Erasmus Mundus PhD Scholarships
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Erasmus Mundus PhD Scholarships

Written by Mark Bennett

Please note: Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorates are no longer offered. Instead, this funding has been replaced by MSCA scholarships. We've kept this page to explain how the EMJD scheme used to work, but the information here is no longer updated.

Erasmus Mundus is a programme funded by the European Commission. Its aims are to encourage mobility (long-term and short-term) of students and staff; to attract the best talents to Europe and; to promote European higher education worldwide. Erasmus Mundus also aims to encourage European institutions to team up with other universities in Europe and beyond as well as developing partnerships with other educational organisations and placement providers. It is completely separate from the Erasmus exchange programmes that you may have experienced at undergraduate level. The fundamental differences are that most of the mobility opportunities are for postgraduate students and that the periods of mobility are not just non-graduating but are also for full degrees.

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What does it mean for PhD students?

Institutions themselves apply for Erasmus Mundus funding as part of consortia/partnerships which will in time award double, multiple or joint PhD degrees. These groups of institutions have to demonstrate how they can provide an educational experience and training which they would not be able to offer on their own. Once a consortium has been selected, PhD programmes and study abroad (non-graduating) opportunities will be advertised by the consortium directly. Students can then apply to take part as well as applying for scholarships. Self-funded students can also take part in these programmes.

Erasmus Mundus has two streams, the handily-named, Action 1 and Action 2:

Action 1 consists of Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorates (EMJD) focusing on a research theme (which can be interdisciplinary) at PhD level. Its characteristics are:

  • Consortium of universities including at least 3 European different countries
  • It can include non-EU partners
  • Scholarships for Third Country and European Students to undertake doctoral programmes (research and research training)

Action 2 is delivered on a wider-scale of academic mobility (i.e. it is not linked to a specific PhD, but open to almost all study level) between Europe and “Third countries” within a designated region. Scholarships are available to support both non-graduating/short-term mobility and degree-seeking students.

Advantages of Erasmus Mundus

Action 1 allows PhD students to undertake a structured training programme adapted to their research areas as well as benefiting from research expertise and facilities of at least 2 European countries (sometimes also non-EU countries). Action 2 aims to offer opportunities to students from parts of the world which have been identified by the European Commission, creating consortia of European institutions and local institutions to develop the research capacity of that region and to develop lasting relationships between institutions. Full PhDs or periods of study abroad are undertaken in one institution.

Opportunities for doctoral studies

EMJD will last 3 or 4 years and will cover all subject areas. For example, EUROSPIN is a European doctoral programme in Neuroinformatics while EDLE is the European Doctorate in Law and Economics. To find out which research areas benefit from EMJD and which have an open scholarship competition, the best source is the European Commission website.

Action 1 EMJD programme structure

Scenario I: 3 years Scenario II: 3 years
Semester 1: University A (Research training) Semester 1: University A (Research training)
Semester 2: University B (Research) Semester 2: University A (Research)
Semester 3: University B (Research) Semester 3: University A (Research)
Semester 4: University C (Research) Semester 4: Partner 1 (Research)
Semester 5: University C (Research) Semester 5: University C (Research)
Semester 6: University B (Research) Semester 6: University C (Research)
Scenario III: 4 years Scenario IV: 4 years
Semester 1: University A (Research training) Semester 1: University A (Research)
Semester 2: University A (Research) Semester 2: University B (Research)
Semester 3: University A (Research) Semester 3: University B (Research)
Semester 4: University B (Research) Semester 4: Partner 1 (Research)
Semester 5: University B (Research) Semester 5: University B (Research)
Semester 6: University C (Research) Semester 6: Partner 2
Semester 7: University C (Research) Semester 7: University C (Research)
Semester 8: University C (Research) Semester 8: University C (Research)

Summer schools, student conferences and other specialist training/meetings may also be included.

Action 2 programme

A list of programmes in each region is available on the European Commission website.

Each programme has a limited number of studentships for each “target group” and for EU or Third country students. Action 2 may provide:

  • Opportunities for doctoral students from nominated institutions in a defined region of the world to come to Europe or EU students to study in that region. (Target group 1). These students attend institutions which are part of a consortium to complement their training and research experience via periods of research abroad (6-18 months)
  • A small number of full-PhD opportunities (up to 36 months) for students from that region but who are not in the nominated institutions (Target group 2).
  • Opportunities to help “candidates in vulnerable situations, resulted from social and/or political reasons" (Target group 3).

How to apply – A step-by-step guide

For Action 1 and 2, eligible candidates must apply through individual programme websites. Once you are selected, you will be contacted by the lead university of the consortium (in the case of EMJD) or your host university (in the case of Action 2).

Step 1: Choose between Action 1 (EMMC) or Action 2
Action 1 Action 2
Step 2: Identify the right programme for you (subject area and participating universities) Step 2: Check your eligibility to take part.
Step 3: Find out what the application guidelines and selection criteria are. Step 3: Find out which types of mobility are available.
Step 4: Find out about scholarships. Step 4: Select a host university
Step 5: Make sure you fulfill the academic requirements. Step 5: Find out what the application guidelines and selection criteria are.
Step 6: Apply online (via the programme application form or the lead university's). Step 6: Find out about scholarships.
  Step 7: Make sure you fulfill the academic requirements.
  Step 8: Apply online (via the programme application form or the lead university's).
If you are successful, you may also have to apply formally for admissions at the university(ies) you will be studying.

Scholarships and self-funding options

PhD scholarships will be available and deadlines are normally around November-February prior to the year you intend to start. Students do not have to pay for tuition fees and if an EMJD student is studying in institutions with different fee rates, this will not have any effect on the scholarship awarded. The scholarships will include:

  • Tuition fees, participation costs (including insurance coverage).
  • Travel cost contribution.
  • Installation cost contribution.
  • A monthly allowance (corrected for each country the students go to, to allow for differences in local cost of living.
  • If applicable, additional funding may be available for students who bring their spouse and children with them.

Self-funded students are also able to take part in EMJD but must consider the additional costs involved in such schemes (for example, travel costs and attendance at compulsory events/courses).

Training, periods of mobility and language of instructions

Students will be provided with a learning agreement which is specific to them and covers everything from the duration of mobility, lead university, examination procedures to the learning outcomes and language of instruction. In the case of EMJD and because joint-degrees may be awarded, an additional student agreement may also have to be signed by the student, the supervisors and the institutions to ensure that all is in place to allow the joint award of one PhD (in case there are regulations in individual institutions which are incompatible).

Erasmus Mundus programmes focus on training the next generation of researchers to give them awareness of the benefits of transnational research. These programmes include aspects of transferable skills and research training, as well as opportunities to attend consortium/research cooperation activities or consortium conferences, providing a well-rounded doctoral education, supported by groups of experts in the field and by resources relevant to the subject area across several institutions.


Erasmus Mundus alumni are part of a community of scholars which share an experience of study abroad. Students within each programme (which last for up to 5 years) will also benefit from being part of a group of alumni who are united around a subject area (and may become colleagues in the future) or who have experience of a region/country in common.

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Last Updated: 01 January 2013