About Postgraduate Research

Doctoral qualifications represent the highest level of academic achievement; they are awarded to those who have completed an individual programme of original research. 

One of the principal purposes of the doctorate has been to provide the next generation of academics. Recently, however, the relatively few academic jobs available combined with growing numbers of doctoral graduates has led to the doctorate becoming a qualification that prepares graduates for a wide range of employment opportunities, with only a small proportion now entering academia.

As creators of new knowledge, new insights and new approaches, doctoral award holders are highly intelligent, highly skilled and extremely versatile.

Descriptor for a higher education qualification at Level 8: Doctoral Degree

Section 4.18 of the 2014 Framework for Higher Education Qualifications states that:

  • Doctoral degrees are awarded to students who have demonstrated:
    the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, extend the forefront of the discipline, and merit publication
  • a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the forefront of an academic discipline or area of professional practice
  • the general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems
  • a detailed understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry.

Typically, holders of the qualification will be able to:

  • make informed judgements on complex issues in specialist fields, often in the absence of complete data, and be able to communicate their ideas and conclusions clearly and effectively to specialist and non-specialist audiences 
  • continue to undertake pure and/​or applied research and development at an advanced level, contributing substantially to the development of new techniques, ideas or approaches

And holders will have:

  • the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and largely autonomous initiative in complex and unpredictable situations, in professional or equivalent environments.

Developing creative critical autonomous and responsible intellectual risk takers’ is the unique feature of doctoral education and is of great value both to the doctoral graduate and to society at large. 

This implies that doctoral education must be driven by research challenges as well as societal needs together with the inspiration of the candidates, and not primarily by political considerations. 

From Forces and Forms of Doctoral Education Hannover Recommendations 2019”