PhD Apprenticeship Programmes

An initiative aimed at strengthening the relationship between universities and business.

The University of Bologna has signed a Memorandum of Understanding concerning PhD apprenticeship programmes with the Emilia-Romagna Region, other universities in the region (University of Ferrara, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and University of Parma) and social partners.

In accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding:

  • the participating universities will identify the PhD programmes that will form part of the initiative and submit their programme catalogue to the Emilia-Romagna Region;
  • interested companies that have at least one operating site located in the Emilia-Romagna region will enter into “apprenticeship contracts leading to the award of a PhD” with PhD students already enrolled at university or who are eligible for admission to the next PhD programme;
  • the Emilia-Romagna Region will approve the programme catalogues of the universities and provide the University with a voucher for each apprenticeship contract entered into, as reimbursement of the PhD programme fees;
  • the initiative will be monitored by representatives of all the signing parties.

What is a PhD apprenticeship contract?

It is a contract signed by a PhD student and a company, with a duration of not less than twenty-four months and not more than forty-eight months. The contact beneficiary must be under thirty years of age.

What is the individual training plan?

The individual training plan:

  • comprises the research project and is an integral part of the PhD apprenticeship contract;
  • is defined in concert with the University and the company;
  • envisages a minimum of 120 hours of training each year aimed at the acquisition of skills relating to the technological innovation and financial organisation of regional businesses (minimum attendance required: 80% of the minimum number of hours);
  • covers the entire duration of the apprenticeship contract and ensures an adequate work-study balance and the completion of the training necessary to achieve the PhD qualification.

Specific benefits

  • Multi-annual scientific collaboration in order to develop research in areas of mutual interest;
  • Opportunities to participate in recruitment selection procedures;
  • Joint definition of the training plan (48 hours annually of internal training and 72 hours annually of external training);
  • The company will not be required to pay a salary for the external training hours (and consequently will not be required to pay any social security contributions);
  • Relief on INPS (National Institute of Social Insurance) contributions.

Procedures and deadlines

The company must sign the Letter of Intent for PhD Apprentices with which it undertakes to enter into a PhD apprenticeship contract with a candidate that is eligible for a PhD programme.

A representative of the company may participate in the selection procedure in the capacity of an expert in order to give an opinion with regard to the suitability of the candidates to undertake a PhD apprenticeship.

Upon completion of the selection process:

  • the company may take on the successful candidate provided that said candidate is matriculated with the University;
  • a Protocol will be signed by the company and the University.
  • The Protocol governs the tasks and responsibilities of the University and the Employer, defining the duration, content and organisation of the learning programme, as well as regulating intellectual property:
  • Following the first meeting of the Academic Board at the start of the programme, the tutors from both parties will draw up the individual study plan.

The work relationship between the company and its employee must be guaranteed for the entire duration of the PhD programme.

Information for PhD Students

PhD students who are under thirty years of age can enter into PhD apprenticeship contracts by contacting the companies of interest, following approval by the tutor.

It should be noted that the contract has a minimum duration of 24 months which must be undertaken at the company during the degree programme up to the dissertation discussion.

Information for teachers and researchers

Teachers can act as a point of liaison between PhD students and companies interested in the initiative in order to promote the PhD apprenticeship contracts and to contact AFORM - PhD Programme Unit in order to receive assistance.

Students undertaking a PhD apprenticeship contract will receive tutor support both from the University and from the company.


The initiative is open to all PhD programmes subject to approval of the programme catalogue by the Regional Council of Emilia-Romagna and satisfaction of the requirements to enter into PhD apprenticeship programmes.


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