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Survey: CIFRE agreements, 25 years later

Laurent Cousin

The French National Agency for Technical Research has published a survey on the career development of former PhD students who did their thesis in the context of a CIFRE agreement since they were created in 1981.

The overall assessment of doctoral training accompanied by the CIFRE system is positive among respondents. 86 % of the PhDs (1,769 out of 2,061) and 77 % who never graduated (95 out of 124) consider that their doctoral training helped them to pursue their professional ambitions, especially at the start of their career. However, only 73 % of PhDs and 61 % of those who never graduated advise a young Master’s graduate to go on to do a doctorate.

Rapid access to employment and salary recognition
This globally positive assessment is buoyed by the CIFRE PhD employment rate and the rapidity with which they found jobs: 96 % found a job in one year at most, 90 % of which in less that six months. Over six PhDs out of ten were recruited by the CIFRE partner company (42 %) or laboratory (16 %), the others being recruited elsewhere. Symmetrically, four out of ten quickly found another employer. 90 % of them work in France, over one-third in the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France.

About salary: one in two respondents under the age of 35 receives a gross annual salary of between 25,000 € and 40,000 € and about one-third of them between 40,000 € and 60,000 €. The field of study is scarcely a factor. For the older generations, between 20 and 30 % of PhDs earn over 60,000 €.

Let us point out that four out of ten PhDs declare having encountered some wariness about their degree among entrepreneurial circles, particular on hire, with the tendency being more marked for economics, humanities and social science PhDs (53 %).

CIFRE agreements (industrial agreements on training through research) were set up to participate in the growth of research in French companies. They include a subsidy for companies that hire a PhD student on a long-term or short-term contract with a professional mission delineated by the student’s thesis topic. Their work is supervised by an accredited academic research laboratory, and the PhD student is registered in a doctoral school. 

Methodology. A questionnaire containing about thirty items drawn up by the ANRT was put online from May 13 to July 4, 2008. Over 12,000 people were surveyed, giving a response rate of 22 %.