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Third-cycle (PhD) programmes

Luxembourg

7.Higher education

7.5Third-cycle (PhD) programmes

Last update: 27 November 2023

PhD programmes are conceived as the first step towards a research career in the industry or the academic world. They allow students to acquire advanced academic knowledge and skills.

Organisation of doctoral studies

Doctoral studies at the University of Luxembourg include the writing of a research paper in the disciplinary field chosen by the candidate and participation in courses to acquire methodological and transversal skills. The programme lasts between 36 and 48 months, leading to an oral defence of a dissertation. Research work is carried out under the guidance of a professor.

Joint supervision

PhD students who register for the first year at a doctoral programme may apply for joint supervision. In this case, a supervision agreement between the two concerned institutions has to be signed. The students then conduct their research work under the guidance of two supervisors. Successful candidates are awarded either two diplomas or a joint diploma.

Doctoral schools

The University offers doctoral schools in the following domains:

Fields of study

The University of Luxembourg supervises PhD thesis in following study fields:

  • Architecture
  • Economics
  • Education sciences
  • Engineering sciences
  • Finance
  • Geography
  • History
  • Humanities
  • Informatics
  • Language sciences
  • Law
  • Literature
  • Management science
  • Natural science
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political science
  • Psychology
  • Social sciences
  • Sociology.

Admission requirements

Depending on their choice of funding (self-financed, third party funding, research training grant or financing by the University of Luxembourg), they either apply for a doctoral offer at the University, or look for a dissertation supervision for their chosen topic.

The dissertation supervisor checks:

  • The eligibility of the candidate, who must hold a master's degree
  • The candidate's aptitude for personal work and scientific research
  • The admissibility of the doctoral thesis.

Admission is then decided by the rector on proposal of the dissertation supervisor and after admission to the doctoral programme by the programme coordinator. Once the admission process has been completed, students may register throughout the year.

Status of doctoral students/ candidates

The University has three main groups of doctoral candidates:

  • Doctoral candidates with an employment contract at the University: these may have a funded position at the University, FNR funding or a Marie Curie grant or other project-related funding
  • Doctoral candidates with an employment contract at one of the Luxembourg public research centre
  • Self-financed doctoral candidates.

Regardless of their way of funding, all PhD candidates at the University of Luxembourg are enrolled as students. Moreover, students who are hired as doctoral candidates by the University of Luxembourg also hold working contracts for 40 hours per week and thus have the status of employees.
A doctoral candidate with an employment contract in Luxembourg is automatically affiliated to the Luxembourg National Health Fund.

Supervision arrangements

The dissertation supervisor is a teacher-researcher entitled to direct research.

A thesis supervisory committee (comité d’encadrement de thèse) is appointed by the rector to monitor the work of the doctoral student. The members of the committee have to hold at least doctor diplomas. They meet the candidate at least once a year in order to evaluate the progress of the research. 

Employability

Labour market access of students is fostered by initiatives such as:

  • A course offer in the doctoral schools and at central level
  • Career Centre, a university service providing vocational guidance and support to students preparing applications and job interviews
  • UniCareers, an annual event that brings students into contact with potential employers.

Assessment

The doctoral examination comprises:

  • An original work in the discipline or the interdisciplinary field chosen
  • An oral defence of the dissertation (soutenance de thèse), held before a jury and followed by a discussion.

The dissertation and the defence are evaluated by a jury (jury de thèse) of at least five members, all of whom hold a doctorate, comprising at least one professor or assistant professor of the University and at least two external members. The jury deliberates behind closed doors. A report on the session is established and communicated to the rector and the candidate.

Certification

Successful candidates are awarded the title of Doctor of the University of Luxembourg (Docteur de l’Université du Luxembourg). The diploma shall state at least the surname and first name, the date and place of birth of the holder, the discipline or the specialisation of the candidate, the date of the defence and the signature of the rector.

Organisational variations

The University of Luxembourg organises specialised medical studies in the disciplines of medical oncology, neurology and general medicine:

  • Specialised medical studies in medical oncology and neurology are awarded 300 ECTS credits and comprise a total of ten semesters of theoretical and clinical teaching
  • Specialised medical studies in the discipline ofgeneral medicine are awarded 240 ECTS credits and comprise a total of eight semesters of theoretical and clinical teaching.

In both cases, at least two semesters of study must be devoted to research activities. These studies lead to a diploma of specialised studies in medicine at level 8 of the Luxembourg Qualifications Framework (CLQ), in accordance with Article 31 (2) of the amended law of 27 June 2018 on the organisation of the University of Luxembourg. This results in the need to integrate the research component into the curriculum.

Within the framework of these courses, each student must thus follow the equivalent of two semesters in the field of biomedical or clinical research (or in the field of primary care research in the case of medical studies specialising in the discipline of general medicine) during which a research project is developed. The research project consists of the writing of a dissertation to be defended before a university jury, composed of two persons (including at least one professor or associate professor of the University), it being understood that the jury may also include an expert. The writing of a doctoral thesis is not required. The Bill 8079, currently in the legislative process is intended to confer the degree of doctor of medicine to holders of the diploma of specialised medical studies.

Access to specialised medical studies is limited to candidates who hold a basic medical education credential obtained in a Member State of the European Union (Switzerland, European Economic Area) referred to in Annex 5.1.1. of Directive 2005/36/EC or a basic medical qualification obtained in a third country. The latter must be recognised in accordance with the provisions of the law of 28 October 2016 on the recognition of professional qualifications and more particularly the criteria specified in Article 24 of the law. All candidates must prove a B2 proficiency level in French and German.