Note: some information are specific to the ED62 of AMU.
According to the definition of the Guide of the PhD:
The PhD (“Doctorat”) is a professional research experience, undertaken by a master’s degree graduate or equivalent, which is sanctioned, after the defense of a thesis, by the awarding of the degree of doctor (“grade de docteur”). This is the highest degree awarded by the French Higher Education.
The main part of the doctoral activity consists of innovative research work limited in time, supervised by a doctoral research director (“directeur doctoral”), carried out within a research unit. It concludes with the writing of a thesis and its defense, e.g. a summary of the scientific work carried out, validated by the scientific community.Guide du Doctorat. Published by the national associations of junior researchers and doctors (CJC and ANDès, resp.).
Do not be confused: in France, the PhD awards the title (“Ph. D.” / “Dr.”) and the degree of doctor. On the contrary, medical, pharmaceutical and veterinary doctors have the title (“Dr.”) but not the degree. They defended a medical thesis, not a science thesis! Also, the “PhD in Business Administration” provided by some Business Schools are not scientific PhD and so, do not award either the title or the degree of PhD.
A PhD lasts in general between 3-4 years. The doctoral candidates (or “PhD candidates”) are registered to the university through the Doctoral School (DS). It does not mean they are solely students; doctoral candidates are (junior) researchers before anything else.
Indeed, the doctoral school does not allow the doctoral candidates to register for the first time without a 3-year funding (see this page). The funding has to be found by the supervisor. The funding pays the doctoral candidate through, usually, a doctoral contract which is a public short-term contract (“CDD de droit public”). This contract allows to do teaching at the university, consulting or vulgarization work. These side activities must be a part of the PhD and not on free-time. However, the candidates employed by associations, foundations or companies (ex: CIFRE), have private contracts and are not concerned by these missions. To summarize, the doctoral candidate is protected by a work contract. An exception is, for example, the doctoral candidates from the IHU (Timone) who are compensated but without a contract.
During the PhD, the doctoral candidates will do research work: learn the state-of-the-art of their field, plan their PhD project with their supervisor, carry out experiments, interpret the results using the methodology of the field and do scientific communications. These are the writing of papers, which will be peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals, as well as the talks and the posters presented during conferences.
It has to be noted that the research work is not necessary related to a single topic which never evolves. Research can take unexpected ways and be on multiple projects. The main point is to have a well planned PhD fitting on 3 years (missions, trainings, thesis writing and free-time included). At the middle of the PhD, the doctoral candidate presents his/her work to a Thesis Advancement Committee (“Comité de Suivi Individuel/ de Thèse”). The goal of this committee is to insure the candidate works in good conditions (ex: the supervisor is supervising and not harassing or non-existing).
The doctoral candidates attend to many trainings – again on their work-time – provided by the university or outside, such as summer schools, workshops, MOOC… See this page. We also strongly recommend to take part to associative activities (such as Hippo’Thèse or CJC!), as they provide complementary skills to the PhD that they will be critical for your career.
To defend the PhD, the doctoral candidate has to complete 3 years, 100 hours of trainings and submit one paper as main author (or main co-author) to a peer-reviewed journal. The candidate will defend a PhD thesis (“manuscript de thèse”) – written on their work-time – which is a summary of the PhD research and can contain the submitted paper(s), in front of a jury made of at least 2 non-AMU researchers.
Note: a doctoral candidate can be recruited at any time in the year (except during the summer). For example, if your funding is from an ANR, you can start the PhD in January. In this case, you will complete the PhD in January N+3, so it will be your 4th registration to the university. However, you won’t have to pay the tuition fee of the 4th year if you defend between January to September N+3 (but the CVEC has to be payed).
We wish you a successful and meaningful PhD! Good luck!