The development and impact of professional doctorates

Costley, Carol ORCID logoORCID: and Boud, David ORCID logoORCID: (2021) The development and impact of professional doctorates. In: The SAGE handbook of learning and work. Malloch, Margaret, Cairns, Len, Evans, Karen and O'Connor, Bridget N., eds. SAGE, London, pp. 223-238. ISBN 9781526491114, e-ISBN 9781529757217. [Book Section] (doi:10.4135/9781529757217)

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Professional Doctorates (PDs) aim to be at the same level as a PhD but are typically designed as research degrees for advanced practitioners and are grounded in professional practice. These doctoral programmes offer professional development, a means by which to make change and creative interventions in practice situations. Doctoral programmes engage with complex professional matters, especially personal and professional development, professional networking, and research and development, educational pathways that lead to the impact of their practitioner research. There is a growing body of evidence that candidates’ research has a wider socio-economic value with evidence of impact on professional practice and organisational change.

While this chapter focusses on PDs, it needs to be acknowledged that many PhDs especially those in practice-based disciplines such as the Arts, Health, Engineering, Psychology and Education have developed significant approaches to practice. In some cases it is difficult to distinguish between a PhD and a PD and in some institutions PDs are not offered as separate qualifications. Moreover, there are gradual and ongoing changes in doctoral education and indeed the changing role of higher education and its internationalisation may influence the ways in which doctorates are understood in universities. For example, 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.

For the above reason the wider context of practice for all doctorates is briefly discussed before engagement with the literature and practices of PDs. The development of PDs since the 1990s, is shown as having developed significant thinking on pedagogy, curriculum development and the development of practitioners as researchers, especially how research-led approaches can impact upon practice. PDs have been at the forefront of developing these programmes which focus directly on the needs of professionals in practice undertaking research in their practice situations.

The chapter starts with a focus upon practice and the rise of practice theory, in relation to all doctoral degrees. There is then a section on the value of doctoral learning, its wide ranging scope of outcomes and objectives demonstrating the different purposes of many doctorates. The following section relates to the widening concepts of knowledge and what is counted as worthwhile knowledge incorporating an inter or trandsiciplinary approach inclusive of professional knowledge that is more practice-based. Following this is a section on the developments made by PDs in developing curricular and pedagogical approaches that are more conducive to achieving the practice-led outcomes and impacts that PDs often seek to achieve. Finally the actual impacts that many PDs have successfully achieved is discussed with examples.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords (uncontrolled): curriculum development; doctoral degrees; doctorates; knowledge; professional development; professional practice; theories of practice
Research Areas: A. > Work and Learning Research Centre
Item ID: 29744
Notes on copyright: Chapter copyright Carol Costley and David Boud, 2022.
The authors' accepted manuscript of this book chapter is reproduced in accordance with the SAGE Book Content Open Access Archiving Policy (
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Depositing User: Carol Costley
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2020 09:48
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2023 04:39

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