Cotutelle Policy

Policy Category: 
Approved By: 
Effective Date: 
November 30, 2015



Lakehead University’s Academic Plan 2012-17 lists “Expand our International Reach” as a priority.  The university is actively recruiting students at both the undergraduate and graduate level as part of this expansion.  As part of this expanded reach Lakehead University needs to look to other mechanisms of establishing international relationships.  One mechanism to do so is to establish a cotutelle policy. 

A cotutelle is a bilateral doctoral enrolment/co-enrolment and exchange agreement between two universities (the home university and the partner university) in different countries. The arrangements which exist at a number of Canadian universities with a variety of global partners are specific to students studying at the PhD level. A doctoral student completes the requirements of the Ph.D. program in both the home and partner university, and conducts his/her dissertation research collaboratively and for roughly equal amounts of time in both universities, being supervised by a faculty member from each of the universities. The dissertation is then examined by a committee whose members are drawn from both institutions. This arrangement works best when there is an established research partnership, minimally between the two faculty members, but preferably between two groups of faculty in each university.

Students completing a cotutelle graduate with a single Ph.D. degree from both the home and partner institution. This can occur in one of two ways: either the student receives a diploma from each university, each diploma carrying a notation to the effect that the degree was obtained through a cotutelle agreement; or the student receives one double-badged degree carrying the name and crest of both universities.

A cotutelle is not joint supervision of a student performing work at only one institution (or accessing another facility without contributing to that institution’s research program) neither is it earning two degrees for a single Ph.D. thesis.

Since cotutelle agreements apply to existing Ph.D. programs that have already been approved within their respective quality assurance jurisdictions, there is no need for a separate appraisal or review process. This represents an advantage in facilitating international research collaborations at the doctoral level in a quick and timely fashion. Cotutelle agreements can, however, provide a convincing basis for the establishment of genuinely joint doctoral programs between the two universities at a later date, such programs being subject to separate appraisals and review.

The purposes behind a cotutelle model of study are:

  • To provide an opportunity to enrich the research experience of doctoral candidates, including access to the best researchers and best research equipment in two countries and at two institutions
  • To increase the students’ exposure to different cultural and scientific environments and as a result, increase student employability;
  • To provide mechanism to enhance cooperation and collaboration between researchers and institutions engaged in a cotutelle agreement through graduate student mobility;
  • To provide opportunities to attract highly-qualified international students to Lakehead University to participate in research thereby enhancing Lakehead University’s international profile and reputation.


Any student registered in a PhD program is eligible for a cotutelle program.  The student must indicate an interest in the program in the first year of their studies.

Establishing a Cotutelle Agreement:

A cotutelle agreement may be established at Lakehead University under the following circumstances:

  • existing collaboration between faculty members at both institutions as evidenced by joint publications, previous co-supervision/exchange of students, co-organization of scholarly conferences, etc.
  • an interest of a currently enrolled Ph.D. student to conduct research abroad at an institution with expertise in his/her research field
  • interest in developing a research relationship between two universities

A cotutelle agreement should be initiated jointly by an individual Lakehead student and supervising Lakehead academic staff member. Both must consult with the appropriate Chair/Director and Graduate Coordinator of the department/program to be involved in the cotutelle. A proposal must be submitted to the Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies according to the Preparing a Cotutelle Program section below.

Academic Plan and Student Requirements:

Students participating in a cotutelle program are admitted and registered as full time students in both participating institutions simultaneously. However, the student will only pay tuition fees to his/her home university as defined above. The students’ doctoral studies will meet the program requirements of both institutions and are subject to the rules and regulations at both institutions.

These students carry out their research work under the joint supervision of one or more thesis supervisors from each institution and the thesis is defended at the home institution. Before entering into a cotutelle agreement, the student and his/her supervisors from the two institutions will determine a detailed study schedule and academic path. This will include when study periods will take place at both the home and partner institutions and include the time and location of learning activities. In every case, the minimum duration of residency at Lakehead University is three full time terms for students coming from abroad. For students for whom Lakehead University is the home institution, the total duration of residency at Lakehead is six full time terms.

It is expected that students complete their coursework at their home institution prior to engaging in a cotutelle agreement. Any additional course requirements which need to be met at the host institution must be laid out in the academic path of the cotutelle agreement. For Lakehead students, when the Comprehensive exams are not completed in advance of engaging in a cotutelle agreement, they will be administered at the partner institution according to the rules of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Thesis-based work will occur at both institutions as defined in the cotutelle agreement.

Preparing a Cotutelle Program:

The main steps to prepare a cotutelle doctoral program are:

  • preparing a letter of intent (to be signed by thesis supervisors from the two universities, and by the student)  (Appendix A);
  • preparing a cotutelle doctoral program agreement document to be signed by both institutions in a form substantially similar to the provided template (Appendix B)



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