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Preparing your PhD project

A PhD is the most prestigious degree awarded by French higher education, recognised at the European and international level. It is a professional degree guaranteeing a high level of skills that can be applied throughout the socio-economic world and opens up career opportunities in the academic and non-academic world. Finding a project that suits you is the first step towards a PhD.

A PhD: a professional experience in its own right

A PhD is your first research experience as part of a team, in an academic or industrial setting. Doctoral students are professionals in the making and as such they benefit from an employment contract or resources identified for conducting their research, additional training and tools to boost the value of their work in view of their future career integration and development.

Since 2019, the PhD degree has been registered in the Répertoire National des Compétences Professionnelles (RNCP), recognising a level 8 qualification. Doctoral training allows students to acquire recognised scientific expertise. Training for and through research, PhD preparation is subject to a specific set of regulations, the decree of 25 May 2016, amended on 26 August 2022.

The rights and duties of PhD students as well as their thesis supervisors are set out in the University of Bordeaux Doctoral Charter.

Committing to a doctoral project means being part of a personal and professional project.

Before applying

Before applying for admission to a doctoral program, make sure you meet the necessary prerequisites and are aware of the funding, selection and admission procedures specific to the doctoral school in your research speciality.

Learn about the Doctoral Schools

Information.pngPrerequisites for Admission

To enroll in a doctoral program, you must hold a national level master's degree or another degree conferring master's status, following a course of study or professional experience establishing your aptitude for research.

If you don't meet the degree program requirements, the head of the institution may enroll students, by dispensation and on the recommendation of the board of the affiliated doctoral school, in the doctoral program if they have completed studies at an equivalent level or have benefited from recognition of prior learning, known as VAE (Validation des Acquis de l'Expérience) provided for in Article L. 613-5 of the French Education Code.

In addition to these degree prerequisites, each doctoral school has its own prerequisites regarding PhD students' financial, material and scientific resources throughout their doctoral program.

Selection procedures are specific to each doctoral school: please contact the school offering your speciality to get authorisation to enroll.

Your PhD project: a collective commitment by you and your thesis supervisor

The project you choose must be in keeping with your knowledge, expertise and, of course, your scientific interests. To plan your PhD project, you can contact the research teams whose work is in line with your interests and learn more about what they are proposing. In some cases, you may have already contacted a researcher to set up a PhD project during your Master's degree. In that case, you will set up the project in cooperation with the researcher, drawing on their expertise, contacts and the resources available in their laboratory.

Setting up a PhD project requires expertise in the targeted research field, an accurate estimate of the time needed to conduct the research involved as well as a well thought-out, fresh approach. These aspects are provided by your future thesis supervisor and the PhD project should fit in with their line of research and that of their team.

A doctorate is often viewed as the coming together of a student, a subject, a thesis supervisor (and funding). The rights and duties of doctoral students and thesis supervisors rights are clearly defined in the regulations. However, thesis supervisors each have their own vision of how to supervise a thesis and doctoral students each have their own expectations and motivations.

As a result, it is crucial for the modus operandi of a thesis supervisor and a doctoral student to be compatible to ensure the research project is successful. With that in mind, it is essential for both the future doctoral student and the thesis supervisor to discuss their respective expectations prior to starting the doctorate (how often they will interact, professional interactions in France and abroad, research team work, work pace, etc). 

You can also contact former doctoral students (particularly ones who have defended their theses recently) to get a more comprehensive perception of how the thesis supervisor expects you to work. Doing so can prove very helpful in avoiding misunderstandings or disagreements that might arise during the course of the doctorate.

A PhD, and then?

A PhD project is the first stage in your career objectives and entails thinking about how you want to pursue your career after graduating with a PhD. A doctoral program is a professional experience in laboratory research that may lead you to continue in academic research, private research and science-related professions as well as in other areas of activity. In fact, you will develop a wide range of transferable skills that can be applied in many different professions and fields of activity.

As soon as you have defined your PhD project, you should find out about the academic and non-academic career opportunities that you can realistically aspire to after your doctoral training.

Identifying your future objectives will help your thesis supervisor determine what training is right for you. Your doctoral project is also aimed at providing you with training that meets your needs in addition to your knowledge and expertise in research. That is why, right from the start of your doctoral program, you and your thesis supervisor will draw up an adjustable training plan in line with your career objectives. The training available to doctoral students at the University of Bordeaux, from the time they enroll until they defend their thesis, whatever the field, is aimed at developing their employability, and acquiring the skills required for their future career.