Professional Doctorate in Health and Social Care (DHSC)

    About This Professional Doctorate

    Course Description

    Professional doctorates are work-based programmes and studied part time. They offer you the chance to enhance your professional career to doctoral level enabling you to make a unique contribution to your profession or area of practice, while continuing to work and progress in your field.

    Professional doctorates aim to equip practitioners with the research skills, expertise and confidence to advance their practice and become champions of change within their areas of professional practice. The programmes promote the creation and interpretation of new professional knowledge and practice, resolving or reframing a professional dilemma, or contributing to the development of new ideas, methods or approaches.

    What will I get from a Professional Doctorate?

    You will acquire skills in research and enquiry and be able to use these to carry out research that will contribute to professional knowledge and practice. Our doctoral training programme will help you develop transferrable skills that will be invaluable throughout your career.

    Successful candidates are awarded a doctorate and are entitled to use the title 'Dr' (Doctor in Education or Doctor in Health and Social Care).

    The OU was established in 1969 as a publicly funded institution with the power to award degrees under the Royal Charter. Although the OU is most widely known for its part-time distance taught courses and degrees, it also has a long standing postgraduate research degree programme. The research degrees awarded by the OU are internationally recognised as comparable to those awarded by all other UK universities. It is, however, your responsibility to ensure the qualification is fully recognised if you are in a context outside of the UK.

    Doctorate in Health and Social Care (DHSC)

    The Doctorate in Health and Social Care (DHSC) is an innovative programme of part-time study designed predominantly for health and social care professionals, including registered nurses and social workers, but also other professionals working across health and social care including the public, voluntary and private sectors. The degree will also be open to people working as carers, whose role involves them working with the health and social care sector. Informal carers, ‘experts by experience’ advocates and ‘expert patients’ may also make an application to the programme. Applicants whose field of practice is through an informal, rather than paid, role, will need to carefully describe their field of practice and what access arrangements would be needed.

    The Doctorate in Health and Social Care (DHSC) programme is located within the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) and therefore draws on existing research expertise specifically from within the School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport (ECYS) and the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care (HWSC).

    We welcome research proposals that fall into one of the following areas of study:

    • Care and Advocacy
    • Nursing
    • Leadership in Health and Social Care
    • Social Work and Social Care

    How does it work?

    The OU does not offer research degrees by distance learning or correspondence. The Professional doctorates are blended learning part-time research degrees (rather than a distance learning degree or a taught course).

    Professional doctorates have a dedicated website for interaction and access to resources.


    4–8 years

    Participation and supervision

    You will study together with students enrolled in other Professional Doctorates.

    You will be required to maintain regular email contact with your UK-based supervisors and travel to the UK at your own expense to attend residential weekends and for your viva examination.

    You will be allocated two supervisors – your main one in year 1 and a co-supervisor in year 2 – and will have sessions with them via a variety of options including telephone, online conferencing or face-to-face.

    Pattern of study

    These are structured four-year part-time programmes of study in two stages: Stage 1 (2 years taught) and Stage 2 (2–6 years research component).

    The first stage of the doctorate focuses on skills development specifically to support your engagement with the research and the practice field your project is located in. This will include literature reviewing, identifying research questions and exploring different research designs and techniques. A commitment to ethical practice is embedded throughout the programme. Support for your learning is through a blended distance learning approach and includes online materials, guided discussion led by subject experts and an annual residential weekend in Milton Keynes. Stage 2 comprises of supported and supervised research.

    Residential weekends

    There are four residential weekends, one in each of the first four years, which are compulsory for all students to attend. You are expected to attend an initial induction at the first residential school in year 1, where you will meet your peers and main supervisor. Residential weekends will take place:

    • year 1 in October
    • year 2 in November
    • year 3 in February
    • year 4 in March.


    You will complete two formative assessments in both year 1 and year 2 of the programme and will receive feedback from your main supervisor. In addition, there is a summative assessment at the end of year 1 and year 2. The year 2 summative assignment will be the end of the first stage of your studies. You must pass each summative assessment before you can progress to the next stage of your studies.

    At the end of your research you must complete a 65,000-word thesis which you then defend to the satisfaction of the examiners via an oral examination. Your thesis must meet the expectations specified in the QAA Framework for Higher Education Qualifications.

    The thesis must demonstrate the relationship between theory and practice in education (EdD) or health and social care (DHSC), and the ability to select and apply appropriate research methods.

    Visit the Professional Doctorate in Health and Social Care (DHSC) page on the Open University website for more details!

    Entry Requirements

    Applicants should normally hold, or be expecting to obtain before the start of the degree in October, a Masters Degree in Education or in Health/Social Care, or a related discipline from a UK/EU university or another recognised degree-awarding body. Applicants should also have at least two years of relevant professional experience or, on the DHSC, informal expertise as a carer, expert patient or advocate.

    Course Fees

    See our fees and funding page for details

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