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Binational doctorate (cotutelle)

What is a binational doctorate or "cotutelle"?

A binational doctorate (also called cotutelle) enables doctoral candidates to complete their doctorate in two countries. Doctoral candidates are supervised on the same thesis at both universities and are also awarded a doctorate for this thesis at both locations. The doctoral candidates have to fulfil the admission requirements according to the Doctoral Degree Regulations at both universities and are supervised by a member of the University of Vechta and a member of the university abroad who are both entitled to award doctorates.

Which international universities are eligible?

All high education institutions that are entitled to award doctoral degrees as per the law of the country of origin and are  interested in jointly carrying out a cotutelle programme.

A binational doctorate is based on a written cotutelle agreement between the University of Vechta and the institution abroad. As far as possible, the programme is to be based on the Doctoral doctoral Degree Regulations of the two universities; deviations are to be recorded in the cotutelle agreement.

The cotutelle programme needs to be agreed upon within the first two years of admission to doctoral studies at the latest at one of the two universities involved.

What is regulated by the cotutelle agreement?

  1. Admission to doctoral studies

The applicants for a binational doctorate have to be admitted to both institutions. They have to fulfil the admission requirements of both the University of Vechta and the participating institution abroad and have to provide evidence of this.

     2. Enrolment at both universities

Doctoral candidates can enrol at the university abroad as a visiting researcher and are exempted from tuition fees at one of the two universities each semester.

     3. Determination of the two supervisors and the joint doctoral committee

The doctoral candidates have a permanent supervisor at both universities, who have agreed to supervise them throughout the doctoral degree process. By signing the agreement, the supervisors commit to jointly supervise the doctoral thesis in a suitable manner. The supervisors conclude the cotutelle agreement with the approval of the faculty. The members of the doctoral committee are to be appointed. The joint doctoral comittee is to be composed on a parity basis.

     4. Minimum duration of the stay abroad

The minimum duration of the stay at the university abroad is usually 50% of the duration of the doctoral degree process, but at least one academic year.

     5. Language of the doctoral thesis

The language of the doctoral thesis and disputation, the requirements for proof of language skills and the language in which the oral examination will be held are to be regulated in the agreement. An abstract in German or English is to be attached, the length of which is to be specified in the cotutelle agreement. The oral examination (disputation or viva voce) is usually held in German or English. Further details are to be regulated in the agreement.

     6. Form and modalities of the oral examination and assessment

The formal requirements for the doctoral thesis (e.g., modalities of the oral examination, assessment of the doctoral work, etc.) are based on the Doctoral Degree Regulations of the University of Vechta and the corresponding regulations of the partner institution abroad. Deviations have to be agreed upon. The oral examination (disputation or viva voce) is jointly conducted by a doctoral committee composed of members of the two institutions on a parity basis. The respective grading scales of both institutions apply so that the evaluations for the overall grade may differ in this respect.

     7. Intellectual property rights

The protection of intellectual property is to be discussed and agreed upon between the two institutions and is to be governed by the respective national and institutional regulations in force.

You can download a sample cotutelle agreement  here.

After the doctoral candidates have successfully completed their doctorate, both participating universities will award certificates. The award of the certificate enables the doctoral graduate to hold the doctoral degree in both the German and the foreign form. A cotutelle programme does not entitle to two doctoral degrees.

When is the doctoral degree awarded?

According to the Doctoral Degree Regulations of the University of Vechta, proof of publication of the doctoral thesis has to be provided before the doctoral degree is awarded. The regulations on the obligation to publish are determined in the Doctoral Degree Regulations of the University of Vechta. Once the doctoral degree process has been successfully completed and the deposit copies have been submitted, the doctoral candidates receive a doctoral degree certificate issued by the University of Vechta. Once the doctoral degree process has been completed at the institution abroad, the doctoral candidates receive a doctoral degree certificate issued by the institution abroad.

Which doctoral title may be used?

After having received the two doctoral degree certificates, the doctoral graduates are entitled to use the German and the foreign doctoral title. The acquired German doctoral title can be used in Germany without further authorisation. However, a binational doctorate does not justify a claim to hold multiple doctoral degrees (e.g., “Dr. Dr.”).

How is a possible withdrawal of the doctoral degree regulated?

The competent committee of each of the two institutions is to decide on the withdrawal of the doctoral degree acquired in a binational doctoral procedure, if necessary. If the competent committee of one institution withdraws the doctoral degree, this decision only applies to that institution. The decision and its justification are to be communicated to the other institution.

Which advantages does a binational doctorate offer?

Through a binational doctorate, doctoral candidates can ensure their academic connection in both participating countries. The programme is aimed at doctoral candidates whose research projects require the participation of two universities or who would like to get to know the research cultures of two countries equally. The individual cotutelle agreement ensures that the doctoral project is supervised by a supervisor abroad and simplifies the organisation of stays abroad. A binational doctorate is to improve the doctoral candidates’ language skills, promote their intercultural competences, familiarise them with research cultures in other countries and, above all, generate genuine academic added value. A later professional/academic activity abroad will thus be easier to organise and international networking is promoted. In addition, cotutelle graduates can avoid time-consuming recognition processes for their acquired doctoral degree, as it may be used in two forms prescribed by national law.

There are good reasons for a cotutelle if:

  • the doctoral candidates are aiming for an international focus in their further career
  • the doctoral thesis topic has an international research component in both countries
  • the doctoral thesis topic matches the research interest of the university abroad or the partner institution is of particular added value for the topic