How-to: Arrangements for supervising PhD students

Calendrier doctoral

For doctoral students, choosing a PhD adviser is a very important step to guarantee adequate scientific follow-up throughout doctoral training. If they wish to be supervised by several researchers, they can choose between three arrangements: co-direction, co-supervision, or joint supervision.


  • Co-direction

Co-direction allows a doctoral student to be supervised by two professors qualified to direct research. They may work at the same or different research centers. If they work at the same center, the co-advisers must simply be named in the (re)enrollment forms. If they work at different centers, the doctoral student is administratively enrolled at only one of the two research centers and a “codirection agreement” is established.

Co-direction is a way to combine the expertise of two research centers and to give doctoral students the possibility of receiving material and financial support from two centers. Co-direction can be set up when students enroll for the first year of a doctorate at the earliest or when they enroll for the second year at the latest.

There is only one defense, and it takes place at the university where doctoral students are enrolled. It can take different forms depending on the criteria specific to the alma mater's country.

"Co-direction can, in particular, allow doctoral students to benefit from the expertise of two professors working in the same or different disciplines. In the latter case, this often helps to decompartmentalize doctoral work by opening it up to interdisciplinary perspectives. The respective expertise of each PhD adviser can also enrich doctoral work. For example, I am a professor in information systems management and I currently have the opportunity to co-direct a PhD dissertation on business intelligence and analytics tools with a professor in management control.

However, co-direction can also be difficult to manage for both doctoral students and their advisers when the recommendations of the two advisers do not align, which can slow down progress. It is therefore important for doctoral students working in this configuration to organize regular meetings with their co-advisers in order to jointly validate actions to be taken. Doctoral students must also follow the procedures of both universities in order to defend their dissertation in accordance with the rules in force at each institution."

Jessie Pallud, Full Professor at HuManiS Research Center


  • Co-supervision

Co-supervision offers informal monitoring by several researchers. Young professors can co-supervise dissertations with PhD advisers, who are authorized to direct research and solely responsible for the work produced by doctoral students.

The portion of co-supervision is defined at the time of enrollment, in consultation with the director of the research center. For example, a PhD adviser can oversee 60% of the supervision and leave 40% to the co-adviser.

"After having been the master’s thesis adviser of a student from EMSBS, I am now advising him, alongside his PhD adviser, for his doctorate at the University of Laval in Quebec City.

This co-supervision arrangement provides for mutual enrichment. First of all, it allows for the cross-fertilization of research topics. In this specific case, it provides interesting exchanges and comparisons in the field of health management between France, Quebec, and Luxembourg. Everyone learns from each other. It also offers advisers the opportunity to develop new working methods: learning to work together requires adjustments in terms of understanding, communication, procedures, and informationsharing tools. Co-supervision allows for advantageous learning through collaborative work.

Moreover, co-supervising students can be valuable in France, in particular for obtaining authorization to supervise research (HDR) because experience as a co-adviser is a plus in the application. This also benefits the University of Strasbourg and EMSBS, as we build lasting links with an international partner university."

Célia Lemaire, Associate Professor at HuManiS Research Center


  • Joint supervision


Doctoral students prepare a dissertation under the joint supervision of two PhD advisers, one at a French university and another at an international institution. This allows them to be eligible for a dual, French and foreign, doctorate. This is an arrangement that promotes the mobility of doctoral students by developing scientific cooperation between French and foreign research teams.

Doctoral students conduct their research in both countries according to the terms of an agreement that must be signed during the first year. The dissertation is written in one of the national languages and supplemented by an oral and written summary in the other language. It is defended only once before a mixed dissertation committee.

“When I started my doctorate, my PhD adviser, a professor at the University of Strasbourg, suggested that I do my doctorate via joint supervision with the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He was in contact with a local professor who was working on similar areas of research that could enrich my doctoral work.

Thanks to this arrangement, I was able to bring an international dimension to my research, discover the workings of a foreign university, and benefit from two very enriching doctoral programs. The dual degree I obtained has been beneficial for my career. The only disadvantage was the long start-up time, as this was the first time that a joint supervision agreement between the two institutions had been set up. It is also necessary to organize your time effectively because the numerous trips to the partner country require significant planning.

I still have a special relationship with my former colleagues at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, where I have been a research fellow for almost 10 years. I continue to speak at seminars and collaborate on various research projects.”

Anaïs Hamelin, Full Professor at LaRGE Research Center

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