Postgraduate Research/Doctorate

Professional Doctorate (Health and Social Care)

School of Health and Society



Five year


May 2019

Next enrolment

In a nutshell

The DProf provides an excellent framework in which to develop a credible research proposal based on  issues identified in a clinical or health-related environment. This course has been developed in collaboration with in-service professionals along the key themes of education for:

  • Personal strategies for practice development
  • Creative decision-making and risk-taking
  • Developing presence, influence and political know-how
  • Evidence-based practice and research

The taught component is two years part-time and is concerned with critical self-assessment and the identification and development of strategies for use in the practice area. The research component is three years part-time, building on the taught component to develop evidence-based practice and introduce innovative strategies in all areas of professional practice.

You will:
  • Develop a credible research proposal, learning research methods, critical and creative thinking and self-awareness.
  • Achieve work-based observation and evidence to credible robust findings.
  • Be provided with an excellent framework in which to develop issues identified in a clinical or health related environment.

This is for you if...


You want to make a significant contribution to professional practice with transferable skills to your clinical area.


You are interested in collaborative learning and networking with peers.


You want to develop your presence, influence and credibility.

Course details

All about the course

Professional Doctorates are as rigorous as traditional PhDs but are different in focus. A traditional PhD subject can be relatively fixed, in terms of what is researched. A Professional Doctorate is more variable and adaptable to change due to developments in your profession. This is because the Professional Doctorate is linked intrinsically to your workplace.

The first two years of the course are modular, with facilitated content, designed to help you refine and develop your initial research ideas and include:

  • Contemporary issues and debates in research
  • Theories/paradigms of research
  • Ethics of research
  • Reviewing literature and the critical analysis of existing research
  • Developing a research question/hypothesis
  • Designing appropriate research
  • Role and function of the pilot study
  • Developing a research proposal
  • Access and sampling
  • Methods of data collection
  • Fundamentals of frequently used statistical tests
  • Presentation, analysis and interpretation of data
  • Uses and application of ICT
  • Dissemination and publication of research
Programme modules

Doctoral Foundation

1. Critical application of master’s and doctoral level expectations: critical thinking, appraisal, originality.

2. Develop critical overview of research methodologies for research in professional practice

3. Integrate equality, diversity, ethical issues in emerging research & professional practice

4. Literacy: Academic writing skills; advanced literature searching skills; critical appraisal

The Leader as Practitioner Researcher

1. Demonstrate the intellectual skills required for critical appraisal, originality, analysis, reflexivity and advanced information literacy.

2. Critically analyse the factors that may help and hinder research in the professional practice setting; leadership, organisations, service user involvement, power and ethics.

3. Develop a critical reflection on the research process with a focus upon key milestones inherent within the Professional Doctorate journey.

Research Methods

1. Evaluate current research; evaluate research methods.

2. Understand research techniques, applied to a variety of research or scholarly situations.

3. Critically appraise purpose, process and products of research activity.

Critical Understanding of Professional Practice

1. Critically examine definitions, concepts, history of professionalism.

2. Compare/contrast theoretical perspectives in the analysis of occupations

3. Analyse evidence of the impact of professionalism and the division of labour on service user experience.

Practitioner Researcher

1. Demonstrate intellectual skills required for critical appraisal, originality, analysis, reflexivity and advanced information literacy.

2. analyse factors that may help/hinder research in the professional practice setting; leadership, organisations, service user involvement, power and ethics.

3. justify decisions and choices regarding research methodologies and theoretical perspectives.

Please note that it may not be possible to deliver the full list of options every year as this will depend on factors such as how many students choose a particular option. Exact modules may also vary in order to keep content current. When accepting your offer of a place to study on this programme, you should be aware that not all optional modules will be running each year. Your tutor will be able to advise you as to the available options on or before the start of the programme. Whilst the University tries to ensure that you are able to undertake your preferred options, it cannot guarantee this.

What will I be doing?

The doctorate comprises two years taught modules which you must pass to progress onto a further three years research component during which you write up your thesis.

Variable points of entry are available for applicants who come in via the Accreditation or Prior Learning route - there are 3 to 3.5 year routes via accredited prior learning (APL/APEL). More information can be obtained from the programme leader, Professor Alison Brettle:

During the research component, you independently undertake a PhD level research study, supervised by two experienced academics. Although the Professional Doctorate programme is housed within the School of Health and Society, we have supervisors from across the University. We have experts in child psychology, social care, public health, occupational therapy, radiography, physiotherapy to supervise your own area of expert knowledge.

The programme is very flexible; with two years part-time of facilitated modules which you use to frame, explore and refine your initial research question. For example, you will use the modules to explore general philosophical and methodological ideas, examine what is known about your topic, what your research will contribute to new knowledge; best methods for undertaking the research and, critically, learn about the leadership skills you will need to lead research in practice.

All the modules are facilitated using blended learning. For example, within each module, there is face to face sessions led by a module facilitator. In addition, specific learning activities for each module will be developed using the virtual learning environment ‘Blackboard’ and the virtual doctorate learning environment (VLE). Both enable greater flexibility about the when and where of learning and enables you to keep in contact with your peers and the programme team, wherever they have internet access.


Within the professional doctorate, the assessment processes have been developed to enable you to critically interrogate, analyse, and reflect on your research ideas, demonstrating your ability to take account of professional and methodological issues. The assessments are designed to enable confident articulation and robust exploration, justification and defence of research ideas in keeping with the principles of the doctoral viva.

With this in mind assessment processes comprise:

  • Essays
  • Seminars
  • Verbal presentations
  • You are expected to engage in critical self-assessment and personal/professional development planning as a basis for developing the skills associated with the doctoral-level study and the leadership of research in professional practice.

Student Support

The programme supports how you go about developing your presence, influence and political know-how; broadens and deepens understanding of your research topic to provide you with appropriate transferable skills in the real world. Peer support is one of the most important values informing the DProf programme. Students benefit from interaction with peers through such activities as seminars, virtual learning and the sharing of common facilities.

The course is run on a part-time basis and arrangements for supervisory meetings are negotiable.

The School of Health and Society

The School of Health and Society is a forward-thinking, dynamic school with a commitment to lifelong learning and real world impact.

We live in a rapidly changing world, and we’re keen to leave a productive legacy of helping people at all stages of their lives, improving their physical, psychological and social wellbeing.

Teacher Profiles

Professor Alison Brettle is a Professor in Health Information and Evidence Based Practice with expertise in evidence based practice and evidence based library and information practice. Her research and research interests cover systematic reviews and systematic review methodology, information literacy, information skills training, the evaluation and impact of library and information services, effective literature searching, evidence based practice and evidence based library and information practice. Professor Brettle is also interested in how information or providing better access to health information can be used to improve outcomes.

As Director of Post Graduate Research for the School of Health and Society, Professor Brettle is responsible for the community of over 120 PhD students. 

Employment and stats

What about after uni?

You will make a significant contribution to professional practice with transferable skills to your clinical area. You will also study inter-professionally with peers in a collaborative environment, strengthening networking opportunities across health and social care disciplines.

Increasingly, employers are looking for flexible and creative key staff receptive to innovation. At this stage in your career, you may be expected to have research and analytical techniques and vision to tackle problems imaginatively and with confidence, but may have limited time or support to do so. By undertaking a Professional Doctorate, we will help you develop these skills. There is much published evidence demonstrating the Professional Doctorate uniquely enhances personal development, stronger professional self-worth and confidence and improve your career prospects and job satisfaction.

Alumni progression: 

Dr Val Finnigan MBA is a specialist midwife focusing upon infant breast feeding. In particular she is known nationally for her work with baby friendly hospital settings, and gaining accreditation for the hospital with the World Health Organisation as regards infant feeding. Her research was used interpretive phenomenology to explore the experiences of women from ethnic minority groups in relation to skin to skin contact immediately following birth. She has published about her professional doctorate experiences. Finigan V and Lee N (2010) The doctoral journey: supervision from the perspective of students and supervisors MIDRIS 20 (2) 155-158.

Dr Mary Braine is a lecturer in adult nursing at Salford University, during the programme she moved from a clinical to educational role. Dr Braine used phenomenological approaches to explore family experiences of challenging behaviours following acquired brain injury; she has published her research findings.


What you need to know

This programme is most suitable for Health and social care professionals working at senior levels who have responsibility for the development of evidence-based professional practice.

Typically you will study part-time, while engaged in full-time employment at senior levels of practice. As such you are more than likely to be engaged in challenging roles, often studying against a backdrop of organisational change and uncertainty.

The close date for applications is early September, but there is latitude for late entries (sometimes due to late funding being granted) and variable entry points for APL/APEL routes. 

For more information about applying for this course, please contact the Programme Leader Elaine Ball:

English language requirements 

International applicants will be required to show proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.0 (no element below 5.5) is proof of this.

Standard entry requirements

Undergraduate degree

A good bachelors degree, normally 2.1 or above, and/or master's degree, with appropriate practice experience.Quality research proposal that fits the aims of the School research programme.

Along with the application, prospective candidates are required to show relevant qualifications and a research proposal that identifies their area of research interest, and the contribution to new knowledge their research would make.

Alternative entry requirements

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

We welcome applications from students who may not have formal/traditional entry criteria but who have relevant experience or the ability to pursue the course successfully.

The Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) process could help you to make your work and life experience count. The APL process can be used for entry onto courses or to give you exemptions from parts of your course.

Two forms of APL may be used for entry: the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) or the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

How much?

Type of study Year Fees
Part-time 2019 £2,890 per annum
Additional costs

You should consider additional costs which may include books, stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits.

Apply now

All Set? Let's Apply

Enrolment dates

May 2019

September 2019

May 2020

September 2020