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"What light do professional doctorates throw on the question of what counts as knowledge in the academy at the start of the twenty-first century?" (Bourner et al. 2001: 81)

Author - Sandra Fisher

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Professional doctorates in practice

In its promotional material for the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programme the University of Sheffield indicates that the main aim of the Ed.D. professional doctorate is ‘to offer a structured programme that will develop high standards of research and will be relevant to a range of professional and managerial careers’ (University of Sheffield 2003: 3).

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) describes the aims of its Doctor in Clinical Psychology as follows:(see note 2)

The core purpose of the course is to produce professionally qualified clinical psychologists who are equipped with the skills to respond flexibly to changing demands of the Irish health services, with the ability to work at different levels of health care systems and the ability to adapt those skills to different settings and client groups. The Doctoral Programme in Clinical Psychology is a three-year doctoral degree course integrating the practical, academic and research aspects of the profession of clinical psychology in order to promote the highest quality of practice.
(Trinity College Dublin 2004)

Professional doctorates are designed to develop ‘research-based career development for experienced and senior practitioners in the professions’ (Bourner et al. 2001: 70).

A core aim of professional doctorates as defined by UKCGE is the development of the professions and professionalism. The aim appeals to the aspirations of the individual student and their organisation/professional body. The University of Sheffield Ed.D. specifies its programme is suitable for both professional and managerial careers. The TCD programme also indicates its programme is suitable for diverse roles within the health service.

The TCD programme emphasises the acquisition of skills and as well as stating the programme includes ‘practical, academic and research’ aspects. The University of Sheffield programme offers a ‘structured’ programme, which could be interpreted as providing the student with some certainty as to the content, direction, and duration of the programme.

The aims of both the University of Sheffield and TCD programmes include reference to standards. The University of Sheffield speaks of ‘high standards of research’ and TCD is promoting ‘the highest quality of practice’.

It is useful at this stage to introduce a summary table, which provides a comparison between the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and the traditional Ph.D. Table 1 provides a comparison of career focus and intended learning outcomes between the two doctoral programmes.

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