Supporting the Growth of the Professional Doctorate

  • Past Events

On January 31st 2024, we held a town hall discussion which was chaired by Professor Tina Ramkalawan (Director of the Graduate School at Brunel University London) and included a presentation from Carolyn Wynne (Director of the Doctoral College at Coventry University) and Jenny Eldridge (Head of Doctoral Training at University Alliance).


Professor Ramkalawan opened proceedings with some definitions of the Professional Doctorate (PD). A Level‑8 qualification (equivalent to a standard PhD degree), the PD has been described as: 

An award at a doctoral level where the field of study is a professional discipline and which is distinguished from the PhD by a title that refers to that profession.” 

(Source: UKCGE Professional Doctorates in the UK 2011 Report). 

In an earlier UKCGE report, Professor Steve Hoddell recognised the cohort-based nature of the PD and framed a working definition as follows:

A Professional Doctorate is a programme of advanced study and research which, whilst satisfying the University criteria for the award of a doctorate, is designed to meet the specific needs of a professional group external to the University, and which develops the capability of individuals to work within a professional context.”

(Source: UKCGE Professional Doctorates, 2002). 

Topics for discussion

Participants went into breakout rooms to discuss and share their own understandings of the PD. On their return Carolyn Wynne and Jenny Eldridge explained that they were interested in feedback on the PD as a prelude to further research into this qualification. Carolyn introduced topics to guide the session, as follows:

  • Widening participation.
  • Continued growth in doctoral numbers and PGR.
  • Funding.
  • Programme diversification and the value of doctoral education outside of academia.
  • Expended understanding of what consists of Professional”.
  • Unclear picture of the popularity and diversity of the Professional Doctorate across the sector.

She referenced two reports: Provision of professional doctorates in English HE Institutions (CRAC, 2016) and Postgraduate Education in the UK (HEPI, 2020), saying that the reason for the apparent downward trajectory for the PD needed more investgation. Jenny spoke about the work of University Alliance and said it was hoped that the research that she and Carolyn are undertaking will result in suggestions about how the degree can be supported and expanded.

After further breakout discussions, Professor Ramkalawan rounded the session off by summarising the emerging themes, including the idea of value’ and comments about integration with the wider academic community, recruitment and affordability. She asked whether diversity of provision within the PD was an advantage, leading one participant to say that while diversity was always a good thing in doctoral training, the fact that PDs were not recognised in some countries is a barrier.

Another commented that they have an initiative in their faculty to look at all their research students, particularly PDs, as a resource: Our PDs have connections with a range of industries; they are valuable resources which can help universities bridge the gap [with different professions], they are not just a students paying fees.”

It is hoped that the projected survey on PDs will be underway in the Spring.

Do you have an idea for an event you would like to run in partnership with UKCGE? 

We’re keen to hear your ideas for topics and we can also help you to run an event. 
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