PhD and professional doctorate: higher degrees of separation?

Charity, Ian (2010) PhD and professional doctorate: higher degrees of separation? Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This thesis presents an exploration of the "purpose and process? of doctoral education and has twin, equally valuable, purposes: to make an original theoretical contribution and to improve professional practice in this area. This work addresses the lack of pedagogical research into doctoral education at a time when changing perspectives are reshaping the doctoral education landscape. A number of alternatives to the traditional research PhD now exist and this has generated debate as to the specific differences between the various programmes. This research explores the purpose and process of doctoral education from the perspective of the traditional PhD and the professional doctorate and uses Northumbria University as the case study institution. This research is timely since at Northumbria new doctoral programmes are being established and existing professional doctorate programmes are undergoing significant revisions to try and provide distinctive alternatives to the PhD. The current debates regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the PhD and professional doctorates are presented and three key processes of doctoral study are critically reviewed; knowledge generation, supervision and assessment. A distinguishing feature of this research is my own position within the research setting: I am both a DBA student and a member of staff involved with the delivery of doctoral programmes. Furthermore, the product of the research itself is enmeshed with the research topic and I introduce the concept of "compounded insiderness? to describe this situation. Methodologically, this has lead to the adoption of a constructivist ontological stance coupled with an interpretivist theoretical perspective for analysis. The subjectivity of this research and my influence on the research process has been acknowledged as a central feature, demonstrated through reflexive behaviour. The research strategy is inductive in nature with data generated through twenty-two ethically conducted interviews with purposively selected participants in the doctoral research community at Northumbria University. Software has been used to store, organise and manipulate the data that were then analysed using a combination of concept driven and data driven coding structured using Nigel King's template analysis method. Student perceptions were analysed separately within PhD and professional doctorate subgroups and then compared across the two programmes whereas the staff interview data were analysed as a whole. I argue that this research is highly transparent and has the potential to be transferable to other higher education intuitions. This research makes an original theoretical contribution by concluding that, at a broad level of comparison, the taught stage of the professional doctorate separates the routes initially but once the research phase is underway, the PhD and professional doctorate at Northumbria University overlap considerably. Where differences exist, these are subtle and more likely to be related to the purpose of the programmes rather than any tangible differences that would be experienced by students in terms of process. Staff may see the programmes as "notionally different?, but the interpretation of the purpose of a professional doctorate is subject to debate, particularly with regard to "making an original contribution to knowledge? and the role of theory. As a consequence, this raises serious questions regarding assessment. Professional doctorates are caught in a difficult position, since they desire to be different to a PhD and to attract different candidates, but must maintain a level of academic parity in order to be attractive. This research aims to improve professional practice at Northumbria University by raising awareness of similarities and differences between the programmes and it has already made an impact in this respect.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: N100 Business studies
X200 Research and Study Skills in Education
Department: University Services > Graduate School > Professional Doctorate
Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
Related URLs:
Depositing User: EPrint Services
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2010 12:17
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2023 17:00

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