Life as a supervisor

Supervising a doctoral candidate is one of the missions of researchers and academic researchers and is an essential step in their career. The term "supervisor" is used to designate the thesis director, the co-director or any person who contributes significantly to the supervision of the doctoral candidate.

Life as a supervisor

The thesis director is the person who signs any administrative documents associated with the doctoral program. He or she develops the subject of the research project in consultation with the doctoral student and ensures its originality, its feasibility within the planned duration, and that all scientific, material and financial conditions are met to guarantee the proper conduct of the research work. The thesis director is also responsible for the scientific direction of the doctoral research project, a responsibility which can be jointly assumed with a thesis co-director. When the co-director is affiliated with another French university, the co-direction is formalised in an agreement signed by both parties. 

Co-supervisors can also contribute to the supervision of the doctoral candidate. In this case, the respective responsibilities and duties of each must be determined with the doctoral candidate from the beginning of the preparation of the doctorate and set out in the training agreement that is signed upon first registration for the doctorate. This agreement may be modified at the time of each re-enrolment.
The term “supervisor” therefore encompasses the thesis director, the co-director and any person making a significant contribution to the supervision of the doctoral candidate.

Within the framework of a co-supervision agreement with one or more foreign higher education institutions, doctoral candidates carry out their work under the responsibility, in each of the countries concerned, of a thesis director who carries out their supervisory duties in collaboration with the other thesis director(s).

In France, the habilitation to direct research (HDR) is a national higher education diploma that is required to direct a thesis. (See the decree on doctoral training). However, there are exceptions to meet specific situations.

The missions of thesis directors

Being a thesis director is not only about monitoring the research project, it also means accompanying doctoral candidates in their professional development and preparing their professional future. The function of thesis director therefore includes a strong dimension of managing the work and careers of doctoral candidates, including: supervision of research, implementation of strategies for publishing and promoting results, and drawing up a career development plan.

Thesis directors develop the subject of the research project in consultation with the doctoral candidate. They ensure that it is original, that it is feasible within the envisaged time frame, and that all the scientific, material and financial conditions have been met to guarantee the smooth running of the doctoral candidate's research work. 

Thesis directors individually supervise the doctoral candidates who are under their supervision and commit to regular and frequent appointments to support them with their doctoral project. They have a maximum possible number of doctoral candidates under their responsibility, a number defined by the doctoral school they belong to. Thesis directors validate the scientific quality of the approach followed and the results obtained with the doctoral candidates, and ensure that doctoral candidates acquire autonomy in the course of their research activity. They instil research ethics and scientific integrity into doctoral candidates. 

Thesis directors also ensure that doctoral candidates are well integrated into the scientific community and particularly into the research unit. They accompany doctoral candidates to allow the best possible promotion of their work on a local, national and international scale. 

Thesis directors support doctoral  candidates in their professional project and set up the conditions necessary for the development of their skills and the promotion of the knowledge created by their research. Thesis directors undertake to ensure that the doctoral candidates they supervises have the necessary time to participate in further training, as well as in the life of their research unit and their doctoral school. When other people (co-director or co-supervisor) are involved in the supervision, thesis directors coordinate the supervision team and ensure the coherence of the instructions given to doctoral candidates.

Finally, thesis directors participate in the life of their doctoral school (participation in individual monitoring committees, juries or admission committees, scientific days, etc.).

Accompanying supervisors in their missions

To help the supervisors in their duties, for over 15 years, the doctoral college has been offering them support in the form of workshops in small groups which help them to understand the current issues of doctoral training and the evolution of the supervisor's role. This includes understanding the importance of the professional project for doctoral candidates and the supervisor's responsibility in this area, identifying the skills expected of doctors and supporting their development, knowing how to identify areas of progress in the development of a skill and helping doctoral candidates become an expert in their field. A workshop is also dedicated to the issue of recruitment and integration of doctoral candidates into the research unit.

The reference on the reciprocal commitments of the different actors are defined in the doctoral charter.