Why my doctorate is NOT a PhD…

By Tegan Darnell

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is a doctoral qualification which has been formally awarded by universities since the Middle Ages.

A university class, 1350sA university class, (1350s). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Laurentius_de_Voltolina_001.jpg

The aim of a PhD is usually to provide someone with the skills they need to become a ‘scholar’. But, what if you don’t want to be a ‘scholar’?

In Australia, today, the PhD is one of a number of Doctoral level degrees that meet the criteria for Doctoral study, which the highest level of qualification according to the Australian Qualifications Framework.

There are 3 main types of Doctoral degree in Australia;

  1. A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD),
  2. a Professional Doctorate (eg. DEdu, DBA, DEng, etc.), or
  3. the Doctor of Professional Studies (DPS).

A PhD is used to show that a student can “conduct research independently and make a significant contribution to new knowledge” (USQ handbook), or, ‘be a researcher’.

A Professional Doctorate allows someone who is already a practising professional to develop theoretical and research skills within a specific field or discipline.

The Doctor of Professional Studies (DPS) allows you to combine your professional work with study and obtain an ‘interdisciplinary’ or ‘trans-disciplinary’ doctoral degree based entirely in your workplace.

While a PhD makes an original contribution to knowledge, the DPS specifically aims to make a significant contribution to practice. Outcomes do not need to be entirely academic, but can consist of artefacts such as project reports, software, or products.

Although it is established at a number of universities in the US and the UK, USQ is one of only two universities in Australia which offers a DPS .

The program Director, Dr Luke Van der Laan, is passionate enough about the program that I was convinced very quickly it was the right program for me.

I’m still convinced, 18 months (and many frustrations and tears) later…

For more information, see: Helen Wildy, Sanna Peden & Karyn Chan (2015) “The rise of professional doctorates: case studies of the Doctorate in Education in China, Iceland and Australia”, Studies in Higher Education, 40:5, 761-774, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2013.842968

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About Tegan Darnell

Librarian, USQ Doctoral student, and the Principal Editor of ReDBlog. Tegan's research topic for the Doctor of Professional Studies is how librarians’ narratives inhibit or create preferred library futures, and creating spaces for librarian transformation.

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