The role of practice based doctorates for developing professional practice
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The Role of Practice-based Doctorates for Developing Professional Practice. Peter Smith, Gail Sanders, Judith Kuit, John Fulton, Helen Curtis University of Sunderland. Background. Professional Doctorates well established Nationally recognised UKCGE survey (Powell and Long) Interdisciplinary

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The Role of Practice-based Doctorates for Developing Professional Practice

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The Role of Practice-based Doctorates for Developing Professional Practice

Peter Smith, Gail Sanders,Judith Kuit,John Fulton,Helen Curtis

University of Sunderland


  • Professional Doctorates well established

  • Nationally recognised

  • UKCGE survey (Powell and Long)

  • Interdisciplinary

  • Research degree

  • Work-based

  • Based within practice

  • Recognises real world problems are complex and transcend subject disciplines


Doctoral Qualification

Equivalent to PhD

Widely recognised

Professional Doctorate Programmes in UK Universities:

1998 : 109

2000 : 153 (UKCGE)

2009 First International Conf (UKCGE)

Many forms

  • DBA

  • EdD

  • EngD

  • DProf

What is a Professional Doctorate?

A new way of thinking

A new way of working

Transformation of candidate to doctoral level


Impact based

Based on state of the art / profession

Outward looking

Based on candidate’s own work

Each one is different

What is a professional doctorate?

A Professional Doctorate can be defined as ‘a rigorous programme of advanced study and research designed specifically to meet the needs of industry and professional groups and which develops the capacity of the individual to lead development of knowledge within their professional context.’

What is a Professional Doctorate?

Content & Themes

Some differences between a PhD and a Professional Doctorate

Professional Doctorate

Research-for practice, professions, applied, contribution to practice

Theory and Practice- integrated

Impact- personal / professional

Candidates- in service, experienced, immersed in practice, have masters

Outcome- Varied- portfolio, smaller dissertation, publications. Viva


Research-theoretical, academic, contribution to knowledge

Theory and Practice- may not be integrated

Impact- academic

Candidates-Pre service, new to the area except via having relevant good first degree

Outcome- Thesis. Viva

Timeline of programme

  • 2006 DProf approved by University

  • April 2007 7 candidates

  • Bi annual intakes

  • July 2008 scheme reviewed

  • Bi annual intakes

  • 2011 10 graduates to date

  • 70+ current registrations

  • Move to annual intakes

Student background

  • Senior pharmacists

  • Senior managers

  • Local colleges

  • Internal staff

  • Town planners

  • Engineering and ICT

  • Business management

  • Management of change

Employer background

  • Bank

  • Local Colleges

  • NHS

  • Schools

  • Software Houses

  • Automotive Engineering

  • Universities

  • Local industry

  • Social enterprise

Two Pharmacy graduates

Scheme structure

  • Portfolio-based

  • Retrospective/reflective element

  • Learning outcomes

  • Assessed work

    • Reflective practice

    • Research methods

    • Contextualisation and Planning

  • Doctoral report and portfolio

  • Viva

Programme structure


  • Core team

  • Programme leader

  • Professor of education

  • Experienced researcher

  • Faculty-based advisors

  • Central administration

  • Owned by faculties

  • Different model to traditional supervision

  • More shared ownership and responsibility

Cohort concept

  • Cohort identity

  • Meet every 2 months

  • Deliver key material in early years

  • Share experiences

  • Present to each other

  • Continue to meet every 3 months until graduation


  • Online questionnaire

  • Survey Monkey

  • 54% response rate

  • 6 Focus groups

Why did you choose to study on the Professional Doctorate programme?

How does your employer support your study on the Professional Doctorate?

Do you approach professional issues differently since studying the DProf programme?

Do you use reflective practice principles in your work context?


  • Cohort experience. Value shared experience. Competition.

  • Academic support. Values views of tutors.

  • Structure. Deadlines, course days, learning outcomes.

  • Impact. Personal, employer and community of practice. Many have changed job!

  • Mixed employer perceptions.


  • Practice based option

  • Matches policy

  • Work based

  • Real evidence of impact on practice

  • Part time; May be easier to fund

  • Can be seen by employer and individual as part of CPD

Thank you

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