertation period;
• Joint dissertation supervision agreements signed by representatives of the 2 universities. (Model agreements are often
available for download from university Web sites.)
How are international dissertation supervision program funded?
A joint supervision agreement may be implemented without a dedicated source of funding. Nevertheless, because programs last three years, candidates are strongly advised to obtain financial assistance from French or foreign sources.
 French government mobility grants for International dissertation supervision program
International students admitted to a doctoral program in France may apply for a joint dissertation supervision grant from the French embassy in their country of origin. While the dissertation is being prepared, the candidate spends alternating periods in France and the country of origin. The portion of the dissertation research period spent in the partner country is not funded by the French government.
While in France, the candidate is covered by the French national social insurance system and receives a travel stipend.
Applications for French government grants for joint dissertation supervision may be obtained from the French embassy in the partner country.
 Grants for joint dissertation supervision specific programs (examples):
• Joint dissertation support from the Franco-German University
• Program Frontenac for joint supervision arrangements between France and Quebec
• Program Vinci for joint Franco-Italian dissertation support
• Joint doctoral grants from the public universities of Malaysia
 French government grants
French government grants are awarded by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs for academic programs, internships, and language study in France. Most grants are awarded by the culture and cooperation sections of France’s embassies and consulates abroad. Prospective doctoral candidates from all countries are invited to contact France’s diplomatic posts for information about such grants well in advance of their proposed program and in all cases before arriving in France. Available information covers conditions for the award of grants, the timetable for selection, and the application forms to be used. > France > Studying in France > How can the project be funded? > Grants issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
 Eiffel Excellence Grants (doctoral component)
This program is designed to support the international recruiting efforts of French higher education institutions. Institutions that sponsor candidates for grants agree to admit those candidates should they win an Eiffel grant. The program operates in three broad fields: the sciences, economics and management, and law and political sciences. Grants make possible a 10-month period of mobility in the course of a joint doctoral program (preferably during the second or third year of doctoral study).
The Eiffel program is designed to help French institutions attract the very best international students.> Calls for applications > Eiffel scholarships
Candidates are not normally admitted to French doctoral departments without a secure source of funding for the period of doctoral study. Various types of visas are granted depending on the type of financing the candidate obtains. Financial assistance must be sufficient to support candidates for three years, during which time they are expected to devote their full attention to research. Complete information on financial assistance may be obtained from French doctoral departments.
CampusFrance’s online grant search engine contains information on more than 370 sources of full or partial funding for doctoral studies:>Finance your program. More...