University of Chester

Programme Specification
Doctor of Public Health DPH
2017 - 2018

Doctor of Public Health

Doctor of Public Health

Doctor of Public Health (L8 2017 Programme DPH)

University of Chester

Faculty of Health and Social Care

University of Chester, Riverside Campus

Professional Doctorate

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory, Work-Based inc.(practice / placement)

3 years (full time), 4 years (part time)

7 Years

Annual - September




17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Health and Social Care Health and Social Care

  • QAA Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (2008, updated 2014): descriptor for qualifications at doctoral level.
  • The Research Council and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) joint statement on Skills Training Requirements of Research Students (2011).
  • The programme has been benchmarked against the Public Health Skills and Career Framework, which defines three overall functional areas of activity applicable to the UK multi-disciplinary public health workforce (Public Health England, 2016).


Postgraduate Programme Module Assessment Board

Tuesday 21st March 2017

The Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) programme is designed to meet the professional interests of a diverse group of graduate professionals working across the public health arena, such as doctors, nurses, workers from government agencies and voluntary bodies, and all individuals interested in or wishing to focus on any aspect of public health. The shift towards health sector provision based on public health principles was formalised at an international level by the World Health Organisations’ Millennium Sustainable Development Goals 2020 and nationally within the Health and Social Care Act 2012, leading to an increased demand for specialist public health practitioners who are able to effectively lead, research, evaluate and innovate public health provision.

Our DrPH is designed to support graduate professionals working across diverse public health sectors to conduct doctoral research in this complex and evolving arena. The programme is designed to equip students with the relevant methodological, theoretical and analytical tools needed to undertake work at doctoral level. Rather than having a specific academic context, the programme’s focus is on developing public health practitioners who are informed by, and ultimately contribute to, professional practice. The programme is therefore structured around three core theoretical concepts, which will be utilised throughout the programme to explore public health practice. These crosscutting themes are considered fundamental to gaining a deeper understanding of professional practice. The themes are the impact of philosophy on public health, which focuses on how the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and practice is embedded in day-to-day professional activities; an exploration of public health as a social construct, focusing on how human relationships and social institutions influence practice; and finally, the influence of political ideologies on public health, focusing on how ideology is embedded in policy enactments and the constraints of policy implementation within an institutional context.

The first stages of the course comprise taught modules that are delivered flexibly to fit in with the busy schedules of working professionals. Students study for these modules as a member of a group in which collaborative support for learning will be encouraged, and students will be furnished with the critical skills to enable them to conduct research at doctoral level. Research methodologies, social theory, philosophy, cultural practices, and policy form the major themes around which the teaching is structured. The three core theoretical principles will be utilised to explore public health knowledge and practice in a critical manner. The thesis requires that students apply the knowledge and skills that they have gained during the taught components of the course through completion of a doctoral level research project. Students are supported in selecting their research topics, and are provided with thorough supervision as they develop their thesis in the final stages of the study. Assessment of modules comprises a combination of written and practical coursework tasks. The final assessment is based on the doctoral thesis and viva.

The DrPH programme aims to:

  • Reframe the capacity of students to identify, conceptualise, and contextualise theoretical perspectives of public health and the effects of these on their professional context and practices, and facilitate the systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the forefront of a selected area of professional practice.
  • Construct reflective learners with the scholarly and critical skills to enable the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, particularly through original research into their profession to extend the forefront of the discipline, and of a quality to satisfy peer review and merit publication.
  • Produce students who are able to carry out original research commensurate with doctorate study, utilising appropriate research methodologies and methods, and looking into their professional practice, demonstrating the general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, service applications or understanding at the forefront of their professional practice.
  • Incorporate critical and reflexive skills to identify and utilise appropriate research designs, methodologies and methods, in order to evaluate research data to produce analyses that yield new findings and insights into their professional field, with commensurate reporting skills.
  • Facilitate students’ appraisal of national and international perspectives, politics, and ideologies of public health within changing global contexts, developing students’ capacity to generate insights into and new understandings of their professional roles and fields of practice.
  • Integrate creative and cultural practice within the wider public health arena.

Typically, holders of the DrPH will be able to:

  • Make informed judgements on complex issues in their specialist public health fields, and be able to communicate their ideas and conclusions clearly and effectively to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  • Continue to undertake applied research and development at an advanced level, contributing substantially to the development of new techniques, ideas, or approaches.
  • Conceptualise, design, and implement projects for the generation of significant new knowledge or understanding.

 and will have:

  • The qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and largely autonomous initiative in complex and unpredictable situations, in professional or equivalent environments.
  • The qualities needed for employment that require both the ability to make informed judgements on complex issues in their specialist field and an innovative approach to tackling and solving problems.
  • The qualities to engage with major scientific and organisational uncertainties and the dilemmas arising from systems changes and non-optimal services.

Students will be able to demonstrate:

  • 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 (all modules).
  • 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 (all modules).
  • Advanced understanding of research methodologies as they apply 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 (NM8006, NM8007, NM8008).
  • The ability to conceptualise, design and implement research 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 professional environment (all modules).

Students will be able 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 (all modules).
  • 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 (PH8003, PH8004, PH8005).
  • Communicate ideas effectively to both specialist and non-specialist audiences, demonstrating a command of their subject and/or area of professional practice (all modules).
  • Make independent judgements 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 (all modules).

Students will be able to:

  • Exercise a high level of personal responsibility and largely autonomous initiative in complex and unpredictable situations in professional contexts (all modules, but particularly NM8008).
  • 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 workplace (PH8003, PH8004, PH8005, NM8008).
  • Effectively deploy resources relevant to their professional practice in complex and sometimes new contexts, taking into account social, political and ethical considerations (PH8003, PH8004, PH8005).
  • Engage in creative and cultural practices (PH8005).

Effective communication skills are recognised as a vital component of doctoral study, and will be inherent in all modules.

  • Communication
    • Students will be able to achieve high levels of communication (both written and oral) throughout this programme, especially in the context of assessment tasks and the dissemination of research findings (all modules).
    • Students will be able to give oral presentations with an appropriate delivery style for the respective audience (all modules, in particular PH8005 and NM8008).
  • Application of number      
    • Through research applications, students will be able to achieve an understanding of statistics and statistical analysis, and their use in practical contexts (all modules).
  • Information literacy and technology
    • Development of these skills will be achieved through the part-time nature of the programme, and the consequent need to maintain contact with the University and its on-line resources (all modules).
  • Improving own learning and performance
    • The high degree of motivation and independent learning required on this programme will ensure development in these areas (all modules).
  • Working with others
    • With the workplace as the common site of learning for students on this programme, development of this skill is assured. In addition, there will be joint sessions on campus, which will have a multi-professional attendance (all modules).
  • Problem solving
    • The focus of the programme is essentially around this area, thus skill development in this context is assured (all modules).
    • Students will be able to construct coherent arguments and articulate ideas clearly to a range of audiences, formally and informally, and through a variety of techniques (all modules).
    • Students will be able to constructively defend research outcomes at seminars and viva examinations (all modules, in particular PH8005 and NM8008).
    • Students will be able to contribute to promoting the public understanding of their research field (all modules, in particular NM8008).

The qualifications offered are in line with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ 2008, updated 2014), and are compliant with the Public Health Skills and Career Framework 2008 (updated 2016).

The programme is at level 8 of the FHEQ and leads to a DrPH (Doctor of Public Health) award.

There are five taught modules and one independent research module. Three of the taught modules attract 40 credits (20 ECTS) and the remaining two taught modules attract 60 credits (30 ECTS). Each 40 credit module will provide 20 hours of tutor contact time within a total of 400 hours of student engagement. The 60 credit modules will provide 30 hours of contact time within a total of 600 hours of student engagement. Contact time will include lectures, workshops, and seminars.

The research module is the thesis and attracts 300 credits (150 ECTS). This is largely independent study, but will be supported by supervision.

To progress to the thesis stage students must successfully complete all compulsory modules. All modules are compulsory.

Modules are constructed in two strands:

  1. Theoretical underpinning
    This strand is made up of three modules to be taken sequentially: Philosophical Basis of Public Health Practice (PH8003, 40 credits), Sociology of Public Health Practice (PH8004, 40 credits), and The Politics of Public Health Policy and Practice (PH8005, 40 credits).
  2. Research
    This strand comprises modules to be studied sequentially: Research Methods (NM8006, 60 credits) and Thesis Proposal (NM8007, 60 credits), followed by Thesis (NM8008, 300 credits).

Students have up to seven years to complete the DrPH qualification.

Exit awards:

An exit award of a Master of Professional Studies (MProf) can be awarded to students who successfully complete at least 180 credits of Level 8 study within the programme.

Students will progress to the Thesis module subject to review by the Professional Doctorate Review Board.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
NM8006 8 Research Methods 60 Comp
NM8007 8 Thesis Proposal 60 Comp
NM8008 8 Thesis 300 Comp
PH8003 8 Philosophical Basis of Public Health Practice 40 Comp
PH8004 8 Sociology of Public Health Practice 40 Comp
PH8005 8 The Politics of Public Health Policy and Practice 40 Comp

In order to gain a named award of MProf Public Health, students must successfully obtain a minimum of 180 credit points at Level 8. This would normally be from PH8003, PH8004, PH8005 and NM8006.

In order to gain a named award of a DrPH, students must successfully obtain 540 credit points at Level 8.



Entry requirements

Admission to the Professional Doctorate in Public Health is guided by the precepts in the QAAHE Code of Practice, and is reflected in the following criteria:

  • Candidate appropriately qualified and prepared
  • Minimum 2:1 with master’s degree in appropriate subject


  • Substantial research or professional experience
  • IETLS 6.5 (or equivalent).

Applications are made initially to a dedicated staff member in Registry, who will consider these with the programme leader. All candidates will be interviewed prior to acceptance. Candidates will be asked to provide the interview panel with a written piece of work – no more than 500 words providing a critical response to a pre-determined question. This piece of work will be used as a diagnostic tool. Students must evidence the ability to write at level 7. Where the normal entry criteria are not met, attention will be given to the professional standing and experience of the applicant and a decision made accordingly. The offer of a place shall be made by Registry.

The normal entry requirement for the Professional Doctorate is a Master’s level degree or its professional equivalent. Exceptionally, where normal entry requirements are not met, consideration will be made of the professional standing, experience and achievements of the applicant, such as published papers for peer reviewed journals, and a decision made accordingly. The programme planning team aim to recruit from a number of areas referred to as ‘public health services’. Within the rapidly shifting landscape of public health, students may be recruited from areas not previously conceived as being the traditional domain of Prof Doc programmes. Consequently, the team welcome applications from individuals working or volunteering with third sector organisations, housing associations, community groups, fire and safety organisations, and the police. Applicants who apply with a non-academic background will be advised accordingly and the following options may be suggested:

  • Pre-reading and engaging with wider literature.
  • Undertaking a standalone level 7 module.
  • Enrolling on the initial module (PH8003) and reviewing progression

At the interview stage there will be consideration of the University’s ability to provide adequate supervision for the student at every stage of the programme, especially through the thesis stage. Where the University is unable to provide appropriate support and is not able to identify a viable source of external expertise, the candidate will be advised that the University is unable to offer a place on the programme. Additionally, candidates will also normally have access to a professional environment as a context for their study. If the student is unable to access a suitable professional environment, the programme team will seek to identify a suitable placement through its current public health networks. However, the responsibility for accessing a suitable professional environment rests with the student.

There is a single annual start date for entry to the programme; this is usually September.

In accordance with the University regulations for Professional Doctorates (Principles and Regulations Handbook G), students will be expected to demonstrate, at the point of application, that they have suitable professional experience and access to a professional environment.


Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) or Accreditation of Certificated Learning (APCL) at master’s level will not be accepted for entry to the DrPH.

For applicants previously enrolled on a doctoral (Level 8) programme of study, applications for APCL will be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine academic viability; this will be done by the programme leader in association with appropriate members of the team. The final decision will be taken by the programme leader in consultation with Registry.


International students will need to provide evidence of a recent IELTS score of no less than 6.5, with a score of no less than 5.5 in any band, and will be invited to interview. English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) students who are resident in the UK will be invited to interview and asked to present evidence of their qualifications in English. At interview, international and ESOL students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their effective speaking and listening skills.


The programme conforms to the QAA (2014) Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ) at Level 8 (doctorate level) and Level 7 (master's degree level), assuring the achievement represented by the qualification is appropriate and represented consistently.

The programme is informed by the professional values stated by the UK Professional Standards Framework:

  1. Respect for individual learners.
  2. Commitment to incorporating the processes and outcomes of relevant research, scholarship or professional practice.
  3. Commitment to development of learning communities.
  4. Commitment to encouraging participation in higher education, acknowledging diversity and promoting equality of opportunity.
  5. Commitment to continuing professional development and evaluation of practice.

It is informed by the Core Knowledge and Areas of Activity of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UK PSF) (2011) at Standard 2 or above.

Qualifications at professional doctorate level are awarded to students who:

  1. Make a significant and original contribution to a specialised field of inquiry, demonstrating a command of methodological issues and engaging in critical dialogue with peers, and accepting full accountability for outcomes (CIDG, August 2008).
  2. Meet the Framework for Qualifications for the European Higher Education Area third cycle awards:
  • Have demonstrated a systematic understanding of a field of study and mastery of the skills and methods of research associated with that field.
  • Have demonstrated the ability to conceive, design, implement and adapt a substantial process of research with scholarly integrity.
  • Have contributed through original research that extends the frontier of knowledge by developing a substantial body of work, some of which merits national or international refereed publication.
  • Are capable of critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas.
  • Can communicate with their peers, the larger scholarly community and with society in general about their areas of expertise.
  • Can be expected to be able to promote, within academic and professional contexts, technological, social, or cultural advancement in a knowledge-based society.

Typically, holders of the qualification will be able to:

  1. Make informed judgements on complex issues in specialist fields, often in the absence of complete data, and be able to communicate their ideas and conclusions clearly and effectively to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  2. Continue to undertake pure and/or applied research and development at an advanced level, contributing substantially to the development of new techniques, ideas, or approaches.
  3. Demonstrate they have the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and largely autonomous initiative in complex and unpredictable situations, in professional or equivalent environments (QAAHE, 2014).

Additionally, the recently updated Public Health Skills and Career Framework (Public Health England/Public Health Agency (NI)/Public Health Wales/Health Scotland, 2016) has been used to define and organise the core areas of knowledge and identify relevant skills. This framework, based on three areas of core function, is currently viewed as the main point of reference for developing a ‘skilled Public Health workforce that is fit for purpose to tackle health inequalities and deliver the national Public Health agenda’ (DH, 2016), and is consequently the defining set of standards for the whole public health workforce. However, the programme team are cognisant of other public health competencies which influence practice globally, such as: the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office’s Essential Public Health Functions (WHO/WPRO, 2016); the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Foundation Competencies, (CDC, 2016); and the Pan American Health Organization’s Essential Public Health Functions (PAHO, 2012).

It is not the intention of this programme to teach public health skills. There is a requirement that students being admitted to this programme have acquired appropriate skills via their professional standing. This programme intends to explore these standards via analysis of relevant methodological, theoretical and analytical frameworks.

The DrPH will work within the framework of the University’s Teaching and Learning Strategy, which defines four strategic aims:

  1. To develop successful learners.
  2. To design inclusive curricula.
  3. To promote excellence in teaching practice.
  4. To build institutional capacity for change.

The programme also reflects the Learning and Teaching Action Plan for the Faculty of Health and Social Care, and principles of teaching that:

  • Value students’ professional experience and prior learning.
  • Support diversity and personalised learning.
  • Encourage dynamic and participative learning.
  • Promote collaborative learning.
  • Encourage internet and web-based approaches.
  • Support reflective and practitioner enquiry.

The main methods of teaching are:

  • Lectures
  • Workshops
  • Tutor-led seminars
  • Group sessions
  • Individual tutorials
  • Field visits to selected open-access meetings of public health bodies
  • Independent study.

Formative feedback is available during the modules.

The programme adheres to the assessment policy of the Faculty of Health and Social Care, and to the University’s policy for the assessment of students with disabilities or special circumstances.

General principles (applicable to taught modules)

  • Feedback to students is provided four weeks following submission.
  • Extensions or deferrals can be granted if students produce documentary evidence of mitigating circumstances in support of their request.
  • Appeals against assessment decisions can be logged in accordance with the University’s academic appeals regulations.

Technology supported learning (TSL) will be utilised via Moodle module spaces to offer a variety of learning opportunities, including pre-reading prior to module commencement, the facilitation of critical debate via the discussion board, sharing of resources, and keeping up to date with programme announcements. TSL will be embedded by the programme team, working constructively and systematically towards integrating the following approaches across modules:

  • Online collaborative working including discussion forums.
  • Guided independent study.
  • Module tasks – including case scenarios or policy exercises.
  • Live 'chat forums' with academic staff tutors and fellow students.
  • Online presentations.
  • Preparation of materials for online dissemination to the group.
  • Developing shared online resources.
  • Online workshops.

As learners progress through the modules, working within a framework of independent and reflective learning, they will also develop as part of an online community of learners. This will be encouraged at the point of induction to the programme, and subsequently module materials which actively foster participation in activities will be incorporated, promoting online discussion and interaction.


All modules have a handbook; this is available to students via the dedicated module space on Portal (the University’s VLE). The module handbook includes information on:

  • Module aims and learning outcomes.
  • Outline content.
  • Assessment method (outlined below) which includes weighting.
  • Dates and procedures for submission of work.
  • Recommended reading session by session.
  • D level (level 8) assessment criteria.
  • Information about plagiarism.
  • Policy on late submission.
  • Regulations relating to extensions and deferments.
  • Regulations on appeals against assessment decisions.


Within the modular approach a variety of methods are utilised to ensure development of the required doctoral characteristics, including poster presentation, oral presentations, written essays etc., all of which will be marked online via Grademark; feedback will be made available via the Moodle site. Feedback is given against the module learning outcomes and the level 8 criteria. Feedback on the work is intended to identify strengths and points of development, particularly to achieve a publishable standard.

All such assessed work is marked using the University’s level 8 grading criteria linked to the QAA requirements for level 8. Level 8 criteria consistent for all taught doctorates in the University have been developed.

Anonymous marking does not apply. All work is second marked in accordance with the University policy. Where there is a disparity between the first and second marker, a third marker adjudicates.

Where the student is an employee of the University of Chester, all of the student's work will be sent to an external examiner.

In line with the QAA Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, all summative assessments will be based on evidence of the degree to which the student has demonstrated:

  • A systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge, which is at the forefront of their discipline and/or area of professional health and social care practice.
  • The general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of their field within health and social care, and to adjust the project in the light of unforeseen problems.
  • A detailed understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry within health and social care.
  • The acquisition of transferable intellectual and employment-related skills.

The Thesis module (including the viva voce), in keeping with University regulations, will be examined independently by at least one external examiner.

Supervisory arrangements will also follow the University’s regulations for research students.

The holder of a DrPH 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 or in-depth enquiry into an area of professional practice.
  • Conceptualised, designed, and implemented projects for the generation of significant new knowledge or understanding.
  • The ability to make informed judgements on complex issues in specialist fields taking account of social, political, resource efficiency and ethical dimensions.
  • The ability to be innovative in tackling and solving complex problems.

The programme adheres to the University's policy on equality and diversity, namely:

  • The University can only fulfil its responsibilities to students and staff and its broader responsibility to society if it builds on a foundation of respect for the dignity of each individual.
  • Discrimination is unacceptable within the University community in that it represents a waste of human resources and it unjustly denies individuals the opportunity to fulfil their potential. It can also be unlawful.
  • The active support of the University community is sought through the commitment and involvement of all groups of staff and students in the implementation of this policy.
  • The University is committed to a programme of action to ensure that this equal opportunities policy is fully effective. Positive action may be needed where there are historical imbalances.

To this end, the programme will ensure:

  • That all students and staff are treated with respect.
  • No student or professional colleague will be knowingly discriminated against.
  • All participants in and contributors to the programme will be encouraged to become involved in the development, management, delivery and evaluation of the effectiveness of the programme.

Professional placements will be sought for students who are not currently in a relevant professional role. Local public health practitioners will be involved in delivery of all modules, thus ensuring that access to a relevant role in a professional context is maintained throughout the programme.

International students who attend the programme should be cognisant of compliance with tier 4 student visa requirements. In particular students should note that;

International students attending the programme on a tier 4 visa will be expected to study on a full time basis.

That whilst holding a valid Tier 4 visa, students must be resident in the United Kingdom.

For all students there is an attendance requirement, which will be set at the commencement of the programme. In addition to taught sessions, students should ensure that they manage their personal weekly activities sufficiently to meet the requisite number of hours that should be devoted to self-study.

Students can undertake public health placements as part of the programme. However, students must not attend placement for more than 50% of their time on the programme.

Students can undertake paid employment for up to but not exceeding 20 hours per week.

On commencement of the Thesis element of the programme, students can return to their country of origin following agreement with the programme team and the University’s Compliance Office, on the understanding that the UKVI (Home Office) will withdraw the visa on the point of exit from the UK.

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