Before you can enrol in a Doctorate in France, you must find a thesis supervisor and subject. What are the steps?
The key steps when enrolling in a Doctorate
In France, there are no "doctoral programmes" that enable you to enrol for a Doctorate in a particular field, leaving you the first year to choose and refine your thesis subject.
You must therefore be able to find a thesis topic and a thesis supervisor before you can enrol. The Doctoral school must also accept you.
First of all, to enter the first year of a Doctorate, you must have a Master's degree or equivalent, so therefore during the second year of your Master's you should start to look for a Doctorate (starting in January).
In the natural and technological sciences (physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, engineering), you need funding to enrol.
In some cases in the social sciences and humanities, you can enrol without funding. Check with the doctoral school (you will find this information on the page describing each doctoral school)
Funding for tuition is not the question (€391/year) but rather for living expenses (grants, salary, generally greater than €1,000/month).
The first question to ask yourself is the following: does my government or university have a specific programme for financing my Doctorate in France? If it is the case, it's often the best solution when it comes to doing your Doctorate. Such programmes exist in particular in Mexico, China and Pakistan.
If no funding from your government is possible, you will find other possibilities here.
A large number of Doctorates are funded by French host universities, in the form of a doctoral fellowship, which is a work contract that lasts 3 years or takes the form of other work contracts.
How to do it?
1: If you wish to do a Doctorate in natural and technological sciences.
Note: in this case there is no point in preparing a research project and then trying to find a researcher in a French laboratory who may become your thesis supervisor, as in natural and technological sciences this operates in the other direction in France.
You must apply for thesis subjects that have been published by French researchers.
You will find these subjects on the Campus France platform.
There are two types of subjects: subjects already funded by the host establishment (choose Type: Contract), and subjects for which you must have your own funding (choose Type: Grant).
As soon as you have found a subject that interests you, the only thing left to do is contact the researcher or doctoral school that published the subject.
2: If you wish to do a Doctorate in the social sciences and humanities.
First of all, check the Campus France subject platform: there are a few subjects in the arts and humanities.
If you can't find anything suitable, you will have to prepare a research project that you can then send to a researcher.
How to find a researcher to be a thesis supervisor
First of all, remember that you must not propose a research project to every researcher in the field that interests you. For example, if your research project is in economics, don't send your proposal to every economist! They already receive an enormous number of requests like that and can't go through them all.
You must target specific people (this is also the rule in marketing…). That means the theme of your research project must correspond to the specialty of the researcher. Don't send a proposal on a study of the history of Franco-Spanish relations to a historian specialising in the Far East!
After you've sent the proposal to the right person, you'll have to engage with the researcher in order to refine your thesis topic. To maximise your chances, you need to be flexible and ready to move away from your initial proposal.
And if you are able to obtain funding, say so at the start of your message.
Congratulations, you've found a thesis supervisor who accepts you!
Now the doctoral school has to approve it so you can enrol in a Doctorate. If funding is required by the doctoral school, it must be approved before you can enrol.
The annual registration fee for a Doctorate is €391 (2017/18 academic year). Even if you have a doctoral fellowship, you will have to pay the registration fee.
Enjoy your Doctorate!