University of Chester

Programme Specification
Doctor of Professional Studies DProf
2014 - 2015

Doctor of Professional Studies

Doctor of Professional Studies

Doctor of Professional Studies

University of Chester

University of Chester

Work Based Learning facilitated from Chester campus

Professional Doctorate


Residential and Open,

4 years

7 Years

Annual - September




17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Business and Management Centre for Work Related Studies

Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and FHEQ(England, Wales & Northern Ireland)

Framework for Qualifications for the European Higher Education third cycle awards


University of Chester

Joint D.Prof/DBA Programmes Assessment Board/Research Degree Progression Awards Board

Wednesday 1st July 2009

This programme aims to build on the innovative work in the field of Work Based Learning which has been carried out at the University of Chester over the past two decades and most notably through the Work Based & Integrative Studies framework and programmes.  The curriculum for this Programme will be learner-centred work based learning and the intention is to provide for continuing professional development at an advanced level for those in positions of responsibility where, through their learning and their research outputs, they can make a significant contribution to, and impact on, advanced professional practice within the context of their profession.

It is expected that learners will engage with issues that lead them to new ways of thinking that may bring about organisational change and/or enable them to operate at the highest level of professional practice.  The outcomes of their research should demonstrate originality of thought and be of a standard suitable for publication within their professional area.

In particular, the Programme aims to enable learners to

  • Plan and execute projects that are designed to enhance professional practice and/or understanding and that make a positive and lasting impact on business objectives
  • Develop their knowledge and understanding of an area of professional practice such that they are able to offer creative and original insights to the benefit of their own practice and their profession
  • Demonstrate advanced understanding of research methods and their application to an area of professional practice
  • Design and manage a research programme (and to modify it according to need as the project progresses) that will result in the generation of new knowledge and/or lead to the development of new professional practices or new understandings of a professional area
  • Take control of their own learning and develop to an advanced level their critically reflective and critically evaluative capabilities as well as developing advanced project management skills
  • Produce findings that satisfy peer scrutiny and are deemed to be of publishable quality
  • Facilitate learning in the workplace that will lead to the highest level of academic achievement

Knowledge and Understanding
At level 7/M students will have achieved

  • the ability to undertake, in a self-directed manner, work based projects that deal with complex issues concerning professional practice and/or organisational objectives
  • they will have used a variety of sources of knowledge/evidence and they will have exercised critical judgment in its application and arrived at new insights in relation to their professional practice and/or organisational understanding
  • knowledge of research methods applicable to their professional context which they will have critiqued and taken full cognisance of ethical implications
At level 8/D students will have achieved
  • advanced trans-disciplinary knowledge and understanding within the epistemological areas which underpin their professional practice and which places them at the forefront of this practice
  • the ability, through original research and/or advanced scholarship, to create and interpret new knowledge and to communicate this to others so that it satisfies peer review and merits publication
  • advanced understanding of research method as it applies to their area of professional expertise such that they can apply their understanding in new situations and contribute to the development of practice-based research techniques
  • the ability to conceptualise, design and implement projects for the generation of new knowledge and/or for the advancement of professional practice, and to achieve this within the context of the social, political and ethical complexities of the work environment

Thinking or Cognitive Skills

At level 7/M students will have achieved the ability to
  • analyse and synthesise information in such a way that it can be of use to them and others within the context of their professional practice
  • critically evaluate concepts, theories, research findings and other sources of knowledge and make informed judgments about their application in the context of professional practice
  • think critically, to undertake critical self-reflection and to act critically within the context of their professional practice and in such a way that it has advanced their self understanding as a professional and as a person
At level 8/D students will have achieved the ability to
  • engage in critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas, enabling them to engage in dialogue with others on complex matters where alternative solutions to problems and practices are being sought
  • undertake deep level critical reflection in relation to their own and others' actions enabling them to arrive at new understandings and/or to plan and execute new approaches to professional practice
  • communicate ideas effectively to both specialist and non-specialist audiences demonstrating a command of their subject and/or area of professional practice
  • make independent judgments and manage their own learning within the context of a community of practice where they will regularly independently and with others critique and evaluate their own practice

Practical Skills
At level 7/M students will have achieved the ability to
  • deal systematically and creatively with complex issues and to apply their knowledge and understanding to work place contexts
  • make sound judgments based on evidence and be able to communicate ideas effectively to others
  • learn and work independently as well as with others especially in solving problems and dealing with matters of professional practice
  • use existing and recently acquired knowledge in new professional contexts
At level 8/D students will have achieved the ability to
  • exercise a high level of personal responsibility and largely autonomous initiative in complex and unpredictable situations in professional contexts
  • take a leadership role in their field, demonstrating their confidence of mastery of a complex body of knowledge relating to their profession, with the ability to communicate it effectively to others both within and outside the work place
  • deploy resources relevant to their professional practice effectively in complex and sometimes new contexts taking into account social, political and ethical considerations

Key Skills
  • Communication - High levels of communication will be achieved through this programme (both written and oral), especially in the context of assessment tasks and the dissemination of research findings
  • Application of Number - An understanding of statistics and statistical analysis and its use in practical contextswill be achieved through research applications
  • Information Literacy and Technology - Development of skills in these areas will be achieved through the work based nature of the programme and the consequent need to maintain contact with the University and its on-line resources
  • Improving own learning and performance - The high degree of motivation and independent learning required on this programme will ensure development in these areas
  • Working with others - With the work place as the principal site of learning for students on this programme, development of this skill is assured
  • Problem solving - The focus of the programme is essentially around this area thus skill development in this context is assured

Transferable Professional Skills

A key aspect of the rationale for this programme is about continuing professional development and learning achieved in this context will inevitably have potential for transferability


The curriculum structure for this programme needs to be understood holistically.  The level 7/M modules are intended to prepare the student for, and to feed in to, the research projects. 

Thus, the principal aim of the Personal and Professional Review/Negotiated Programme Learning Agreement module is for the student to make a case for their readiness to engage in level 8/D study whilst also ensuring a mechanism for them to make application for any credit for prior learning that may be appropriate. This module also acts as the initial gatekeeper to level 8/D studies and provides the framework for the student to put forward their case for the areas of major research and to have it thoroughly tested before being allowed to proceed.

The Level 7 Designing Practitioner Research (IS7022) module is intended to ensure that the student has a broad understanding of research techniques and methodologies so that they can make informed decisions about the approaches that will best serve their needs.  

The Negotiated Experiential Learning (IS011) modules at level 7/M provide an opportunity for the student to undertake Work Based Learning in the chosen area for their research and to try out their ideas, including the testing of the various research methodologies that they consider it is most likely they will use.

As the student progresses to level 8/D, they will take the Practitioner Enquiry at Doctoral Level (IS8001) module which is designed to give them in-depth understanding of research at doctoral level and in particular to focus on the research method or methods they propose for their major practitioner research project.  The assessment of this module will include the completion of the major project research proposal which will be thoroughly tested through oral assessment.

Their in-depth understanding of doctoral level research will then be tested through application in the context of the Minor Practitioner Research Project (IS8002) module.  This will take a live issue in the setting of the workplace as the heart of the research and, through Work Based Learning, this will be explored and reported on as a precursor to the major research which forms the remainder of the programme.

The Major Practitioner Research Project (IS8003) may be a single project or up to three smaller linked projects which will be assessed holistically.  The Personal and Professional Review/Negotiated Programme Learning Agreement module at level 7/M will have established that the student has sufficient responsibility and influence to ensure access to the necessary information to carry out the research and, through the research, to make a positive impact on the organisation.  To this end, the Negotiated Programme Learning Agreement will normally require the signature of the student's line manager to ensure that the employer is fully cognisant of, and supportive of, the proposal.  The focus of the research will be concentrated on real business issues that either affect the daily operation of the workplace or are of strategic importance in terms of the development of the organisation.

At 8/D level studies students will be assessed against learning outcomes derived from the FHEQ level descriptor for qualifications at doctoral level.  Thus, inter alia, they will need to demonstrate originality in research and/or advanced scholarship that is worthy of publication and satisfies peer review by demonstrating new knowledge or applications extending the forefront of the principal disciplinary or professional focus of their enquiry.


  • Work Based Learning
  • Part-time study
  • Use of the work place as the principal site of learning
  • Flexible delivery including some on-campus meetings and learning opportunities
  • Negotiated time schedules with agreed hand-in dates
  • Projects designed to increase the learner's professional capabilities while, at the same time, addressing organisational objectives.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
IS7011 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (single) 20 Comp
IS7017 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (double) 40 Comp
IS7020 7 Negotiated Experiential Learning Module (Triple) 60 Comp
IS7022 7 Designing Practitioner Research 20 Comp
IS7508 7 Personal & Professional Review leading to Negotiated Programme Learning Agreement 40 Comp
IS8001 8 Practitioner Enquiry at Doctoral Level 30 Comp
IS8002 8 Minor Research Project 60 Comp
IS8003 8 Major Research Project 270 Comp

The overall award is made up of 540 credits, 180 of which are at level 7/M and 360 of which are at level 8/D.
Students exiting with an MProf. will have completed a minimum of 180 credit points at Level7 or above. This may include a maximum of140 credits of APCL/APEL. Students initially awarded in excess of 90 credits of APCL/APEL at Level7may need to complete Research Methods at Level8 and, in some cases, the Minor Practitioner Research Project at Level D before being eligible for an MProf. award. Where a decision is made for a student to exit with an MProf. the student may alternatively complete Negotiated Experiential Learning Modules (NELMs) at Level7 for the balance of credits required.

Applicants for the DProf shall normally have obtained at least an upper second class honours degree or lower second with a Master's degree.

Applicants who do not satisfy the above criteria but who have substantial research and/or professional experience may, in some instances, be acceptable. 

For example, a candidate holding a lower second with a minimum of 5 years professional experience at managerial level,

Or a candidate holding a lower second or a Master's degree without a first degree with 5 years teaching or lecturing experience,

Or a candidate holding a lower second with prior research experience operating at a senior level as an independent or principal researcher for at least two years.

To be admitted to the DProf programme, candidates must demonstrate that they have access to a suitable learning environment.  This will normally be their place of employment.  At interview, candidates will need to show that they have sufficient scope and influence within their job role to undertake major research, and that the nature of the work in which they are engaged provides opportunities for major research.

Students whose first language is not English will need to demonstrate competence of IELTS level 7.00.

There are no subject benchmark statements that can be referred to in this context.  However, the programme has drawn heavily on the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - January 2001 and the subsequent FHEQ/EWNI 2007 discussions.

A summary of the requirements for the award of a Doctor of Professional Studies degree reflect accurately the FHEQ statement regarding doctoral level awards in general.  Thus, for the DProf candidates will have shown their ability to undertake projects which they have conceptualised, designed and implemented and which have led to "the generation of significant new knowledge and/or understanding"(FHEQ ‘D' level descriptor, 2001).  DProf students will normally be in full-time employment and, through their programme of study, they will have increased their "ability to make informed judgments on complex issues in specialist fields" (ibid), and they will have demonstrated "innovation in tackling and solving problems" (ibid).  The successful completion of the DProf will be an assurance that they are at the forefront of their professional practice.

The principal method of programme delivery is negotiated work based learning with an emphasis on the facilitation of learning.  Work based learning requires students to accept a high degree of responsibility for their own learning.  Thus, much learning will be self-directed and autonomous while, at the same time, being supported by the University.  Work based learning also requires learners to engage in critical self-reflection and reflexive practice.  Work based learners are also members of communities of practice and it is expected that they will achieve considerable learning in such context.

There will be one-to-one sessions with a tutor as well as small group sessions, where economies of scale allow, introducing the programme and introducing modules, where it is appropriate to do so.  These sessions will be held on the University campus. 

Use will be made of on-line learning and communication facilities given that the principal site of learning for each student will be their place of work.  Thus, telephone and email will be common methods of communication between tutor and student, supported by on-line learning materials. 

Formal teaching sessions will be conducted where it is appropriate to do so, for example, the Practitioner Enquiry at Doctoral Level module.  There is an expectation that all students will attend the annual Research Colloquium.

If it forms part of their Negotiated Programme Learning Agreement, students may join one of the Action Learning Sets operating for students on the DBA programme.

Students will be given formative feedback on drafts of work in accordance with the policy of the Department.

The Major Practitioner Research Project will be assessed by a Project Report and a presentation and viva voce examination.

The Personal & Professional Review/Negotiated Programme Learning Agreement will have a number of assignments including a reflective essay and detailed learning agreement.

Practitioner Enquiry at Doctoral Level will be assessed through a written report and a detailed research proposal for the Major Practitioner Research Project.

For Negotiated Experiential Learning modules, it is expected that students will play a part in negotiating the way in which their WBL projects will be assessed.  Typically, this will include essays, written reports, portfolios of evidence, oral presentations, dialogue assessment, story-board assessment, assessment by artefact with supporting report.

Formative feedback will be offered to students on essays and written reports.

The Major Practitioner Research Project will reside within the University Regulations for Research Degrees.  All other modules within the programme will reside within University Regulations for Taught provision.

The holder of a Doctor of Professional Studies award will be an advanced professional who has

  • extensive knowledge and understanding of their field of professional practice
  • the ability to create and interpret knowledge such that it extends the forefront of a discipline or field of practice
  • undertaken original research and/or in-depth enquiry into an area of professional practice
  • conceptualised, designed and implemented projects for the generation of significant new knowledge and/or understanding
  • the ability to make informed judgments on complex issues in specialist fields taking account of social, political and ethical dimensions
  • the ability to be innovative in tackling and solving problems

The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.

A student's Doctor of Professional Studies programme will have a high degree of individuality built into it with the student taking a significant share of the responsibility for its planning, content and mode of delivery.  Students taking this programme should be aware that they need to be highly self-motivated and self-directed to maintain the necessary momentum to complete the programme successfully.  University support will be provided but the distance learning nature of the programme requires determination from the student and pro-activity in maintaining contact with tutors.  Successful completion of the programme would normally require the student to be in full-time employment at a sufficient level of seniority to influence strategic and/or operational decisions.

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