Research Studies on Impact

The influence of professional doctorates on organisations and professional practice

Introducing the study


The present study arose from many different concerns:


  • Firstly, we are concerned that we need more research that underpins our practice in work related and Professional Studies at Middlesex and partner organisations, reflecting our extensive developments over 25 years or more in curriculum innovation in this area.


  • Secondly, most studies of the impact of educational programs, including doctorates, have focused on the effects they have on the graduates, not on their workplaces, and the effects of education on work are becoming increasingly important.


  • Thirdly, the Doctor of Professional Studies (DProf) is explicitly designed to bridge the world of study and work, so it is important to determine what influences it has beyond those on the immediate graduates.


  • Fourthly, one of the increasingly important features of the PhD is collaborative work between candidates/alumni and supervisors/advisers. we wish to develop more collaboration in the DProf by working with Alumni and current candidates. We see this study as a small step towards new forms of collaboration between academics and DProf candidates and graduates, working on issues that are of common interest.



For this research study, four  tutors and ten alumni are operating as co-researchers investigating their own practices and that of others. The focus of the study is summed up in the research question:


How does undertaking a DProf influence the organisations and contexts in which candidates operate?


We plan to start with what candidates have produced at the time of completion of their Prof Doc and work forward to other indicators of impact of their studies, as an earlier study suggested that many influences are not captured in their reports or are not evident at the time of graduation.


There are many influences which may need to be taken into account, for example, the nature and size of the organisation or professional field within which candidates operate, the nature of their responsibilities and the degree of buy-in of their organisation (or professional field in the case of those not employed within an organisation, e.g. consultants) to the particular study they undertake.


Through exploring this research question, we hope to contribute to our understanding of the effect and effectiveness of professional doctorates. We hope that this will lead to publishable research and that this in turn can be fed back to the conduct of DProfs to improve such programmes.



David Boud

Carol Costley

Steve Marshall

Brian Sutton


David Boud is based in Sydney, Australia, though he works in Melbourne at Deakin University and London at Middlesex University. He normally spends three months of the year in Europe.


He has been involved in educational research throughout his career, focusing mainly on teaching and learning in higher and professional education, assessment for learning and learning in workplaces. He was Professor of Adult Education at the University of Technology Sydney for twenty years and in now holds an honorary position there.


He has been involved in many innovations, such as problem-based learning, work-based learning, using reflection in courses, professional doctorates and self and peer assessment and has written about them. See the list on Google Scholar:


Most of his current work focuses on running the Centre for Research on Assessment and Digital Learning at Deakin University. Deakin is an unusual institution as its students can move seamlessly between studying face-to-face and in the cloud, unit by unit. This means all courses have to work in both modes all the time and teaching, learning and assessment have to accommodate this.


Carol Costley is a Professor of Work and Learning and Director of the Work and Learning Research Centre at Middlesex University.  Carol is Chair of the International Conference on Professional Doctorates  since 2009, Chair of the 'Association of Practice Doctorates' since 2009 and 'Researching Work and Learning' conference series committee member since 1999. Her research interests are in Professional Doctorates and Work based learning, especially in examining methodologies and epistemologies in work and learning and how they are additional to and support subject based approaches to knowledge.


She gained her PhD (1993) from the University of Surrey and she holds a Master's Degree in Work Based Learning Studies. She also holds professional qualifications in teaching and learning.

Carol works with organisations in the private, public, community and voluntary sectors internationally in the learning and teaching of work-based, taught and research degrees. She was an executive member of the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) 2005-2011 and convenor of the UALL network for Work Based Learning 1998-2011.


Steve Marshall




I’m currently the Academic Director for the Executive Doctorate in Organisational Change (EDOC) at Ashridge/Hult and live just south of Lincoln, out in the sticks, with my wife and two kids, a couple of horses and a few dogs.


I took my first degree in Photography, Film and TV and started a career as a freelance editorial and advertising photographer in London before joining the British military for a 22 year stint as a fast-jet pilot.  Along the way, I collected an MBA and the Ashridge MSc in Organisational Change before leaving the military to set up my own consultancy practice in 2004.


It feels like photography and film (now video) have never been far away; my doctorate helped me rediscover a passion for imagery of all kinds as I used photographs to understand how adults can rediscover a sense of creative identity.  Now I find myself increasingly drawn to visual methods as a way of transcending otherwise stuck, repetitive conversations in organizations.


I’m a practitioner at heart but, over the years, have become increasingly fascinated in action research as a way of bringing about generative, participative and broadly helpful change.  In this respect, my EDOC role is a fabulous privilege and this exploration into the impact of Professional Doctorates is a great opportunity to both research and extend this way of working.





Brian is based in Wiltshire just outside the cathedral city of Salisbury, where he lives with his wife.


Brian has variously been a mechanical engineering designer, a Naval Officer, an IT Programme manager and a management consultant.  He holds a BSc in Engineering from Bath University, an MSc in IT Management from the London School of Economics and a Doctorate in corporate education from Middlesex University.  In the late 90’s he was Professor of Systems Management at the Information Resources Management College of the National Defense University, Washington DC. 


For the last 15 years Brian’s focus has been on the design and development of work based learning programmes in support of major organisational change initiatives, in this capacity he has worked with the leadership teams of several global companies in the FMCG arena.  He consults widely in the area of leadership, innovation management, programme management and learning development. In his role at Middlesex University he works on the transdisciplinary practice doctorate where he supervises around a dozen students from many nations around the world. In addition he is joint programme director of the masters in professional practice and in this capacity he supervises a further 8 students.


His own doctoral work was on how corporate organisations value their learning development initiatives so this current research is a logical extension of a long held passion.




You can contact Brian at

co-researchers, alumni of the DProf

Richard Parsons

Dr. Chijioke Agomo

Reka Czegledi-Brown

Ghada Howaidy


Angela Herbert

Ayodele Hippolyte

Andrew Mountfield

Jane Riddiford

Dr. Betty Anne Schwarz


Bradley Viner