Author:
JP Hion

Joint supervision agreement

When a doctoral thesis requires continuous cooperation between the University of Tartu and a university abroad and supervision at both universities, it may be necessary to make a joint supervision agreement (internationally known as the cotutelle agreement) for doctoral studies. The agreement is made between the doctoral student, the University of Tartu and the foreign university.

A cotutelle agreement enables one to defend the doctoral thesis on the conditions specified in the agreement in front of a joint council set up by both universities and, based on the decision of the joint council, to award the doctoral candidate the graduation documents and academic degrees of both the University of Tartu and the foreign university.

The prerequisites for making the agreement are the following:

  • At the time of signing the agreement, the doctoral student supervised must be a learner in doctoral studies at both universities. A doctoral student studying under a cotutelle agreement may also work as a junior research fellow at the University of Tartu.
  • Cotutelle agreements are not made with an external student. However, an external student can defend a thesis under a cotutelle agreement concluded while a student.
  • The partner university must be a nationally recognised higher education institution with the right to award doctoral degrees in the respective field.

 

What to consider when making an agreement? 

The agreement must not conflict with the laws of the countries of location or the bylaws of either university. Based on current legal practice, for example, it may be more difficult to make an agreement with universities in the United Kingdom and the United States.

When making a cotutelle agreement at the University of Tartu, the following should be taken into account:

  • the doctoral graduates will receive a “double degree”, which means that both universities award their degree and diploma. The diploma must include a reference to the degree awarded by the other university;
  • the doctoral student must complete the full requirements of the doctoral programmes of both universities. Note that the University of Tartu requires that at least half of the volume of courses in the programme must be completed at the University of Tartu (see more details in the subchapter “Research and studies at the University of Tartu”). The remaining credits may be transferred from another university or given for previous study or work experience;
  • the doctoral student generally carries out part of the research and studies at the partner university, which entails additional costs for the student. The universities agree on whether the partner university funds the doctoral student’s studies in addition to the home university. In most cases, travel expenses, accommodation, health insurance, etc., are the responsibility of the doctoral student. The doctoral student can apply for mobility grants;
  • the two universities form a joint council, in front of which the doctoral thesis will be defended, comprising at least six members, including at least three from the University of Tartu.

By the time of matriculation, the agreement must be ready for signing by both universities. We recommend matriculating the doctoral student at the beginning of the semester so they can participate in as much of the studies as possible. Negotiating the agreement can take a long time. If possible, we recommend starting the process of making the agreement at least three months before the desired matriculation date.

The doctoral student and the supervisor look for a suitable international partner and ensure the partner is willing to host and supervise the doctoral student. The terms and conditions of funding, admission and thesis requirements are specified, and the partners decide at which university the defence will take place. At some universities, the period for making cotutelle agreement is limited (for example, it must be concluded within the first year).

Once the parties have reached an agreement in principle, the supervisor contacts the senior specialist for academic affairs at the Office of Academic Affairs with a request to conclude a cotutelle agreement. To this end, the following information must be submitted:

  • doctoral student’s name and email address;
  • the research topic and supervisors at both universities;
  • the name of the foreign university and contact person with whom the requirements can be negotiated and a mutually acceptable agreement drafted;
  • the university at which the thesis defence is planned to take place.

The doctoral student is responsible for meeting the admission requirements and conditions of the partner university.

The supervisor at the University of Tartu, with whom the doctoral student intends to cooperate and who is willing to accept the doctoral student, makes sure that the research topic is suitable and that all parties have a common understanding of the requirements for the doctoral thesis and funding. The supervisor informs the institute and initiates the process of making the agreement.

The supervisor contacts the senior specialist for academic affairs at the Office of Academic Affairs with a request to prepare the cotutelle agreement. To this end, the following information must be submitted:

  • doctoral student’s name and email address;
  • the programme and specialisation to which the doctoral student is to be admitted;
  • the research topic and supervisors at both universities;
  • the name of the foreign university and contact person with whom the mutual requirements can be negotiated and a mutually acceptable agreement drafted;
  • the university at which the thesis defence is planned to take place.

Next, it is necessary to apply for a non-state-funded student place for the doctoral student. The student place must be applied for at least 30 days before matriculation.

The doctoral student of a foreign university does not have to undergo the regular admission competition to the University of Tartu; it is enough to submit the required documents (see more details in the subchapterAdmission”). If the doctoral student has already studied at the home university for some time and has done research and studies to a sufficient extent, the doctoral student may be matriculated to a vacant student place. In that case, in addition to submitting the necessary documents for admission, the applicant must undergo a progress review based on the provisions laid down in the Regulations for Doctoral Studies, the faculty’s progress review procedure and the procedure for filling vacant student places.

If an institute participates in a project involving joint supervision with partner universities and, thus, concluding cotutelle agreements, the following information should be sent to the senior specialist for academic affairs at the Office of Academic Affairs:

  • how many student places in which doctoral programmes and specialisations are to be opened;
  • the name of the partner university and its contact person with whom to negotiate the agreement;
  • the institute’s contact person, who can be contacted about the conclusion of agreements and admission of doctoral students;
  • information about each specific student place, the host university and the place of defence;
  • how admission is organised, i.e. whether
    • a joint competition is organised within the project;
    • the University of Tartu organises the competition based on its bylaws or
    • the partner university organises the competition based on its bylaws.

Note that non-state-funded student places must be applied for before the competitions are announced.

 

Processing cotutelle agreements at the University of Tartu

When the administrators or legal counsels of both universities have confirmed that the agreement complies with the universities’ bylaws and can be signed, the agreement is sent to the council awarding doctoral degrees. The council sends the agreement through the document management system to the senior specialist for academic affairs of the Office of Academic Affairs, who makes a formal assessment of whether the agreement complies with the Regulations for Doctoral Studies.

  • If the agreement complies with the regulations, the council awarding doctoral degrees makes a decision, and, in the case of a positive decision, the agreement will be signed.
  • If the agreement includes differences compared to the regulations, the council sends the agreement to the academic secretary with a request to process the agreement in the senate. When the senate has approved the differences compared to the University of Tartu bylaws, the council awarding doctoral degrees makes a decision and, in the case of a positive decision, the agreement will be signed.

When the defence takes place at a partner university, the agreement generally also needs to be approved by the senate. When the defence takes place at the University of Tartu, the degree-awarding council usually makes the decision without the senate approval.

The dean signs the agreement on behalf of the University of Tartu; all signed agreements must be registered in the document management system under study-related cooperation agreements (sequence 7–9).

 

Research and studies at the University of Tartu 

A doctoral student studying under a cotutelle agreement must meet the doctoral studies requirements of both universities. At the University of Tartu, it means that the entire programme must be completed in full, with at least half of the volume of courses taken at the University of Tartu.

  • For doctoral programmes opened from the 2022/2023 academic year, courses worth at least 15 ECTS credits must be completed at the University of Tartu.
  • A doctoral student who takes up a vacant student place in a doctoral programme opened before the 2022/2023 academic year must complete at least 30 ECTS credits of courses at the University of Tartu.

Which courses the doctoral student takes at the University of Tartu and which at the partner university will be agreed upon with the supervisor and written down in the individual plan. The individual plan is the basis of the doctoral student’s studies.

Doctoral students studying at the University of Tartu under a cotutelle agreement have the same rights and obligations regarding research and studies as all other doctoral students: they must participate in regular progress reviews, they can have previous study and work experience recognised, etc.

A doctoral student who has already studied at the partner university for some time and is matriculated as a first-year doctoral student at the University of Tartu is not obliged to study here for four years. It is possible for the student to graduate when the graduation requirements of both universities have been met and the thesis has been accepted for defence.

 

Admission 

A doctoral student studying at a foreign university must meet the application requirements for doctoral studies at the University of Tartu: they must have a master’s degree or equivalent qualification.

After the student place has been allocated, the Student Admissions Unit of the Office of Academic Affairs contacts the doctoral student with instructions on how to submit the application and the required documents.

Together with the application, the following documents must be submitted:

  • A copy of an identity document;
  • Diplomas and diploma supplements certifying the bachelor’s and the master’s degree; with translation into Estonian or English, if necessary. In case the applicant has acquired the education in Estonia, the educational data is verified in the Estonian Education Information System (EHIS) or the study information system of the University of Tartu, and it is not necessary to attach copies to the application.

The university has the right to ask the doctoral student to present additional documents and, if necessary, send certified copies of the documents by post. A doctoral student of a foreign university is matriculated to the University of Tartu after their documents have been reviewed and their previous studies have been assessed as suitable for admission to doctoral studies in Estonia. Also, the cotutelle agreement must be ready for signing by both universities. Before matriculation, the international doctoral student is given a letter of admission to the University of Tartu and additional information on visa and residence permit issues.

ATH-d illustreeriv pilt

High genetic risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder suggests possible health consequences

Professor Ülo Mander

Ülo Mander was elected as member of the Academy of Sciences in global change

Doctoral defence: Celia Teresa Pozo Ramos „Preparation and assessment of antimicrobial electrospun matrices for prospective applications in wound healing”

On May 10th Celia Teresa Pozo Ramos will defend her thesis „Preparation and assessment of antimicrobial electrospun matrices for prospective applications in wound healing”.