Professional Doctorate in Policy Research and Practice

    About This Professional Doctorate

    Course Description

    This pioneering doctorate will enhance professional capability and critical reflection on the theories, methods and practices of policymaking.

    This course is designed to enable experienced professionals working in a range of policy arenas – locally, nationally, and globally – to develop their policy analysis expertise without having to take a full career break. Combining advanced training in policy research and analysis with a thesis based on original research, it is based on a cohort model and can be spread out over four to six years.

    Throughout the course, you will have access to a wide range of sector-specific expertise across the University, including industrial strategy, international development, health, education and digital public policy.

    This is a part-time distance-learning course including face-to-face teaching on a two-week residential, this year held at the end of August and early September. The course is designed to be compatible with near full-time employment over a period of up to six years with the possibility of being completed more quickly for high-performing students who can allocate more time to study.

    Educational aims of the course

    This course is designed to:

    • give particular priority to multidisciplinary research and learning relevant to the workplace, to enhance the academic and the professional contribution that policy makers and practitioners can make to theory and practice in their field
    • engage current practitioners with knowledge, awareness and understanding of philosophical, organisational, political, social, economic, managerial, interpersonal, and technical dimensions of policy
    • broaden capability to understand critical issues facing policy makers in diverse fields and contexts
    • provide you with a strong foundation from which they can hone their specific interests towards the conduct of supervised research and make an original contribution to their field
    • support you in publishing and disseminating your research

    Course structure

    You must complete the course within eight years. The length will vary depending on how long it takes you to complete the taught stage (minimum two years) and research stage (minimum two years).

    Occasionally we make changes to our programmes in response to, for example, feedback from students, developments in research and the field of studies, and the requirements of accrediting bodies. You will be advised of any significant changes to the advertised programme, in accordance with our Terms and Conditions.


    The course is structured in two stages: the taught stage and the research enquiry (thesis) stage.

    Each academic year starts with a two-week residential, normally held in the first two weeks of September. This is followed by virtual seminars, tutorials, and supervision leading to submission of assignments at the end of May. Attendance at the annual residential is compulsory for at least the first two years, and thereafter strongly encouraged.

    Your academic progress and general welfare will be monitored by a personal tutor (taught stage) and supervisor (research stage).

    Taught stage

    During the first year, you will develop the knowledge and capability to understand and use a range of research methodologies, novel analytical frameworks and toolkits to address key issues within a broad policy context. You will complete two compulsory core units:

    Transformational Policy and Practice

    This unit introduces theoretical understandings of policy and policymaking and how they relate to practice. It includes a series of case studies of policymaking and implementation from different countries.

    Policy Research Methodology

    This unit will develop your knowledge and understanding of the methodologies (philosophic frameworks) employed in policy research, their advantages and disadvantages, as well as the merits of particular quantitative and qualitative methods.

    Specialist streams

    Over the subsequent two years you choose two specialised units, relevant to your field of practice, from a choice of up to four units. These enable you to develop and hone specific interests towards the conduct of supervised research. The current optional units are:

    • international development policy
    • education policy
    • health policy
    • digital public policy
    • industrial strategy: science, technology and place
    • an open ‘reading paper’ comprising literature research into a self-selected topic with the support of an academic advisor

    We will ask you to choose specialist units during your first year, so we can plan teaching resources for the following year.

    You can progress to the research enquiry stage when you have passed four taught units, with a grade of ‘Merit’ or higher for at least two.

    Research enquiry (thesis stage)

    You will spend at least two years developing a supervised research enquiry. Supervision is primarily provided virtually over this period but we would normally expect that you adhere to a minimum number of face-to-face contact hours.

    We also provide other online support for you during this time including webinars and online forums.

    Skills training

    You should engage in skills training at each stage of your course. In the research enquiry stage, we expect you to complete five days of skills development each year. Elements of this training are provided online to ensure greater flexibility for you during your time away from campus. Together with your supervisor or assignment tutor, you will be responsible for identifying your principal training needs and for identifying appropriate developmental opportunities to meet these.


    Each core and specialist unit carries 18 credits. You must successfully complete 270 credits (at level 8) to be awarded the DPRP:

    • total of at least 72 credits during the 2-3 year taught stage
    • 198 credits for the supervised research enquiry during the 2-3 year research stage

    Each 18 credit taught unit will normally be assessed through an assignment of 8,000 words – excluding references and annexes. You may be requested to also pass an oral or written defence of their submission.

    The Unit Convenor, in consultation with the Director of Studies, designates individual assignment tutors for each student to support work on assignments and to serve as the First Internal Examiner in assessing the assignment. You negotiate the details of each assignment with your designated assignment tutor for the relevant unit.

    The 45,000 word supervised thesis will be assessed by the same arrangements and criteria as to those for the award of a PhD.

    Read more about requesting extensions for assignments.

    Visit the Professional Doctorate in Policy Research and Practice page on the University of Bath website for more details!

    Entry Requirements

    First or 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject, from a recognised university. Advanced qualification (MEd, MA or MPhil) in a related field. Where professional experience is extensive and has involved research practice, this requirement may be waived. Professional requirements: Appropriate professional experience in the practice of policy or a related field. Students in the programme will normally be expected to have at least three years of experience.

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