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Research degrees
Degrees we offer
Professional Doctorates (EdD/DHSC)

Professional Doctorates (EdD/DHSC)

  • Are you an experienced professional in education or health and/or social care seeking to develop themselves personally and professionally?
  • Are you already qualified to masters level and looking for the next challenge?

Our Professional Doctorate programme could be the opportunity and challenge you seek.

What is a Professional Doctorate DHSC/EdD?

Professional doctorates are an academic qualification at the same level as a PhD (Level 8). The main difference is that they are designed to support original research that will have an impact on practice and/or policy, as well as theory.

They are studied part-time and designed to enable committed professionals to study and develop their own practice-based research in a structured and supported environment. 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.

What Professional Doctorates can I study at The OU?

Doctorate in Education (EdD)

This is an innovative programme of part-time study designed for professionals working in the field of education and related areas who want to extend and deepen their knowledge and understanding of contemporary educational issues. It is for professionals in education, including head teachers and trainers, but also other professionals working in an educational context in formal and non-formal settings including the public, voluntary and private sectors.

The EdD programme not only draws on existing research expertise across the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS), but it also draws on the wide educational research expertise across the University.

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

  • Childhood and Youth Studies (including Sports)
  • Curriculum, Equity and Assessment
  • Educational Leadership, Management and Development
  • Technology-Enhanced Learning
  • Language and Literacy

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

What will I get from a Professional Doctorate at the OU?

The OU has a successful track record of delivering innovative and highly flexible education, and of supporting students to combine study alongside professional and personal commitments. The Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, in which the DHSC/EdD are located, has a world-class reputation for pioneering participatory and inclusive research, and has a history of engaging with communities of practice and policy-makers to generate critical, impactful and solution-orientated research. The OU has a long history of taught doctorate programmes, having delivered a well-established Doctorate in Education (EdD) for over 22 years.

Studying with students on both the EdD and DHSC you will have access to professional researchers across a broad range of education, health and social care fields of practice. This means your study and research will be able to reflect the increasingly multidisciplinary and multi-agency culture of these areas of practice. 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 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.

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).

Stage 1 of the programme aims to equip you with the skills and knowledge to support your engagement with the research and the practice field in which your project is located. This phase will involve you studying self-taught online modules on topics including:

  • the context of education or health and social care research
  • literature reviewing
  • the principles of research design
  • research ethics
  • methodology
  • approaches to data collection and analysis.

Stage 2 forms the ‘research’ component of the programme. During this time, you will carry out your study and work towards completing your thesis. In both stages (1 and 2) you will be supported through online seminar discussions and annual residential weekends at the OU’s campus in Milton Keynes.

Residential weekends

There are four residential weekends, one in each of the first four years, which are compulsory for all students to attend. The Year 1 residential weekend will produce an initial induction to the professional doctorate, and all will consist of supported discussions, seminars and workshops providing a great opportunity to meet up with your peers, supervisors and the programme team. 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.

The assessment in Years 1 and 2 will focus on developing your literature review, refining your research questions and extended proposal for research, preparing you for Stage 2 of the programme. Stage 2 has a structured schedule of submission of formative assignments which will pace your through ‘work in progress’ pieces that work towards your thesis chapters and provide regular opportunities for feedback.

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.

Entry requirements

Am I eligible?

You can register for a Professional Doctorate from anywhere in the world.

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.

In exceptional circumstances, applicants who do not have a masters degree may be able to demonstrate suitability for postgraduate level research in relation to the nature and scope of the proposed work. Publications, written reports or other appropriate evidence of previous research may count as such evidence.

English language proficiency

To study with us, you will need to have a good command of English. If your first language is not English, you will need to verify your competence in the English Language in all four elements (reading, writing, listening and speaking). The University requires a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any of the four categories (or approved equivalent). If you are an overseas student, you must have your level of proficiency certified through a provider approved by UK Visas and Immigration and provide your certificate and grade with your application.

If you need to prepare for an IELTS test, you may want to consider doing the free course Inside IELTS: Preparing for the Test with the Experts.

Find out how to apply.

By the end of the first year of my EdD, I felt confident enough to call myself a doctoral researcher. The more I study and discuss my research with my supervisor, the more I feel that I am poised to make a significant impact into the world of Higher Education. My supervisor is totally invested in the development of my investigations, and I look forward to our sessions as I always leave them inspired and energised.

Mel Green
Mel GreenEdD Student, Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies

I have really enjoyed the first two years of my DHSC. It’s been a long time since I had such a good opportunity to stop and think, which does feel like a luxury at times. The Covid-19 pandemic was a particular challenge to studying. However, the flexibility of OU study really came into its own, and the support of supervisors and the DHSC Team made it possible to get this far.

Judith Davies
Judith DaviesDHSC Student, Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies

Your questions

For advice about applying for a research degree, or sponsoring a research student, email the Graduate School or call +44 (0)1908 653806.