How to apply for a joint PhD
The application process for a joint PhD can be as varied as the programmes themselves. The exact method will depend on several factors, including the universities, where they’re located and in what relation to each other, and the nature of your research project – i.e. whether you’re applying to an advertised project or putting forward your own research proposal.
These are the most common kind of joint PhD, involving universities that have agreed in principle to award joint PhDs to co-supervised students. Such programmes usually involve the participation of a particular department where there is a pre-existing connection to another institution.
However, this doesn’t mean that all the academics have necessarily been paired up or that they’d agree to take on supervision for a joint PhD. Instead, you’ll have to do a bit of work to find ‘matching’ supervisors with relevant research interests (both in terms of your own project and each other).
This means getting in touch with potential supervisors to gauge their interest in your project. Once you have the backing of academics at each university, you can begin the application process.
There will usually be a dedicated joint PhD coordinator who will handle applications and point you in the right direction if you’re unsure about anything. Generally speaking, you’ll need to submit the following documents:
- Proof of your academic qualifications
- An academic CV
- An employment CV (if relevant)
- A research proposal
- A cover letter
- Academic and/or employment references
With these schemes, it’s important to find out which university is the ‘lead’ or ‘home’ institution, as this will have an impact on factors such as assessment, language and other regulations. You may have the option of nominating one or the other as your home university.
In terms of funding, schemes such as these are likely to have financial support attached, although competition may be fierce.
Advertised joint PhD projects
You’ll probably find that applying for an advertised joint PhD project won’t be too dissimilar from a traditional advertised PhD project, apart from the need to show that you’re capable of satisfying the entry requirements of two different universities.
Compared to other forms of joint PhD, there is an advantage to these kinds of programme in that the set-up is in place. It’s also fair to assume that the two supervisors have a willingness to work together (if they don't already have a long history of collaborating on research projects and publications). Similarly, an advertised project will come with funding attached, so you won’t have to worry about making a separate application for that.
Making your own joint PhD arrangement
This is perhaps the most challenging way to do a joint PhD, where you identify two potential supervisors for your research proposal at two universities that don’t already have a cotutelle arrangement.
These agreements are complex and normally seen as long term undertakings to support research cooperation beyond the scope of a single PhD.
Of course, if your supervisors are equally passionate about your research, they might be able to convince their respective institutions to agree to a joint PhD. The application process may be ill-defined if it’s a completely new arrangement for the universities but it’s worth persevering if you believe it’s the best way to achieve your research goals.