DProf Professional Studies - Institute for Work Based Learning | Middlesex University London
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Professional Studies (DProf) - Institute for Work Based Learning

Learn about the course below

Professional Studies DProf

Varies throughout the year
3-5 years
Year 1: £4,800 (flat fee valid for up to two academic years)
Years 2-4: £6,000 per year (UK)
Year 1: £5,500 (flat fee valid for up to two academic years)
Years 2-4: £7,500 per year (INT)
Course leader
Kate Maguire

Why study DProf in Professional Studies at Middlesex?

The Doctorate in Professional Studies (DProf) is for advanced practitioners and is designed to focus on their professional development within their organisational/professional context. The DProf led by the Institute for Work Based Learning is open to all professional areas as the focus is defined by the candidate's particular work context and area of activity and their own unique area of interest. This may be located within a profession or sector, or may be more individual in nature. The approach is inter-professional and cuts across disciplines (transdisciplinary) even where candidates have strong roots in a particular profession or occupation. It is primarily concerned with knowledge that is generated and used in practice.

As a candidate for this award you would undertake a critical reflection upon your practice and then design and undertake a doctoral level practice–based research project in your own work within your own organisation or community of practice. At the end of the programme candidates submit a research report and take part in an oral examination or viva on their research. With the successful completion of the examination the candidate achieves a doctorate and can be addressed as Doctor.

How is it studied?

You can enrol throughout the year at a time appropriate for you and your organisation but induction days occur in early October and February. You will then undertake a programme of study for 4-5 years within your professional role. Your work becomes the focus of your study and as such your project enhances and develops your professional practice. An academic advisor is assigned to you at the start of your programme and will be available to you throughout your period of study. As the focus of your work develops one or two subject specialists will be assigned to you in the role of consultant(s) to your project allowing you to draw upon their expertise in your area of enquiry or methodology. You will also have resources such as handbooks and online materials to enhance your learning journey as well as access to seminars, workshops and lectures held at the campus.

What is distinctive about the DProf?

  • Candidates are mentored to develop a research project which is unique to them at the current stage of their career and enable them to make an impact at an organisational or profession wide basis.
  • The DProf allows the previous learning (both formal courses and informal learning from experience) to be recognised for its contribution to the development of practice and ascribed academic credit to be used within the programme.
  • It is the professional equivalent to the PhD, it has the same rigorous assessment methods and criteria but has a focus on research within the work place and practice. The focus of DProf research is situated within the working environment and places the candidates themselves at the centre of their enquiry.
  • As a student of this course you'll receive a free electronic textbook for every module.


The DProf is for the advanced practitioner who is probably working in a senior managerial position or alternatively is a consultant /professional working with senior managers/leaders. Our candidates span professions as diverse as Veterinary Science through to Executive Coaching. The link between them is not their original subject discipline but the professionalism of their practice and the higher level analysis and criticality they wish to bring to it to develop both themselves and their future role. Therefore it is not a doctorate for those wishing to enhance their technical expertise in their discipline but it is the doctorate for those wishing to enhance their professional practice and standing.

The research project is undertaken within practice making it ideal for those wishing to make significant, high level impact within their organisations or for those wishing to make a unique contribution to their professional community. The research reports from previous candidates can be found in our on-line repository.

The programme is divided into two stages. The first stage lasts for one year and prepares the candidates for their research. The second stage lasts at least two years but should take no longer than three years and this is when the project activity is undertaken leading to the final research report. The size of a programme is identified through its academic credits and for a Doctorate it is necessary to achieve 540 credits (180 at level 7 and 360 at level 8). Below is a description of how these credits are achieved.

  • Modules

    • Stage 1: Review of Learning – (20 credits) compulsory and Accreditation of Professional Learning (100 credits)

      This is the opportunity to identify the capabilities, attributes and authorities you bring to your programme. You will work with your advisor to provide a 5,000 word critically reflective report on your formal and informal learning to date. Within it you will identify what makes you the professional you are with your own signature practice developed with time and experience. It is retrospective and identifies why undertaking the doctorate is appropriate for you at your current stage in professional development and what makes you equipped to undertake the particular area of interest that you identify.

      Within this module you will also have the opportunity to claim credit for research capability you already have and professional learning in an area of specialisation in your field. This can be done through the recognition of a masters degree you already hold or through a short written claim for credit identifying how you developed these capabilities through your professional life. If you feel you cannot make these claims then there is the option to undertake small project work to achieve the required number of credits.

      The combination of this review and the claims for credit will provide you with 120 credits towards your programme.

    • Accreditation of Advanced Professional Learning (100 credits)-optional

      In the previous section candidates can make a claim for professional learning and some may be able to make a far more substantial claim for advanced professional learning. Examples of this level of learning could be that you have already published a book in the field or worked at senior committee level within your professional body. If that is the case then you can make a claim for this advanced learning of a further 120 credits. We would expect only 20% of candidates to be in a position to make such a claim.

    • Planning a Practitioner Research Programme (60 credits) – compulsory

      Having made explicit your skills, expertise, attributes and interests you are now in a position to plan your research project. Within this module you construct the research plan by considering the research approach, methodology and instruments which are congruent with the focus of your enquiry and the outcomes you wish to see for yourself, your organisation and your wider community of practice.

      Once you have designed your research then you have the opportunity to present it to a Programme Approval Panel and Ethics sub committee. This is a group of experienced researchers who provide you with formative feedback to enhance its robustness, ethics and potential for impact at the level required. You will incorporate their feedback in your final Learning Agreement which provides the plan for the following two year of research activity.

    • Stage 2: the Research Project (240 or 360 credit)-compulsory

      Throughout the next two years you will undertake your research project with the support and guidance of your advisor and chosen consultant(s). The research report will consider:

      • the relevant literature relating to your research topic
      • the collection and analysis of data
      • interpretation and implementation of results and consideration of strategic impact to your organisation and your professional community.

You can find more information about this course in the programme specification. Module and programme information is indicative and may be subject to change.

How is the DProf in Professional Studies taught?

The DProf programme includes a blend of a number of modes of delivery, ranging from face to face tutorials, e-mail exchanges, electronic as well as physical access to the university's library resources, real time workshops which are then mounted on to a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) which also holds programme and module handbooks. The key to the programme is the candidate's learning relationship with the Programme Adviser (PA) who will be the first port of call during the entire DProf programme period. The PA's functions range across tutoring, mentoring, advocacy and assessment. The candidate will also be assisted by a Consultant (there can be more than one depending on research requirements) who can be a leading professional in the candidate's professional practice field, or an academic specialist in the candidate's areas of research. The candidate can choose an appropriate Consultant or can be allocated one from a higher education institution.

The programme will delivered primarily by formative feedback on iterative drafts produced by the candidate. Every attempt will be made to foster an international DProf `community of learners', a network for peer support and providing `critical friends' on the VLE or through DProf events organised in London.

The first part of the programme is devoted to Research Training and consists of two modules (DPS 4520 and DPS 4561) and Review of Previous Learning claims. There is an overall Programme Handbook, Candidate Advising Handbook (which offers guidance and processes on how to best develop the learning relationship with the PA and the Consultant) as well comprehensive guides for each module which are available on the VLE. The Research Training phase culminates in a Programme Approval Panel (PAP), where the candidate presents a research proposal for what is essentially formative feedback from a panel of DProf core team members and a university academic representative. The PAP functions also as an ethics approval committee which is a key element of the DProf process.

The second part of the programme is the Project phase which will require three years of enrolment. It is at this stage that the role of the Consultant(s)become more significant, and the academic year is shared optimally between the PA and the Consultant. The programme's final destination is the viva voce, the oral examination which will follow a 30 minute presentation of the candidate's research project report findings.

  1. UK & EU
  2. International
  3. How to apply
  1. UK & EU
  2. International

Case Studies

The following case studies highlight the diversity of our DProf students and their research projects. Click on the links below to read their full stories.

Off-shore oil and gas - Dr Valerio de Rossi
The continuing globalisation of oil and gas exploration has meant that Valerio's work on the impact of off-shore platform health and safety has brought valuable insight to the industry.

Heath service management - Rachel Duffy
Rachel's research work is designed to help maximise the effectiveness of NHS management boards from an organisational development standpoint.

Business coaching - Dr Paddy Paisley
With business coaching in its infancy in South Africa, the focus of Paddy's research was the supervision of executive coaches using the Integral Model®.

Financial planning - Peter Williams
Peter completed his DProf in 2008. His project title is 'Final 5200 project: what value advice? An investigation into the role played by financial advisers and written guides in the provision of pensions in the UK.

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