Prepare your thesis project

Préparer son projet de thèse

The doctorate is the highest university degree. The preparation of the thesis must be part of a professional and personal scientific project clearly defined in its objectives and requirements. It is a continuation of studies that leads to research, teaching in the business world, the industrial sector. The doctorate is recognized as a professional experience.

Before enrolling in a doctoral program, the steps are multiple and require a prioritized approach, which is discussed here in hierarchical order. It is essential to consult the conditions for enrolment in doctoral studies.

The doctorate is "prepared, in an accredited doctoral school, within a recognized research unit or team following a national evaluation, under the responsibility of a thesis director attached to this school or within the framework of a co-direction". The doctorate is governed by the Decree of 25 May 2016.

Choice of thesis director

Research managers are senior permanent statutory researchers. They conduct their research projects independently, their scientific contribution is recognized and their reputation established. Some of them exercise the function of laboratory directors: in addition to the same tasks as those entrusted to research directors, they are responsible for designing, leading or coordinating research or commercialization activities.

The thesis director, who is scientifically responsible for the doctoral student's thesis subject, will offer support to the candidate and future doctoral student in his or her efforts throughout the thesis.

At the time of the first registration, the thesis subject, determined by the agreement between the doctoral student and his or her director, is deposited with the director of the doctoral school. The latter validates the registration if the future doctoral student is accepted into a laboratory, under the direction of a director/co-director(s) identified as scientific leader(s). In order to find a thesis supervisor, it is first important to determine which research unit corresponds to the theme of your project. To do this, we invite you to consult the lists of laboratories affiliated to your home doctoral school.

Can be a director or co-director of a thesis:

  • teachers and equivalent or teachers of equivalent rank who do not report to the Ministry of National Education;
  • staff of higher education institutions, public research organisations and research foundations, authorised to conduct research;
  • other persons holding a doctorate, chosen for their scientific competence by the headteacher, on a proposal from the director of the doctoral school and after consulting the institution's scientific council.


A thesis can be prepared with two thesis directors from French universities for different reasons:

  • the thesis subject is between 2 specialties or requires the support of another discipline
  • the prospective thesis director will support his HDR within 6 months of the doctoral student's first thesis registration

Co-direction is implemented at the latest upon registration in the 2nd year of doctorate.

Intramural co-direction does not require the establishment of an agreement, but the co-director must be indicated on the registration and re-registration forms.

Co-direction outside the AMU requires the establishment in 3 original copies of a framework agreement to be completed and signed.

If your co-director is from Aix-Marseille University

If your co-director is not from Aix-Marseille University
  • For a co-director authorized to direct research (HDR), the doctoral student must inform his or her home doctoral school.
  • For a co-director who is not qualified to conduct research (non-HDR), he/she will contact his/her home doctoral school and complete the co-direction request form.

If the co-director works in an institution other than Aix-Marseille University, a co-direction agreement must be put in place. You should contact the Research and Valuation Department (DRV).

Do your thesis abroad (international co-supervisor)

The international thesis co-supervisor* is supervised by an agreement between Aix-Marseille University and a foreign higher education institution. This agreement will allow the doctoral student to prepare his thesis between a foreign country and France. The International Relations Department (DRI) will be your contact person for the implementation of thesis co-supervisors.

The international thesis co-supervision governed by the decree of 6 January 2005 relating to the international thesis co-supervision

A thesis co-supervision takes place within the framework of an "international thesis co-supervision" agreement concluded between Aix-Marseille University and a foreign partner university.

Candidates who wish to prepare their thesis within the framework of an international thesis co-supervisor must submit a request to their co-Director of thesis at AMU. The latter, with the agreement of the Director of the host laboratory and the Director of the Doctoral School and negotiation with the partner institution, informs the scientific sheet of the international cotutelle which underlines the interest of the cooperation between two laboratories and the thesis cotutelle. The Thesis Director or the Doctoral School sends the co-supervisor's scientific sheet to the Mobility Support Unit of the International Relations Department before 15 April of the first academic year of postgraduate enrolment (form to be requested from your DRI contact or your ED) with all the required documents.

Exceptionally, a request duly justified by the Thesis Director at AMU, made during the second year, may be examined.

Students who wish to carry out a thesis in cotutelle and who do not hold a Master's degree from a university that is a signatory to the Bologna Process, must submit a request to the Doctoral School for a Master's exemption, which will be submitted to the Aix-Marseille University Research Commission at the same time (if possible) as the cotutelle application. Please contact the Doctoral School for any information regarding this exemption.

1) Negotiation of the content of the agreement with the partner institution

The Thesis Director must agree with the foreign partner on the principle and modalities of the co-supervision of the thesis, on the basis of the model agreement proposed by the DRI. It is possible that the partner requires copies in its own language or English or has its own form, a negotiation can then take place.

  • During his 3 years of thesis, the doctoral student must be enrolled in both universities but will only pay his registration fees in one, alternately. It will therefore be imperative to provide in the agreement, for each year, for the institution in which the student will pay the fees and the one in which he or she will be exempt from them. To the extent that each university awards a degree, the student must pay at least one tuition fee at each university.
  • The periods spent in each of the two institutions should be mentioned. The minimum recommended duration in each institution is 30% of the total duration of the thesis. However, this method is left to the discretion of the thesis Directors.
  • The defence jury: the number of jury members may not exceed eight.
  • The thesis gives rise to a unique defense that allows the doctoral student (French or foreign) to simultaneously obtain the rank of French doctor and the equivalent foreign rank. The place of defense must also be specified as well as the language of writing and defense. A substantial written and oral summary must be made in French if it is not the language of writing.
  • The agreement recognizes the validity of the thesis defended in this context.

2) Transmission to the DRI of the co-application or amendment

  • After having filled in the document entitled "International Thesis Co-Tutorship Agreement", or the amendment, in agreement with the partner institution, the Thesis Director at AMU sends it to the Manager of the DRI concerned by the Doctoral School in question for instruction.
  • After administrative validation of the application by the DRI, the Thesis Director signs and submits the agreement in 4 original copies to the signatures of the Director of the host laboratory and the Director of the Doctoral School concerned.
  • After receipt of the complete file, the DRI submits the request for a co-supervisor for the opinion of the Research Commission, and then for the signature of the Vice-President Research (by delegation of the President) if a favourable opinion is given. The original copies of the agreement are then sent to the partner university for signature. It is also possible to start the signature circuit with the foreign university. The same applies to amendments.

Documents to be provided for a request for a cotutelle

  • Scientific information
  • Summary of the thesis project (2-3 pages)
  • Candidate's CV
  • Proof of funding obtained
  • Copy of the last diploma obtained
  • Agreement completed
  • Request for Master's exemption(if necessary)

Do your thesis in France as a foreigner

This notice is intended for components and research units that wish to host a foreign researcher or teacher-researcher (outside the European Union, the European Economic Area and the Swiss Confederation) as a "scientist" to carry out research or provide university teaching, as well as for hosted scientists.

Only holders of a diploma at least equivalent to a Master's degree can benefit from "scientific" status. The host component will need to ensure that this is the case before initiating a host procedure.


To obtain the scientific visa from the French Consulate or Embassy in his or her country of residence, the researcher or teacher-researcher must have a host agreement with Aix-Marseille University (AMU).

The correspondent of the International Relations Department (see contacts opposite) provides components and host laboratories that request it with a model agreement validated by the Prefecture of Bouches-du-Rhône, as well as a standard reception certificate.

- The host component or laboratory shall send by e-mail, in Word format, the duly completed host agreement to the DRI correspondent on its campus, accompanied by the host certificate, which shall include the following information: the name and address of the component, the name of the scientist hosted, the purpose of the mobility, the date, a statement on the financing of the stay and insurance. The host scientist will provide the host structure with his or her funding and insurance certificates.

- The DRI correspondent submits the hosting agreement to the Vice-President in charge of International Relations of AMU and to the Prefecture of Bouches-du-Rhône for signature and validation.

- Upon receipt of the signed hosting agreement, the DRI sends it to the hosting component, which sends it to the researcher or teacher-researcher so that he or she can apply for a "scientific" visa from the French consular services in his or her country of residence.

The entire procedure is available on the Intranet on the procedures website by logging in at the top right of this page with your login details), for use by host organisations.



Condition :

no interruption of stay.

Time limit :

  • If the agreement is still valid:

2 months before the end of the expiry of the residence permit, the researcher or teacher-researcher must contact the DRI via his or her host laboratory to obtain an appointment at the Préfecture des Bouches-du-Rhône

The researcher or teacher-researcher will then receive a receipt valid for 3 months and will be informed by mail when his residence permit is ready. He must go to the Prefecture or Sub-Prefecture where he lives to collect it.

The residence permit may be issued for a period not exceeding 3 years. The spouse's certificate, issued for a maximum of one year, may be renewed 4 times.

The receipt of a residence permit in renewal allows you to enter and leave French territory.

  • If the agreement is no longer valid:

The host laboratory must redo a host agreement and a certificate. Beware of delays!


The researcher or teacher-researcher already holds a valid residence permit but its status changes, the procedure is as follows:

The host component establishes a host agreement and a certificate.

It sends it to the International Relations Department, which submits it for signature to the Vice-President in charge of International Relations.

After receiving the signed hosting agreement, the hosting component sends it to the researcher or teacher-researcher.

The researcher or teacher-researcher contacts the DRI, which is responsible for obtaining an appointment at the prefecture and sends it the file to be compiled.

The convention will be recorded at this meeting.

The applicant will receive a receipt valid for 3 months and will be informed directly in writing when his residence permit is ready (either at the prefecture of Marseille or at one of the sub-prefectures to which the applicant's place of residence depends).

thesis project
PhD degree
thesis subject
thesis supervisor
international co-supervision