Past Event details

What is the ‘Professional’ in Professional Doctorates?

Monday, 24 June 2019


This session, the third Postgraduate Issues Network seminar in a series of three over the last three years or so on the professional doctorate, allows us to step back and consider issues of professionalism and how the professional doctorate represents professionalism.  Questions underlying the presentations included in this seminar consider, amongst other things:

  • how the candidate is formed for the specific professional work context
  • how, by contrast, the candidate is formed professionally in a general sense (being ‘professional’)
  • by contrast, further, focusing on organisations, the impact on the HE institution or on the workplace or the whole profession.  

Dr Jacquetta Lee, University of Surrey
The ‘Practitioner Doctorate’, Industry and the Workplace

The Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability at the University of Surrey has been designed to produce professional, articulate and effective practitioners in the field of sustainability. The students are exposed to academic and transferable skills development, coupled with long term immersion in the real working environment (minimum of 2 years, normally up to 4 years). This combination provides an environment where individuals can develop the necessary skills required for ‘professional’ life (predominantly our alumni are to be found in leading industry or government positions), as well and identifying and honing their particular abilities, for example, detailed quantitative analysis, or ideas generation. Ultimately, whilst the programme delivers solutions to sustainability issues raised by industry, its main achievement is to produce individuals who are well equipped to manage and thrive in any professional environment and subject area.



Dr Paula Nottingham, Middlesex University
Providing a Trandisciplinary Pathway for Practitioner Research Studies

The Doctor of Professional Studies (DProf Trandisciplinary Practice) has progressively developed its innovative practitioner research pedagogy to conceptualise a practice-centred and transdisciplinary approach to research involving complex and situated working practices. At the heart of the research context is the practitioner, their experience, expertise, values, perspectives and agency. Senior practitioners come from many different professions, established and emerging, and seek to identify meaningful professional challenges that lead to leadership of self and others and to integrated organisational change. Research projects have the potential to provide creative responses to challenges through conceptualising professional practice beyond disciplinary boundaries and through innovative methodologies and approaches to complexity including abduction and transdisciplinarity. The research undertaken relates to a wider field of practice-theory to enhance professional leadership within organisations and of benefit to wider communities. The programme recognises the significant pre-existing professional knowledge senior practitioners bring to the academy which supports creative knowledge exchange and amplifies notions of professionalism for both.



Dr Mariangela Lundgren-Resenterra, University of Applied Sciences and Arts – Western Switzerland and

Dr Peter Kahn, University of Liverpool
The impact of a professional doctorate on the workplace organisations: a critical realist perspective

Research on the impact of professional doctorates on students and their workplace organisations has reported contested outcomes. We undertook a study to develop a causal explanation of how organisational change may, or may not, result from participation in a Doctor of Education programme. Drawing on critical realist perspectives, the research found that the sharing of professional concerns with their work colleagues fostered in some cases social relations that sustained both collective meta-reflexivity and a performative collective reflexivity, and that this prompted organisational change (Lundgren-Resenterra & Kahn, 2019). Variation in the students’ impact on their organisations was further connected to their organisational roles, and to the extent to which their agency aligned to organisational agendas or other external regulatory and normative systems. Organisational change was, however, challenged where collective reflexivity was seen to be constrained or to involve contestation. The paper concludes that significant benefit can be gained by conceiving learning on a professional doctorate not only in terms of personal growth, but also in terms of mastering a discourse that crosses both research and professional practice and in developing the capacity to draw others into that discourse in an organisationally-relevant and yet critical fashion.

ref.: Lundgren-Resenterra, M., & Kahn, P. E. (2019). The organisational impact of undertaking a professional doctorate: forming critical leaders. British Educational Research Journal.



The presenters:


Dr Jacquetta Lee has a MEng in Mechanical Engineering and Materials and holds a PhD in Environmental Systems Analysis from Cranfield University. Prior to joining the Centre for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Surrey, she worked for Rolls-Royce plc in their Environmental Strategy Department, specialising in Life Cycle Assessment and Design for Environment.

On joining academia in 2003, she spent two years as a Leverhulme Special Research Fellow, investigating the potential for television to influence environmental behaviour of consumers. Dr Lee has a holistic approach to sustainability systems analysis, incorporating environmental and social aspects from both academic and industrial perspectives.  She has over 25 years of experience across a diverse range of industrial sectors including aerospace, electronics, construction, agriculture, the fast moving consumer goods market, automotive, nano-technology, architecture, and nuclear energy.  

As Director of the Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability Programme and Reader in Sustainable Systems Analysis at the at the University of Surrey, Dr Lee is responsible for engaging major industry leaders and high calibre postgraduate researchers to work collaboratively on specific research briefs designed to resolve current sustainability issues within industry.  This innovative programme offers an unparalleled opportunity, uniting academia and industry to develop solutions that will have enduring value for individual organisations, industry and governance, and creating an environment where individuals are encouraged and supported to reach their full potential in diverse and rapidly changing industries.

Her current areas of research interest include the operationalisation of Absolute Sustainability through:

  • Business appropriate mid-point indicators for Life Cycle Sustainability Analysis,
  • The development of Stock and Flow (Performance Economy) diagrams for decision making in business
  • Social life cycle assessment approaches
  • Using internet trends to optimise the circular economy

She is leading research into reducing uncertainty in early design decision making within aerospace, and improving resource efficiency in the electronics industry.


Dr Paula Nottingham is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Professional and Social Sciences at Middlesex University and is currently working on the professional doctorate programme. Paula has been a member of SRHE since 2006 and is the co-convenor for the UALL Work and Learning Network.


Dr Mariangela Lundgren-Resenterra is a recent graduate from the University of Liverpool’s online EdD programme and a lecturer in human and organizational behavior at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts – Western Switzerland. She is interested in research that applies the critical realist approach to the study of learning and teaching strategies in higher education.

Dr Peter Kahn is Director of the Centre for Higher Education Studies at the University of Liverpool, and Director of Studies for the fully-online professional doctorate (EdD) in Higher Education. He is engaged in research that applies critical realist perspectives to the study of higher education and is a National Teaching Fellowship holder and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. His research interests centre on the application of perspectives from critical realism and realist social theory to the study of higher education, taking in such areas as collaborative working, student engagement, academic development, learning theory, reflective practice, professionalism in medical education, widening participation and academic writings skills.


Network: Postgraduate Issues
Date(s): Monday, 24 June 2019
Times: 11:30 - 16:00
Location: SRHE, 73 Collier Street, N1 9BE
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