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PhD

Frequently asked questions

What stages are involved in a PhD thesis?

A thesis is prepared over a period of three years, during which various types of research work are conducted, up to the final submission and oral examination.

A thesis is prepared over three years. An additional year may be granted under certain circumstances.
This preparation constitutes a genuine professional experience, encompassed in a comprehensive research project that is divided into three phases.

At the end of the first year  

The PhD student, in collaboration with his or her research advisor, must be able to:

  • describe the issue that will be dealt with and its importance on a theoretical and applied level;
  • draw up a state of the art and describe the progress of the work;
  • establish a work programme for the remainder of the thesis preparation and outline the different stages;
  • specify the expected contributions;
  • mention the academic and/or industrialist contacts already established and desirable;
  • indicate the professional prospects aimed for after the thesis.

At the end of the second year

 
The student sets out:

  • the context of his research;
  • His first results;
  • the activities undertaken in the scope of the thesis (papers delivered at symposiums, articles, internships, achievements, etc.);
  • the outline of the work in the third year.

At the end of the third year

The student submits the thesis to an oral examination:

  • The procedure for the oral examination of doctoral theses is laid out in the doctoral courses according to the law of 30 March 1992 regarding postgraduate studies.
  • The examination takes place in public before a jury, after receiving two outside expert reports.
  • To grant the title of PhD, the jury pronounces an assessment on the candidate’s work, his or her aptitude to place the work in a scientific context, and on the qualities of the presentation in general.

What are the rights and duties stipulated in the charter for PhD students?

The preparation for a doctoral thesis is closely supervised in order to ensure PhD students’ chances of success.

During the preparation for a thesis, PhD students have certain rights and duties. These are compiled in a text called a “doctoral charter” or “doctoral agreement”.  
Candidates are requested to sign the charter to which they will become subject upon their first enrolment in the doctoral course. The thesis advisor, the head of the host laboratory and the head of the graduate school at which the student is enrolled also sign this agreement.
Each higher education institution has its own charter. However, certain principles are common to all. The thesis charter set out the PhD student’s rights and duties towards his or her thesis advisor, the supervisor’s rights and duties towards the student, and the student’s rights and duties within the host laboratory.

The charter for instance specifies:

  • the time that a thesis supervisor must allocate to the student under his or her responsibility,
  • the additional training that the student should follow during the preparation of the thesis,
  • the student’s obligations towards other members of the research team,
  • the conditions for extending the time allowed for preparing a thesis, etc.

How does one choose a thesis topic?

Inria offers PhD students a choice of topics that are considered to be a priority for research.

The choice of a thesis topic is the first step in undertaking a PhD project. Inria gives preference to topics that relate to the institute’s priority subjects. However, proposals of an exceptional standard on non-priority topics will also be considered.
In practice, this means that a student who wishes to enrol for a thesis must look at the list of topics suggested each year, and make an appointment to see the researcher who proposed the topic. This discussion phase is essential to ensure a good reciprocal interface (on a scientific as well as interpersonal level) before embarking on a project which is not only lengthy, but also crucial to the student's career prospects.

How is the thesis financed?

Many public institutions and companies offer solutions to finance PhD studies.

In order to prepare a thesis in optimum conditions, it is necessary to have sufficient financing for the required three-year period.
Inria offers PhD students the possibility to obtain a work contract.
There are a number of organisations and institutions that can finance the preparation of a doctoral thesis:

  • The French ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research,     
  • Other French government agencies: Regional bodies, French National Centre for Scientific Research, etc.   
  • The European Union,
  • Foreign governments.

Specific agreements for training through research, or CIFRE (Conventions industrielles de formation par la recherche), allow companies to employ postgraduate students whose research and development work will result in a PhD thesis.

How much will I be paid?

First- and second-year PhD student: €1 958 (gross) per month
Third-year PhD student: €2 059  (gross) per month
(basis without teaching or other specific activities)

What post-thesis opportunities are available?               

Obtaining a doctorate opens doors to industry, research or further study.

After obtaining your doctorate, you will be able to choose among a range of possibilities, depending on your professional goals. PhD Students who receive their training at Inria find that many opportunities await them. They tend to choose equally between business and academic settings.

Working in industry

Companies welcome PhD students specialized in information and communication science and technologies to their R&D departments.

Becoming a researcher or research-lecturer

Researchers and research-lecturers contribute to the development of knowledge and the transfer of skills to industry. They explore ideas, develop projects, conduct experiments, publish their work and present their findings to the international scientific community. They also supervise PhD students and participate in teaching activities.
To become a researcher or a research-lecturer, you must apply for the competitive examination organised annually by institutions of higher education and research institutes, such as Inria.

The recruitment process usually involves the following steps:

  • review of applications,
  • interview with candidates selected during the first phase,
  • ranking of applications by a jury of experts.

At Inria, permanent researchers are civil servants. These positions may be obtained by examination or mobility within the civil service for those who are already civil servants.

Pursuing post-doctoral research work

The work involved in preparing a thesis is a first professional experience within a research centre or laboratory. PhD students may pursue and validate their research through further post-doctoral studies.
Post-doctoral research positions, in another institution and, often, in another country, are also an excellent way to learn about a new culture and new area of research.

Why choose Inria?

The quality of Inria's research supervision ensures excellence in writing the doctoral thesis.

With advances in the area of scientific knowledge and technology transfer, the training by young PhD Students is one of Inria's basic tasks. As a result, the institute works actively with institutions of higher education, universities and the grandes écoles. We currently have just over 1,000 doctoral candidates working on our research projects.
Young researchers are most often involved in an Inria project-team. As part of their thesis activities, they may also work in a laboratory abroad (under a jointly-supervised thesis arrangement) or in industry (for example, through a CIFRE agreement).
 
A fulfilling environment

Inria offers PhD candidates the opportunity to meet internationally-known researchers and benefit from state-of-the art research where innovative ideas are welcome.
The institute offers a fulfilling environment in which to live and work. The atmosphere is relaxed and everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the social life of the community. Activities designed to integrate new PhD students allow researchers from more than 80 countries to blend easily.

Active researchers provide supervision

Inria provides a high-quality research environment in terms of both relationships and resources. The institute closely monitors the quality of the theses prepared under its research projects and, more generally, the quality of training provided to its doctoral candidates as well as their professional prospects.
For example, prior to supervising doctoral theses, Inria's researchers and engineers teach at university level and take on undergraduate and, in particular, post-graduate teaching assignments at universities and grandes écoles.

A committee focused on young researchers  

All Inria's activities designed for young researchers are coordinated by a committee led by a special assistant from the institute's Research Department and made up of representatives from each research centre.

 The committee's role is to:

  • participate in allocating aid to organisations composed of or acting on behalf of PhD students and in supporting theme-based programmes for PhD students and young researchers,
  • participate in developing agreements with graduate schools,
  • contribute to gathering data on PhD students and their post-thesis activities,
  • contribute to gathering data on habilitations to advise doctoral theses,
  • participate in educational outreach activities to disseminate scientific information,
  • participate in communications activities targeting young people.

What is the enrolment procedure for a thesis?   

In order to prepare a thesis, the student must have a prior degree, be enrolled at a graduate school and be accepted at a research centre.

In practice, the preparation of a thesis requires the combination of:

  • a student
  • a advisor (research-lecturer or researcher accredited to advise doctoral theses),
  • a research topic,
  • a graduate school (university or grande école, i.e. one of France’s elite higher education institutions),
  • a host facility (for instance Inria).

It is necessary to follow the procedures for enrolling at the host facility as well as the graduate school.

The human factor, a prerequisite

Interpersonal relationships naturally form the basis of collaborative work in any research project. To facilitate these relationships, the future PhD student is encouraged to talk with the research advisor he or she has approached and to make sure that their personal interaction will be compatible with his or her expectations before undertaking any administrative steps.

 
Holding a Master’s degree

Enrolment for a thesis in the scope of an Inria research project is open to students with a Master’s degree in computing, control engineering or scientific computation.
The graduate school examines the student’s proposal before admittance.

The following is taken into account:

  • the candidate’s skills,
  • the description of the thesis topic,
  • the presentation letter from the thesis advisor,
  • the mode of financing for the thesis.

Experience in mobility, an asset

Students’ mobility sometimes poses an issue. Failure to demonstrate the equivalence of a foreign diploma or obtain the jury’s recognition of a graduate school can be an obstacle. At Inria however, we tend on the contrary to encourage mobility, especially between a Master’s and a PhD degree. High priority will therefore be given to candidates who have studied abroad.

The choice of candidates accepted on this basis will be determined by the following criteria:

  • whether they have French or foreign nationality,
  • whether they have had mobility experience, within a company or abroad, since obtaining their Master’s degree,
  • whether they are preparing their thesis elsewhere than at the university where they obtained their Master’s degree.

You may apply online on the Inria website and choose your criteria to find a post that meets your expectations.

Graduate school, a necessary step

An addition to your admission at Inria, you must submit a thesis proposal to a graduate school (university or grande école) that have the ability to issue a PhD. You will be administratively attached to this school throughout the preparation of your thesis.

Do I need to be enrolled at a university or graduate school in order to prepare a thesis at Inria?

During the preparation of a thesis, Inria plays a specific role in providing a scientific framework for the research conducted by the PhD student.  

Inria is a public science and technology institution. In this capacity, it cannot issue degrees. Students who are preparing a thesis within Inria’s scientific, human and logistic framework must therefore first enrol at a public educational institution. Usually, this will be a graduate school within a university or grande école.

Thesis enrolment and reenrolment

Permission to enrol for PhD studies is granted by the chairperson or head of a public educational institution. At enrolment, the candidate must submit the research topic, after approval from his research advisor, to the head of the public educational institution, or beforehand to the head of the graduate school if there is one.
During the preparation of the thesis, students are under the educational responsibility of the public educational institution at which they have enrolled.
Course enrolment at a public educational institution must be renewed at the beginning of each university year throughout the preparation of the thesis. Extending the duration of the thesis preparation falls under the competence of the head of the institution or graduate school if there is one.

Submitting and defending a thesis

Permission to submit a thesis or a body of work for oral examination is granted by the head of the institution, having received an opinion from the head of the graduate school if there is one.
The examination jury is appointed by the head of the institution on advice from the head of the graduate school if there is one.

Can PhD students pursue additional training while writing the thesis?

Inria encourages all young researchers to expand their general scientific knowledge by pursuing additional training while writing the thesis.

Inria organises and co-organises seminars and theme-based programmes, which typically last one to two weeks. They provide an opportunity to review the latest developments on a topic that may be different from the student's thesis and to meet other young researchers. PhD students select these additional training opportunities in collaboration with their senior research scientist.
In some research centres, the IT department also offers training for systems engineer assistants.
In addition to university classes, some research centres may offer English lessons and introductory business courses.
Last, young researchers may take advantage of Inria's extensive contacts with academic and industry partners in France and abroad. The institute encourages students to work in a laboratory abroad.

Does Inria encourage PhD students to develop an international focus?  

 
Scientific research is now an international undertaking. Inria offers every young researcher an opportunity to participate.

Inria strongly supports an international outlook. While this may pose challenges in terms of obtaining grants or recognition of a foreign diploma, the institute encourages mobility.
A policy favouring diversity in recruitment is the first step. Inria's international diversity is also enriched by the presence of top researchers from 80 countries.

Inria encourages research visits abroad

At Inria, our international focus involves language study, colloquia, European projects and experience in a laboratory abroad while writing the thesis or after completing it. These visits are encouraged and made possible thanks to our many academic and industry partnerships abroad.

Can PhD students work in industry while preparing the thesis?

INRIA is strongly focused on the business world and opens doors to industry for young researchers, both during and after the thesis.

Companies are both natural and desirable partners to research institutions. At Inria, a variety of schemes enable students and industry representatives to work together and enrich their research projects.
This focus on industry starts with the doctoral application. Industry experience as part of a master's degree is an asset when applying to the institute.

Learning about the real world of business

While preparing a thesis at Inria, young researchers benefit from this openness to the business world through meetings and seminars that address real-world business operations.
Some Inria research centres offer industry internships while writing or after completing the thesis.

Preparing the thesis while working in a company

PhD students may also prepare their thesis in partnership with a company under a CIFRE training through research agreement, for example.

Inria-industry technology transfer

Inria promotes research professions in a sector where industry is a major draw. Indeed, industry is one of the leading sources of professional opportunities for young PhDs.
After completing the thesis, they may be invited to join R&D departments in private sector companies. Inria maintains strong relationships with the business world and encourages researchers to create start-ups or spin-offs.

Keywords: PhD student Researcher Recruitment Thesis

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