Keynotes & First Selected Papers Announced

8th International Conference on Professional & Practice Based Doctorates

Authentic and Transformative Learning in Practice-based Doctoral Education
  • Conference
  • Professional & Practice-Based Doctorates
30 — 31 Mar 2023 
York Racecourse

The International Conference on Professional and Practice Doctorates, run in partnership with Middlesex University since 2009, is the leading event focusing on the development, provision and impact of professional, practice-based and practice-led doctorates in institutions across the globe. The 8th conference in the series will, for the first time since 2018, be a face-to-face event allowing once again for opportunities to network with colleagues from around the world.

Research knowledge is accommodating a greater practice-oriented view through adoption of practice theory and the role of researching professionals. This has led to developments in doctoral curricula and is having an impact on both academic and professional practices. The purposes of professional and practice-led doctorates are often the mediating factor for the content and facilitation of doctoral curricular and pedagogy for often part-time, mature practitioners.

As we look towards a new curriculum and pedagogy of doctoral research that has a practice focus it is noted that researching practitioners and artists have brought about innovative thinking in relation to learning from practice. Insight into the work of artists and practitioners who draw upon pre-existing expertise as the focus for more emergent practice learning is now manifest. Concentration on a pedagogy of practice and change, often incorporating a range of disciplines, underpins what may be considered as a curriculum of transformation. 

The whole character of a planned learning experience that is appropriate for studies aiming to develop practitioners is open to debate. Modes of study including distance, work-based, and blended learning, and support patterns such as residential weekends and more conventional individual support processes are used to both meet candidate needs and enhance authentic learning. This conference aims to focus on how curricula and pedagogies in professional and practice based doctorates uses authentic learning strategies to promote transformations in people, professional practice and the real world contexts in which these researchers practise.

Transformation in doctoral curricular have come about because some candidates demonstrate motives for pursuing a doctorate to develop themselves personally and their profession rather than, for example, to become an academic in their field. They may have a key focus on positive workplace reform or they may wish to developpofessionality.. These purposes and outcomes have implications for doctoral curricula that have brought about developments in doctoral programmes that are based on practitioner research activities. For example, methodological approaches to research have become more practice-based, with more attention paid to developing practical, real-time recommendations not just for further research but also for practice, and these approaches can be argued to promote authentic learning experiences.Managing new approaches also needs consideration, for example, progression and completion are long-term concerns in doctoral education and professional and practice-led doctorates have particular needs related to them being largely work-based and part-time. 

As the provider of doctoral education, universities have the main influence on doctoral curricula and pedagogy. There are influences such as national policies e.g. in 2003 the quality assurance agency in the UK added the guideline that doctoral students should have an element of work-related readiness in their research training, and in 2015 the Norwegian education department added more flexibility to the way doctorates could be run that included more work-related knowledge categories. Within universities and within different subject areas there may be different emphases on creativity and innovation and its relationship with knowledge and practice. Quality Assurance and procedural factors- often still surround the more historic versions of a PhD especially in countries that only accept PhDs as a doctoral route. Finally, there is an historic preconception regarding the value of a focus on practice which entails a theory/​practice binary that demonstrates socio-political implications of doctoral curriculum and pedagogy.


The following outlines some areas of interest related to authentic and transformational learning within the six themes that the conference focuses on.

Practice-based Approaches and Methods
These are becoming well developed (e.g. curriculum frameworks for practicing professionals). Personal engagement is a pivotal notion re researching professionals.
The various pedagogic approaches used and their impact on the student experience, learning processes and outcomes. Evaluation studies arising from practice and/​or research that situate results in the literature, or more conceptual explorations of teaching and learning practices appropriate to professional doctorates are welcome. This theme also aims to explore the development needs of those who facilitate this kind of learning. The theme includes:

  • Distance/​online learning; global learning communities.
  • Strategies for effective formal and informal assessment
  • Strategies for developing internal and external Research Supervisors/​Advisers
  • Studies of progression and completion
  • Implications for programme delivery of differing modes of study and learning: part-time, distance, work-based, blended learning
  • Innovative support networks

Sustainability and the Environment
Issues of global concern about the world’s environment, such as pressures of population growth, environmental pollution and climate change are becoming recognised as significant to the survival of human society. These are highlighted in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Professional and practice based research isleading to a better understanding of the need to redefine the role of the scientific and industrial professional communities in addressing these issues. Multi, inter and transdisciplinary approaches to researching these areas have been found helpful. Also, transdisciplinary research had its real research birth in environmental studies that focused on practices. Papers on how disciplines can work together to solve environmental issues would be welcome, as would those that focus on effective methodologies.This conference theme will provide an opportunity for participants to contribute to the debate on sustainable development, offer suitable solutions relevant to all walks of life, and explore the authentic learning and transformational elements of the research processes that supported these developments. 

Post graduate research (PGR) that prioritises practice and often recommendations for change in practices, presents students with worldly problems that relate to communities and wider social issues such as inclusion. Such actions urge them to analyse how and why those problems exist which in turn can empower people to question their conditions by furthering interchange, trust, and critical thinking with those who are in dialogue together. Dialogue consists of both thoughts and concrete actions concurrently, a praxis of cooperation, unity, organization, and cultural synthesis. We ask how the student voice can be included in curriculum developments and what a commitment to significant social change can be in the PGR community.

The recent Pandemic has changed practices, for example, by considerations off resilience, student welfare and digitalisation. The international sharing of practices through networks and conferences offers a variety of approaches and methods, alternative philosophical standpoints, and the inclusion of different knowledges.

Papers that cover the recent Office for Students funding re PGR BAME students and any other aspects of inclusivity that relate to doctoral researchers as well as an intersectional approach that allows for multiple identities, are welcome.

Digital and Online Learning
These forms of learning have long been available but have come to the fore during the Covid pandemic as they have been able to continue in the face of lock-downs, isolation and quarantine. While much work had already been done to develop authentic online learning, the pandemic provided the need for teachers to review how to maintain authenticity with this mode of delivery. PD candidates can learn from a variety of sources, not least their own workplaces, and from the research undertaken within them. This confers a high level of authenticity to the learning experience, but candidates were often removed from their normal place or work, and the practice scenarios they would normally inhabit. Supervision to support learning may have been in the art studio, laboratory or campus, but now needed to be remote, running alongside candidates’ new experiences of working and learning independently.

Papers in this theme may consider the effect of using or changing to online learning on the research process, and the candidate experience of or opportunities for transformative learning. Alternatively, they may consider the role of online communication in practice doctorates between candidate and supervisor, or between the range of stakeholders involved in the research process. Some practice doctorates are delivered entirely online; papers reporting on research that considers how authentic and transformative learning occurs here would also be welcome.

Values and Ethics

This theme is concerned with the values underlying practice based doctoral education and may include for example the institutional and professional codes of practice and declarations that underpin research practice, analysis, findings and dissemination. Such values may be espoused in organisational and institutional policy documents intended to guide research practice. However, with increased economic and social pressures on researchers, academics and research communities, there can be a consideration of the centrality of practice to researcher values. Ethics understanding is a key foundation for those involved in practice-oriented research, to ensure protection of the researched in terms of equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI), and how effectively it is incorporated into learning.

This theme also involves consideration of the ethics of whom is setting the research agenda and conducting practice research, and the effort that is taken to ensure a varied community of researchers. For example, diversity of researchers should include representation from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic people of any gender identity.
Papers in this theme are encouraged to explore and critically appraise individuals, institutions and organisations in taking robust actions to enshrine stated values and ethics for practice doctorates.

Leadership in HE
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has offered unprecedented changes and tremendous challenges for the leadership of higher education.. As a consequence , questions have been raised about changes in the nature of the context in which students work and research. We askwhat works and what does not work in the ways of supporting the different skill sets for doctoral researchers after the pandemic and how Leadership could play a significant part in required change. The challenge for those involved in leadership in organisational change after the pandemic is that the past is implicit and largely forgotten or at best misrepresented in the race towards unknown futures . This theme seeks to develop a dialogue concerning different interpretations about time, change and leadership with a focus on doctoral education. Boththeoretical and empirical papers are invited that explore topics such as:

  • The reconceptualization of leadership in HE
  • Reimagining doctoral research in practice
  • Comparisons across sectors and nations
  • Reflection to what works and what does not work in changing the impact/​role of practice in HE research programmes.

Confirmed Keynote Presenters

  • Professor Catherine Manathunga

    Professor of Education Research & Deputy Head of School (Research) | The University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC), Australia
    • Decolonising practice-based doctorates: foregrounding transformative approaches to cultural inclusion
  • Sónia Cardoso

    Associate Professor | Lusófona University, Portugal
    • The transformation and orientation of doctoral education towards practise and professional contexts
  • Dr Inma Alvarez

    Director of Postgraduate Research Studies | The Open University
    • A Framework for Professional Doctorate learning

Conference Themes

  1. Practice-based Approaches and Methods
  2. Sustainability and the Environment
  3. Inclusion
  4. Digital and Online Learning
  5. Values and Ethics
  6. Leadership in HE

First Selected Papers Announced

The first list of selected papers, which will feature at the conference, has been announced. In all, 28 oral presentations, workshops, small group discussions and impact case-study posters have been confirmed, with additional papers to be added in due course. The conference shedule will be published in the new year, however in the mean time the list of selected papers can be found by clicking here.

Call for Impact Case Studies

Submit an Abstract

The general call for papers to this conference has now closed. However submissions of Impact Case Studies are still being accepted. These case studies should demonstrate the impact of research understaken by professional and practice-based doctoral candidates as part of thier work towards their doctorate. 

Impact Poster Case Studies’ have been a key inclusion at the conference over the years. If you would like to submit an Impact Case Study please use the form below — those abstracts selected will be displayed as posters at the conference, with a digital version of the posters added to the growing Impact Case Study archive, which can be found here.

Book Your Place

Check your institution to see if you’re eligible for a member rate