I would like to apply to a PhD program in France, but I am having trouble understanding the admission process. How should/could I submit my application? Is it proper to contact the Professor I would like to work with and ask about any openings? If yes, what should I include in my mail?

I am only familiar with the admission process in US institutions.

  • Related:academia.stackexchange.com/questions/924/…
    – Bravo
    Feb 11, 2014 at 18:48
  • @Bravo I am aware of that question, but i am asking specifically about the situation in France and if directly contacting professors is a common approach.
    – Prospects
    Feb 11, 2014 at 18:58
  • I suspect that this will also be discipline-dependent as well.
    – Ben Norris
    Feb 12, 2014 at 3:24

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: in France you have to find first the supervisor, then you apply for a funding. If you have a funding of your own, you have to find a supervisor to be admitted. In both cases : you need the supervisor first.

There is various things to know when you apply for a PhD in France :

  • It is forbidden to be a PhD without having funding. In France a PhD student is considered both as a student and an employee.
  • The funding can be a state funding, an industrial funding, a funding on a research contract (either from a national funding agency or a company), or you can also do your PhD while working elsewhere (some teachers in secondary schools are doing their PhD this way).

Industrial funding and research contract are basically given to the supervisor, who can choose alone amongst all candidates. So for PhD with those fundings you have to contact directly the targeted supervisors.

State funding is given by a committee to a bundle (candidate, subject), this means that a professor, with a subject, has to find a candidate and then propose to the committe this candidate on his subject. Then the candidate is on his own : (s)he will generally have to send an application letter, with a reference letter from the supervisor, and if (s)he is shortlisted, (s)he will have to make a short presentation (either on location or using skype or a similar service).

Last case: you are funded on your own (job, external funding for foreigners). Even in this case, the procedure is that you find the supervisor, then you apply.

  • 1
    Great answer... just wanted to add, that it is possible that the supervisor already has funding when you apply to him, and can just give you a position (I know some first-hand cases two offices down the hall from me)... but still, the conclusion holds: you have to contact and find a supervisor first.
    – penelope
    Feb 13, 2014 at 13:07

I'm a PhD candidate in France (economics) and yes, you can (and, in fact, must) contact a professor first. He or she will then direct you to source for funding and through the whole administrative process (the funniest part...).

  • Could you provide some guidelines on the contents of the mail as well? Like issues to address, how to introduce oneself, tone/style etc
    – Prospects
    Feb 12, 2014 at 9:59
  • @Prospects You should ask this in a separate question.
    – enthu
    Oct 3, 2014 at 16:19

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