Professional Doctorate in Health and Social Care

Research to reflect on and contribute to professional practice

Star Course Overview

Why take this course?

The University of Portsmouth was one of the first institutions to respond to the rapid changes within health and social care by offering a Professional Doctorate in Health and Social Care Disciplines programme. This programme started in October 2000, and has been highly successful in its delivery to these professionals.

The Professional Doctorate is an alternative pathway to a doctorate qualification. It is a rigorous programme of advanced study and research, designed specifically to meet the needs of commerce, industry and professional groups and is the professionally oriented counterpart to the more theoretical PhD. It enables students to study a specific subject to the same depth as PhD students, but also allows them to apply learning to their professional practice.

What will I experience?

The Faculty of Science offers seven health and social care programmes at doctorate level:

  • Doctorate in Biomedical Science (DBMS)
  • Doctorate in Chiropractic (DChiro)
  • Doctorate in Health Science (DHealthSci)
  • Doctorate in Medical Imaging (DMedImg)
  • Doctorate in Nursing (DNursing)
  • Doctorate in Pharmacy (DPharm)
  • Doctorate in Social Work (DSW)

These routes are taught together and this enables students in each cohort to benefit from the experience of others and provides a unique inter-professional learning environment.

Is it for me?

The Professional Doctorate is open to a wide range of health and social care professionals, who have an active interest in practice-based research and professional practice issues, wish to attain the highest level of professional and academic achievement and develop their career within the health and social care arena. Relevance and application of the research to the professional environment will be a pivotal feature of the programme and reflection on practice will be integral to the learning process.

Internationally recognised

This course is recognised internationally as a qualification granted to those who have reached the highest level of professional and academic achievement in their field of endeavour.

What opportunities might it lead to?

On a personal level, successful completion of the Professional Doctorate will offer personal fulfilment, professional development, career enhancement and encourage reflective practice.

The programme aims to enhance personal development planning for continuing professional development and encourage an advanced level of critical, analytical, debating and publishing skills, plus knowledge of the range of different research methods encountered in professional practice.

Within the National Health Service (NHS) a Professional Doctorate is now being seen as an essential academic qualification for attaining higher level posts within the NHS Agenda for Change career framework.

Dr Barbara Lloyd, Prof Doc in Health and Social Care graduate

I think I became a different kind of person whilst doing the course, no longer suited to the demands of operational management but better at working on strategic developments where there is more time to reflect on the impact of change on both patients and staff.

Dr Barbara Lloyd, Prof Doc in Health and Social Care graduate

Key Facts

4-7 years part time. Start: October.
2017 entry requirements
A postgraduate level qualification or equivalent in an appropriate subject and a suitable workplace environment to support the professional research and development project. Applicants are subject to interview. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

UK/EU students: 
2017/18 entry: £2,570* p/a

Course is not eligible for Government Postgraduate Loan

International students: 
2017/18 entry: 

£6,300 p/a* for Doctorates in Health Science, Medical Imaging, Nursing and Social Work.
£7,200 p/a* for Doctorates in Biomedical Science, Chiropractic and Pharmacy.

*Fees are subject to annual increase.

If you are applying for Accreditation of Prior (Experiential) Learning (AP(E)L), the following charges will apply:
AP(E)L fee for "Advanced Research Techniques" unit - £360.00
AP(E)L fee for "Publication and Dissemination" unit - £360.00

View tuition fee terms and conditions
View additional course costs

+44 (0)23 9284 2994
School of Health Sciences and Social Work

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Light bulb Structure & Teaching

This is a part-time course, which has been specifically designed so that it can be available to health and social care professionals from all over the country, to fit with the demands of fulltime employment. The course structure is only offered in a part-time mode and is divided into two parts.

Attendance for Part 1 will be in six study blocks of three days duration spread over two academic years. Typically, students will be required to attend the University for up to 18 days for the whole of Part 1. Attendance for Part 2 will only be required for tutorials, seminars and oral presentations.

Part 1

This is the 'taught' component of the programme, which will equip students with the skills that they will need in preparation for Part 2. Part 1 consists of four units, namely:

Professional Review and Development

Advanced Research Techniques

Publication and Dissemination

Proposal for Professional Research and Development

Part 2

This is the research and professional development component and comprises one or two pieces of practice-based research, linked with a commentary demonstrating the relevance of the research to both practice and the practitioner. The nature of this study may include pure basic research or applied research related, for example, to a management or educational setting. This should normally take between 24 and 48 months to complete.

Assessment will be by a thesis, an oral presentation and a viva voce examination.

The University offers Accreditation for Prior Learning (APL), for applicants with previous learning experience and other academic achievement which could be taken into account for some of the units of study. Claims will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Teaching and Assessment

Each student will be assigned one or more University supervisors, depending on the area of research and professional development. Access to specialist advisors in the workplace will be required for Part 2 of the programme and will vary according to the area of investigation. We have excellent support systems for our Professional Doctorate students. All students are assigned a Personal Tutor for Part 1 as well as two Supervisors for Part 2 of the course.

There are further opportunities to attend Research Seminars and Workshops organised by the University's Graduate School.

How are you assessed?

The Professional Doctorate consists of coursework and research and is credit based. The coursework component is designed to help build on professional expertise by exposing students to challenging and innovative ideas in their field.

Assessment is by coursework (including preparation of an article for publication and a research proposal) and oral presentations. This should normally take 24 months to complete.

Programme Specifications

Professor Graham Mills

Tutor's view

Professor Graham Mills
Course Leader

This programme provides an opportunity for you to develop and enhance your work-based learning and research interest to the highest level in your professional field.

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Monitor Facilities & Features

Faculty of Science

As a member of the Faculty of Science you will be offered many opportunities. We have close working relationships with many industrial and professional employers, which will prepare you for a career within the science field and beyond.

The breadth of subject areas within the Faculty of Science is reflected in its research programmes. Researchers are working on projects as diverse as the truthfulness of witness statements, the corrosion of steel piling, the study of volcanic rocks and the on-going effects of the nuclear disaster on Fukushima.

Professional links

The School of Health Sciences & Social Work have developed a new collaborative partnership with one of our local health Trusts, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust. The Academic Department of Critical Care has an established national reputation for excellence in teaching and training and has a proven record of successful recruitment to multiple clinical trials, which form the basis of its clinical research portfolio. There is substantial overlap between the work of the Academic Department of Critical Care and the School’s curriculum, as well as shared research interests.

Graduate School

The University of Portsmouth Graduate School supports, administers and coordinates training for the MPhil, PhD, and Professional Doctorate programmes. We aim to involve you fully in our research programmes by providing professional training, offering high-quality supervision, and giving you the opportunity to develop your knowledge and to equip you for your future career or further research.

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

As well as full electronic access to the University's Library and Computing Services, you will also have access to a dedicated Professional Doctorate Student Resource Area, which holds a range of examples of student assignments, portfolios, publications, theses and viva presentation material to be used as reference material and guidance.

Budgeting for your studies

There may be extra costs arising from your studies which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Some are common costs to all courses of study. These may include the cost of study texts, reference books, photocopying and computer supplies. Others relate to specific courses and may include field trips, materials and specialist equipment.

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Mortarboard Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Where next?
Where next?

Those students completing the Professional Doctorate in Health and Social Care course will have moved to the next level of qualifications with the advantages that this offers in terms of learning and employability. They will also be in an excellent position to apply for any related doctoral training programme, research assistant positions, graduate teaching positions, or general research related roles.

Benefits to the workplace

Employment boosting opportunites
Employment boosting opportunites

The programme is predominantly work-based and the activities should benefit the practitioner's workplace. The decision to support an individual on this programme recognises their importance to the organisation. Through the projects undertaken it allows organisations to develop new processes and procedures that will be of benefit to the workplace.

Examples of recent and successfully defended Research and Professional Development Unit Projects include:

  • A model for the implementation of point of care testing facilities within an acute hospital environment.
  • An illuminative evaluation of an older person’s outreach and support team in an acute general hospital.
  • The gatekeeping role of general practice nurses in accessing primary care for patients requesting unscheduled consultations.
  • Optimisation of the diagnostic potential of coagulation assays for the laboratory diagnosis of lupus anticoagulants.

Career planning

Career planning
Career planning
6.04 minutes

To make sure you take the right steps on your career path, we’re here to give you help, support and advice throughout your study. Even after you’ve graduated, we continue to give you support for up to five years.

Employers tell us that they want graduates to be able to demonstrate certain skills when they come out of university. Our courses take account of this. We make sure we prepare you for employment through work-related learning, projects, placements and working in simulated environments that are designed to prepare you for the working world.

Dr Vanessa Marvin, Prof Doc in Health and Social Care graduate

This course has helped me in many ways. I began to feel I really was an expert in my field and had reached the top of clinical pharmacy. I gained confidence in dealing with a specialist area where, without projects like mine getting written up and disseminated, knowledge about the topic came from making clinical decisions one patient at a time.

Dr Vanessa Marvin, Prof Doc in Health and Social Care graduate

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Apply now

Online application form

Apply direct using our online form

Your application will be received by the University Admissions Centre for consideration.

Visiting opportunities

Postgraduate Information Days

Our Postgraduate Information Days for 2016 entry have now finished.

If you would like to visit the campus you can download our free walking tour for a self-guided tour of the University. You can visit Monday - Friday between 8.30am and 4.00pm. We have an open-door policy so you will be able to take a look into our buildings, speak to some of our support services and get a feel for the campus. Find out more information about our self-guided walking tours.

If you are unable to visit us, why not contact the admissions team for your course of interest via our course pages.

If you have any further enquiries about postgraduate study at Portsmouth, including advice on the Postgraduate Loan for 2016 entry plus scholarships and bursaries available visit our postgraduate pages.

International Students

Staff from our international Office regularly attend overseas exhibitions. To find out more about these and our visits to your region see our International Office exhibitions page.

Fees and Funding

Find out more about fees and funding available to you at Portsmouth.