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Joint PhD/Cotutelles

What is a Cotutelle?

A Cotutelle is an agreement on joint supervision at the doctoral level between two cooperating institutions. Designed to enhance international collaborations, Cotutelles allow the doctoral students to receive academic training and to perform research work under the joint responsibility of a Thesis Supervisor from McGill University and a Thesis Supervisor from the partner institution. Cotutelle students are awarded a single PhD degree but two diplomas, one from each institution, indicating the collaboration with the partner institution.

Benefits:

  • A unique opportunity that opens access to an international level of research
  • Doctoral students benefit from resources and networks at two institutions
  • Graduates receive a joint degree and two diplomas, each reflecting the collaborative nature of their degree

Important Considerations:

A doctoral student registered in a Cotutelle must:

  • Satisfy the academic requirements of the Ph.D. program at each partner institution and comply with both institutions’ academic regulations.
  • Spend roughly half their time at each institution and remain registered at both institutions for the duration of their degree.
  • Pay registration and tuition fees according to a pre-established mobility schedule, and only to the institution where they are physically at during any given semester.
  • Receive sufficient funding to support their studies at both institutions.
  • Produce only one thesis that meets the requirements of both institutions.
  • Defend their thesis once, at either university.

For more information and to obtain an application form, please contact academicprograms.gps [at] mcgill.ca (subject: %5BCotutelles%5D%20) (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies).


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply for a Cotutelle?

You will want to start with the steps highlighted below. GPS will work with you, your supervisors, your McGill department, and the partner institution on a study and mobility plan. Details related to registration, supervision, thesis examination, and the oral defence will be covered in a Cotutelle (Joint Thesis Supervision) Agreement.

Steps to Follow - Doctoral Student

  • Write to the Graduate Program Director (GPD) of the McGill graduate program to which you will apply, stating your intention to apply to a Cotutelle (Joint Thesis Supervision).
  • Ask about the departmental procedures for identifying potential Supervisors.
  • Get confirmation in writing from the potential co-supervisors at each institution that (pending admission) they will be willing to jointly supervise you.
  • Apply to the appropriate graduate program at McGill and at the partner institution.
  • Take necessary steps at the partner institution to apply to Cotutelle (may require separate application form).
  • Work with your supervisors on completing the documentation required for the Cotutelle Agreement.

If admitted into the graduate program, you must also:

  • International students: Apply for CAQ and Study Permit as soon as you accept the McGill offer of admission, even if you are planning to start (spend your first semester) at the partner institution.
  • Complete your registration at both institutions by the required deadline.
  • Provide your legal documents (proof of residency, immigration documents) to both institutions by the required deadline.
Am I eligible?

We expect interested students to apply before starting their PhD (some exceptions may apply). Students must have the approval of both institutions, supervisors, and departments, to be able to move forward with a Cotutelle. Cotutelles at McGill are organized with universities outside Canada only.

I am a graduate program director, faculty member, or department administrator and a student/applicant has contacted me to do a Cotutelle. What are next steps?

Steps to Follow – Graduate unit (Supervisor and Graduate Program Director)

  • Contact academicprograms.gps [at] mcgill.ca (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS)) to obtain the documentation required for the approval of a Cotutelle:
      • Cotutelle Application Form
      • Study plan (included on p.3 of the Application Form)
  • In consultation with GPS (and the partner institution as necessary), the Student and their Supervisors complete the above documents.
  • The Department, the McGill Supervisor, and student should agree on the study plan (signatures or email confirmation required).
  • The McGill supervisor should provide GPS with the completed application form, the signed study plan, and a copy of the Ph.D. program requirements at the partner institution.

GPS will then liaise with the partner institution to finalize the Cotutelle Agreement. The department and supervisors will receive a final signed copy when the process is completed.

What is included in a Cotutelle Agreement?

The following information is typically addressed in the Cotutelle Agreement:

  • Duration and possibility of extension (normally 3 years with possibility of an additional year)
  • Registration and Fees (only paid at the institution student will be physically at)
  • Mobility periods
  • Comprehensive / candidacy exam
  • Required courses (justify exemptions if applicable)
  • Thesis examination and oral defence
  • Awarding of the Degree (two parchments, each indicating collaboration with partner institution)
  • Generic confidentiality and IP clause (contact GPS for any IP-related concerns)


Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies is responsible for approving the Cotutelle Agreement on behalf of McGill University and will act as the main liaison with the partner institution. Negotiating the Agreement requires the active involvement of the McGill supervisor and the graduate unit (Graduate Program Coordinator/Director). GPS usually aims to finalize the Cotutelle agreement by the end of the student’s first semester.

How do I make my study/mobility plans?

You and your supervisors will agree on a program of study and the residency period in each institution. Your study plan specifying when and where the McGill requirements will be met should be approved at the department level prior to finalizing the Cotutelle Agreement.

It is your responsibility to complete your program requirements and degree milestones at McGill, including coursework, the comprehensive exam, and annual the Progress Tracking form. In most cases, Cotutelle students may be exempt from taking a required course(s) at McGill if they take a similar course at the partner university and/or already have that expertise. These decisions are made and recorded on a case-by-case basis at the start of the Program.

In terms of mobility, you should plan to spend a minimum of 4 full-time semesters at McGill to meet residency requirements.

Note: Work completed as a Graduate Research Trainee (GRT) at McGill will not apply toward any McGill doctoral program a student may be admitted to in the future.

Can I make any changes to my study and mobility plans after I start my Cotutelle?

Yes. However, any changes to the Agreement must be submitted in writing to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. It is especially important to let GPS know of modifications to the mobility plan, as this will influence registration/tuition fees charged to the student.

The Student record should be up to date at both partner institutions for the duration of the Agreement. Doctoral Students requesting an interruption to their studies (such as a “Leave of Absence”) at the partner institution must inform Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies in writing to ensure any status changes are also recorded at McGill.

Do I need to meet student milestones on myProgress?

Yes, you need to meet all the student milestones on myProgress. Remember that all doctoral students at McGill should be tracking their progress toward the degree using the Graduate Student Research Progress Tracking Form. Moreover, all students must have a supervisory committee consisting of at least one faculty member in addition to the supervisor(s). The supervisory committee must provide, on a regular basis, guidance and constructive feedback on the student’s research.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

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