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Doctor of Professional Studies (Transdisciplinary)

Learn about the course below

Doctor of Professional Studies (Transdisciplinary)

Jan 2023 September 2023
3-7 years
Blended learning
£6,100 (UK) *
£8,100 (EU/INT)*
Course leader
Kate Maguire

Why study the Doctor of Professional Studies at Middlesex University?

One of the distinctive features of high-level professional practice is the extent to which we are required to negotiate our way across a complex, changing, professional landscape. As transdisciplinary practitioners, we work in organisational, social and political environments that call for agility and imagination, stretching our professional expertise and challenging our personal values. As agents of change we need the insight and ability to gather and evaluate multiple forms of evidence and employ knowledge from many different and, at times, conflicting sources. Transdisciplinary practitioners act intentionally from perspectives that embrace the multi-layered nature of reality, move freely across boundaries, and work into and through the paradoxes and contradictions rather than around them.

The Doctor of Professional Studies (Transdisciplinary) (DProf TD) is open to experienced practitioners from all professional areas who bring a high level of curiosity and passion to their commitment to make a positive difference to their sector/field. It is designed to help the individual practitioner respond to the complex, high level challenges that show up in their context.

As a candidate for this award you will undertake a critical reflection on your personal and professional practice followed by a piece of doctoral level practice–focused research in your own context, organisation or community of practice. At the end of the programme you will submit a research thesis and present and discuss your work to a panel, a process commonly referred to as the viva. On successful completion of this final milestone, you will be awarded a doctorate and can be addressed as Doctor.

The DProf (TD) is the professional equivalent to the PhD and has the same rigorous assessment methods and criteria.

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.

Who are you?

You are an advanced professional practitioner who is probably working in a senior managerial position or a consultant /director/entrepreneur responsible for leading/developing thinking, practice and people. Our candidates span professions as diverse as global investment, IT, higher education, executive coaching and public health. The connection between these fields is not your technical knowledge or skill.

but the professionalism required of the practice and the higher level engagement and criticality you desire to develop in yourself, in your future role and in others. If you wish to solely enhance your technical expertise in your specialist discipline this doctoral pathway would not be the most appropriate choice for you. If your motivation is to bring about shifts and changes in thinking and practice cultures in complex situations, creatively and innovatively, and for which you are responsible and accountable - as it is driven by your evolved agency and your perception of the world as interconnected and complex - then take up the challenge and join us to make a unique and significant impact a reality.

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What will you study on the Doctor of Professional Studies?

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.

  • Programme of study

    • Stage 1: Review of Learning – (20 credits) with the possibility of also making an RPL* claim for Professional Learning (60 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.

    • Stage 2: Planning a Practitioner Research Programme (60 credits) with the possibility of also making an RPL claim for Practitioner Inquiry (40 credits)

      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.

    • Research Project (360 credits)

      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. Optional modules are usually available at levels 5 and 6, although optional modules are not offered on every course. Where optional modules are available, you will be asked to make your choice during the previous academic year. If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, or there are staffing changes which affect the teaching, it may not be offered. If an optional module will not run, we will advise you after the module selection period when numbers are confirmed, or at the earliest time that the programme team make the decision not to run the module, and help you choose an alternative module.

*claims for prior advanced professional learning

How is the Doctor of Professional Studies delivered?

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. Standard entry requirements
  2. International (inc. EU)
  3. How to apply
  1. UK
  2. EU/International
  3. Additional costs

How can the Doctorate of Professional Studies support your career?

The following case studies highlight the diversity of our DProf students and their research projects.

  • Rachel Duffy

    Board Development Associate, NHS

    Board Development Associate, Rachel Duffy had spent some time investigating the options before deciding to do a DProf with Middlesex University. "Undertaking a doctorate seemed like a natural progression for my CPD. I did consider doing a PhD but I chose to do the DProf because I wanted something that I felt would be grounded in the real world in which I operate. I was looking for something pragmatic which would tackle real work based challenges – and bring insight and value to my employer, my community of practice and my clients."

    Rachel's role within the NHS involves working with a wide range of decision making Boards including Foundation Trusts, Acute, Ambulance, Mental Health and Commissioning organisations. Drawing on her background in organisational development, her DProf focuses on the effectiveness of boards, and understanding how the current framework and development tools can be improved to help increase their effectiveness.

    "Much of the literature is generated from a management viewpoint; however I felt that an organisational development perspective would be of value. I am hoping that my research will bring insights which will really help our boards to become more effective." Rachel sees the DProf as a very good vehicle for drawing together evidence and disseminating insights to influence practice across the NHS.

    Rachel found one of the best aspects of undertaking the DProf was that she was at the centre of her own research. "I had ready access to resources, colleagues and communities of practice. Although the DProf is a big commitment, it is grounded in my job. The benefits of my research feed straight into my work; this would not be the case if I had undertaken a full time PhD."

  • Dr Valerio de Rossi

    Captain and Offshore Installation Manager, Vantage Drilling Company

    Putting his many years of experience in the off-shore oil and gas industry to good use, Valerio completed a Middlesex University work based learning MSc in Marine Operations and Safety Management in 2004. Having found the experience extremely rewarding, Valerio "wanted to push his education to the highest level". His past experience of work based learning made a professional doctorate through Middlesex the obvious choice.

    Valerio's chosen area of research, an investigation into the impact of cross-cultural interactions on offshore health and safety management, is of critical importance not just to his employer, Vantage Drilling, but to the whole industry.

    Valerio enjoyed the challenge of planning and presenting his research proposal to the Programmes Approval Panel. "It forced me to think deeply about the implications of my approach to the research and to be rigorous about my choice of data collection techniques," he said. The highlight for Valerio was seeing the fruits of his research and knowing that it makes a very real contribution to his industry.

    "I have used my research findings as a basis for a book which has been published in order to help dissemination of good practice throughout the industry," he said.

    Currently based on a drilling platform off the east coast of India, Valerio is certain that undertaking the doctorate has "improved [his] reflective learning skills and therefore ability to tackle the wide range of challenges" required in his professional practice.

    Valerio sees his next career progression step as securing a shore-based senior management position with Vantage Drilling. He sees his doctorate as an important differentiator because it not only evidences his commitment to the industry but also a breadth of transferable analytical skills.

  • Dr Paddy Paisley

    Executive Business Coaching, Centre for Coaching

    Business coach, Paddy Paisley, based at South Africa's leading executive coaching practice, the Integral Coaching Centre, was drawn to the DProf because it would combine academic study with her work. "Doing a doctorate always felt like the natural progression after my masters because it integrates my experience in education, business and psychology," said Paddy. A unique aspect of the DProf is that it allowed Paddy to work in concert with a group of other coaching practitioners.

    "Coaching in South Africa was in its infancy; Middlesex's pioneering approach was a good fit for the time and work we were doing." Paddy found that being able to work and research with colleagues was extremely helpful, particularly given that they were breaking new ground.

    The focus of Paddy's research was the supervision of executive coaches using the Integral Model, developed in conjunction with The Integral Coaching Centre. "We have been able to draw on the research to imbed a process for assessment and supervision both within our own practice and as part of the training we provide.

    "Interestingly I found the conceptualisation aspect of the DProf the most rewarding. I came to understand that I am an integrator; I enjoyed pulling the multiple aspects of the research together. Undertaking it with colleagues was also very helpful as we could bounce ideas off each other.

    "Having practitioners with doctorate level qualifications at the Integral Coaching Centre has given us a huge amount of credibility. The business is growing despite the economic downturn and coaching has gained hugely in its recognition and use within the South African context, and an important aspect of our success is that we can differentiate ourselves in the market on the basis  of our undeniable expertise.

  • Peter Williams

    Head of Industry Development, AEGON

    Peter Williams rounded off five years of work-based learning through Middlesex University with a 60,000 word project, taking 'The Value of Advice' as his title. The Doctorate was the first awarded in financial planning in the UK, exploring the role played by financial advisers and written guides in boosting workplace pension provision and financial planning. The project was an excellent fit with Peter's role at AEGON, as findings in his research complemented the company's own consumer research, which together have contributed significantly to AEGON's Retail Distribution Review process. AEGON is one of the world's largest life insurance companies, offering pensions, investment, protection and financial advice, with the UK, USA and Netherlands among the company's largest markets.

    Peter was initially concerned about the the time commitment required for such a major study programme, and also the demands of the challenge. "I am not a natural academic and my success has been a result of determination and hard work," he said. Initial parts of the course were harder than he expected, but proved good preparation for later stages. As a Chartered Marketer, Peter already had a range of experience in different types of research and was surprised to learn that he would need to complete a study unit in Research Methodologies. The University's insistence on this proved to be a good investment from Peter's point of view, as he gained added insight from the the study unit, particularly in the differences between academic research - where depth is the key focus - and market research, where breadth is most important.

    "I very much enjoyed working with Peter," said Pauline Armsby, his tutor. "He was an excellent candidate because of his diligent approach. He maintained close links with his project advisory team and involved himself fully in the programme, representing DProf candidates at the Board of Studies... His approach obviously paid off because his project was highly commended by his external examiner and has attracted considerable attention in the financial services industry."

    Peter enjoyed the challenge of studying and work-based learning, and felt that achieving the Doctorate has helped him in his professional role. He feels that he has gained a better awareness of the value of academic research and the depth of understanding it cam bring. "I'm more willing to look at issues in a reflective way... I have been able to use my research to help AEGON develop its thinking in a number of areas and to then influence Government, regulators and others."

    Peter's research can be found here.

We’ll carefully manage any future changes to courses, or the support and other services available to you, if these are necessary because of things like changes to government health and safety advice, or any changes to the law.

Any decisions will be taken in line with both external advice and the University’s Regulations which include information on this.

Our priority will always be to maintain academic standards and quality so that your learning outcomes are not affected by any adjustments that we may have to make.

At all times we’ll aim to keep you well informed of how we may need to respond to changing circumstances, and about support that we’ll provide to you.

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