Cotutelle and joint doctoral degrees

Information about joint supervision (cotutelle) and joint doctoral degrees with universities outside Norway. Norsk versjon: Fellesgrad og felles veiledning

Looking for something else? Topic page on PhD planning |Pages tagged with PhD

What is cotutelle and joint degree?

Cotutelle means joint supervision of a ph.d. candidate usually by two or more separate institutions. Joint degree/programme means two or more institutions jointly initiate a doctoral degree programme leading to a joint degree.

Cooperation with other universities

A strategic goal for NTNU is to develop closer cooperation with other universities. It is very important that such cooperation leads to increased academic quality, including both research and education. Joint supervision of PhD candidates is an important tool to establish international cooperation and mobility.

NTNU has three “levels” of international co-supervision

It is important to remember that in an international setting, there is no standardized terminology for Level 1, 2 or 3. What is important is to set common definitions together with potential partners. You may use NTNU’s definitions as a starting point for the discussions.

Level 1 – Co-supervision

Degree awarded by one institution.

The easiest way of mobility for a PhD candidate is Level 1, because the cooperation does not need to be formalized through a written agreement. Level 1 may become the solution if or when institutions cannot agree on terms for awarding a Double Degree or Joint Degree (Level 2 or 3).

The PhD candidate may have one appointed co-supervisor at an external institution and may stay there for short periods. Most often, it builds on existing research cooperation where PhD candidates benefit from expertise of specialists at another university, but not requiring an institutionalized, long-lasting academic cooperation.

The candidate is admitted to a PhD program / Doctoral school at one of the universities, e.g. NTNU. The cooperation does not need to be formalized through a written agreement or Memorandum of Understanding.

In the diplomas issued by NTNU, all supervisors must be named both in the diploma (certificate) and the Diploma Supplement.

Level 2 – Joint doctoral supervision (Cotutelle)

Double Degree, Degree awarded by each of the two institutions.

If formalized agreements are necessary, Level 2 (Cotutelle / double degree) is recommended. A double degree must be set up if it is clear that several PhD candidates will be part of the agreement. An agreement on level 2 should provide added value for the individual candidate and supervisors as well as their academic communities (research and education). It may contribute to the development of long-term, stable, and good professional relationships. NTNU has a template for such agreements that we recommend to use.

Two cooperating universities, the candidate, and the candidate’s supervisors enter into the agreement. The agreement regulates admission, supervision and assessment of the candidate's doctoral dissertation and other issues if necessary. NTNU has a template for such an agreement.

The candidate will be admitted to a PhD program/ PhD school at each university. Each university will award their separate doctoral degree to the candidate based on a single defence. This requires mutual recognition of academic training (courses) and supervision provided by the other institution. It also requires that a period of minimum one year is to be spent at the partner university. The agreement should also include a plan for access to required infrastructure.

The agreement shall ensure that NTNU’s requirements in the regulations for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) are met and correspondingly the requirements of the cooperating university to grant the equivalent degree.

Level 3 – Joint doctoral programme (Joint degree)

Not recommended.

Level 3 is seen as a further development of already strong academic ties between two or more academic environments/communities with an expressed desire to cooperate closely on a joint degree program, for example within national or international research schools. This entails formidable challenges, considering that different university traditions, standards, and formal rules must be reconciled. Therefore, we usually do not recommend joint degrees.

Joint degree (or joint PhD program) is a more integrated form of cooperation where two or more institutions join forces to provide a joint doctoral program. This alternative requires a high degree of integration. PhD candidates are admitted to a joint study program and the institutions have joint responsibility for all aspects of education and supervision. A program board with representatives from the institutions may provide the basis for technical cooperation and be responsible for admission of the candidates to the program. Not recommended.

Guidelines for joint degrees and cotutelle agreements at NTNU

Section 25 of the PhD regulations details the existing rules and regulations for joint degrees and cotutelle agreements. NTNU's board of directors has further determined guidelines for cotutelle agreements and joint degrees, cf. S-case 83/08, 4 December 2008.


  1. NTNU may enter into agreements on cotutelle cooperation on the PhD level with universities abroad.
  2. The agreement must be signed by the two supervisors, the Dean, the PhD candidate and the Rector.
  3. The candidate must be enrolled at both institutions. The academic basis for enrolment must be a Master's degree or similar.
  4. The PhD training must have a scope of three years of normal studies.
  5. The candidate must have at least one supervisor at each institution.
  6. The training part must satisfy the requirements of both institutions.
  7. The candidate must have a period of stay at both institutions. The agreement should specify when the candidate is to stay at each institution.
  8. The candidate must have a place to work, access to laboratory facilities and other infrastructure at each institution.
  9. The dissertation must have the logo of both institutions, and the cooperation agreement must be specified.
  10. The dissertation and its attachment must be made public.
  11. The agreement must regulate the composition of the assessment committee.
  12. For the public presentation of the dissertation, the rules that are in force at the institution where the presentation is to be given must be complied with.
  13. The candidate shall receive a diploma from each institution.
  14. Both institutions shall have the right to use the dissertation and the results in their education, training and research.

The guidelines apply in the same way to joint degrees where a number of institutions agree to establish a joint doctoral degree programme. With joint degrees, the candidate may receive a diploma from each institution or a joint diploma.

For supervisors

  1. Contact the head of department to ensure you have the Department’s support with respect to entering into a cooperation agreement with the institution in question.
  2. After receiving positive confirmation from head of department, please contact Faculty administration in order to start negotiations. The Faculty administration will be the contact point towards the Education Quality Division (EQD)
  3. The Faculty administration will be responsible for negotiating the administrative matters. It is important that you follow the negotiation closely so that you can comment and help to give insight to the discussions.

For Faculty or Department administration

  1. One of the institution's standard agreement templates must be used, but both institutions' cooperation requirements must be satisfied.
  2. Section 25 in the PhD regulations regulates joint degrees and cotutelle, here you find a description of the requirements you can negotiate in the agreements, and the requirements that cannot be waived. These should be communicated to the other institution as soon as possible.
  3. It is important that you keep the supervisor at NTNU informed about the negotiations, she/he can contribute with valuable insights.
  4. When both institutions have settled on the agreement, send the prepared agreement to the Education Quality Division (EQD). Case reference in ePhorte must be given in the documentation. The EQD presents the agreement and the faculty's information and a brief statement on whether the agreement is in accordance with NTNU's guidelines to Rector.
  5. Rector assesses whether the agreement is in accordance with the university's policy and signs the agreement if it is.
  6. The EQD returns the agreement to the Faculty.
  7. The Faculty files the agreement in ePhorte when it has been signed by all the parties and . The Faculty keeps the original signed paper version of the agreement.
  8. The Faculty registers the candidate as a cotutelle candidate in FS.
  9. The Department of Study administration reports all agreements on joint degrees to NOKUT (Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education) through the DBH report.

NTNU Templates

Agreement of joint supervision with guidelines (docx)
Agreement of joint supervision (docx)


We recommend that the research group gets in touch as early as possible for advice and guidance through the process.