Joint PhD/Cotutelles


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 Student 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. Both Supervisors jointly agree to perform their duties as tutor of the Doctoral Student. Doctoral Students registered in a Cotutelle are required to satisfy the academic requirements of the Ph.D. program at each partner institution and to comply with both institutions’ academic regulations.  

Details related to registration, supervision, thesis examination, and the oral defence are covered in a Cotutelle (Joint Thesis Supervision) Agreement. Students are expected to spend roughly half their time at each institution and remain registered at both institutions for the duration of their degree. Students 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. Cotutelle students are awarded a single PhD degree but two diplomas, one from each institution, indicating the collaboration with the partner institution. 
Program of Study 

The Thesis Supervisors jointly agree on the Doctoral Student’s program of study (including but not limited to course requirements, seminars, written and oral exam procedures for the comprehensive exam etc.), and the residency period in each institution. 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 on a case-by-case basis. A study plan specifying when and where the McGill requirements will be met should be outlined with the necessary departmental approvals in a document to be included as Appendix A of the Cotutelle Agreement. A template can be obtained from Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS).  
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.  
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)   

It is important that the Cotutelle Agreement is approved before the Doctoral Student starts his/her program (final approval should be obtained by the end of their first semester).   

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).  
Any changes to the mobility periods stipulated in the Agreement must be submitted in writing to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies as this will have an effect on 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.  

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.   

If admitted into the graduate program 

  • 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. 

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

  • Contact academicprograms.gps [at] (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS)) to obtain the documentation required for the approval of a Cotutelle (Joint Thesis Supervision): 
    • Joint Thesis Supervision Agreement template
    • Study plan (to be included as Appendix A to the Agreement)
  • Provide GPS with a copy of the Ph.D. requirements of the program at the partner institution (to be included as Appendix B to the Agreement) 
  • In consultation with GPS (and the partner institution as necessary), the Supervisor and the GPD complete the above documents  

 If you have any questions, please contact academicprograms.gps [at] (subject: %5BCotutelles%5D%20) (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies)

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