Appendix G: Professional doctorate guidelines

Professional doctorate guidelines/minimum standards

1. Preamble

These guidelines have been developed on the basis of the Council of Australian Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies (DDOGS) 1998 professional doctorate guidelines.

2. Definition

The DDOGS document defines a professional doctorate as:

a program of research, scholarship and advanced study which enables students to make a significant contribution to knowledge and practice in their professional context. In doing so, a student may also contribute more generally to scholarship within the discipline or field of study…..Professional doctorate students should be required to apply their research and study to problems, issues or other matters of substance which produce significant benefits in professional practice.

The Council expects students to be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Sound research skills, ethics and practice
  • A broad understanding of the role of research in professional practice
  • A broad practical knowledge in the relevant professional field
  • A critical understanding of the relevant literature, theories, methodologies and/or debates
  • Effective work practices and collaborative skills, and
  • Good presentation and communication skills.

3. Monash professional doctoral governance

3.1. Degree Titles

Faculties, in proposing new programs should avoid any nomenclature that has the potential to create confusion between professional doctorates and higher doctorates within the same discipline.

3.2. Approval Process

Faculties should submit research degree course and unit proposals through the Graduate Research Committee (GRC) which has the authority to approve such programs on behalf of the University.

New course and unit proposals are sent for external scrutiny by independent assessors. The faculty may nominate one assessor and present the names and qualifications of three others from whom the GRC will select another. Normally at least one assessor shall be from outside Australia. The GRC may waive the requirement for external independent assessment of new units, but only in very special cases.

3.3. Administration of programs

With the exception of all aspects of coursework, enrolment and professional practice which will remain the responsibility of the relevant faculty, the administration of professional doctorate programs including admission, monitoring of progress, variations to candidature and the examination of theses will be undertaken by the GRC through Monash Graduate Education (formerly MIGR).

4. Supervision

Supervision should be in accordance with the Monash University Code of Supervisory Practice for doctoral and research masters students.

5. Components of the professional doctorate

5.1 Research component

Professional doctorate programs should have at least the equivalent of one year of full-time research or a minimum 33% research component. However, it should be noted that only programs with a 66% research component are classified as research degrees by the Australian Government

While preliminary work on the research project may be undertaken concurrently or consequentially with the coursework and other components of the program, normally these other requirements are completed before the student formally enrols in the research unit.

Nevertheless the coursework may inform the research and vice versa. For example, there may be opportunities for students to practise in the coursework units research techniques and methodologies, that will later underpin the research component (see below).

There is some flexibility in the way work is reported in the research component of a professional doctorate.

A professional doctorate 'thesis' may be presented as a portfolio of work that may consist either of related or discrete pieces of work.

However, where the portfolio consists of related components of the work, there should be no overlap between these related parts, other than that normally expected in a conventional thesis ( for example a chapter might begin by recapping the findings of the previous section or chapter).

While earlier work may have been reviewed (but not formally assessed ) internally or for the purposes of publication, the entire portfolio must nevertheless be presented to examiners appointed to assess the work.

5.2 Coursework component

Dual listing of units will be permitted when:

  • the units are of genuine fifth year level and as such will challenge a first year doctoral student
  • the assessment focuses on the acquisition or consolidation of research skills.

For masters and doctoral students enrolled in the same unit:

  • the assessment will be differentiated and at a higher level for doctoral students, or
  • the doctoral student will be required to achieve an H2A/Distinction grade in the unit.

5.3 Relationship between coursework and research components

Monash degree guidelines prevent a student from receiving credit for the same work twice.

Normally there should not be overlap between research and coursework units in the program. In other words work presented for one weighted component of the program should not be replicated in meeting the requirements of another weighted component of the program.

A case may be made in exceptional circumstances for minor duplication of work across units.

A very modest amount of work that might later be incorporated into the research component may be undertaken concurrently with other work during a coursework unit. As a hurdle requirement however. it would not be assessed as part of that coursework unit. Other non research unit work would therefore be the basis of assessment.

5.4 Practica component

In some professional doctorates a practica component may form part of the degree program.

6. Credit and articulation with other programs

6.1 Credit transfer

Monash has adopted a general guideline that normally allows up to 50% credit for coursework undertaken in a previous degree but which the student did not complete.

Credit is to be considered in accordance with Chapter 2.3 of the Handbook for Doctoral Degrees and as per the current Monash University (Academic Board) Regulations.

In those cases where a student is transferring his/her doctoral candidature from another institution, the extent of credit transfer will be considered on a case by case basis.

Where appropriate, the faculty may require additional or supplementary assessment in relation to the unit for which credit is sought.

6.2 Articulation and exit options

Where appropriate a professional doctorate student may discontinue the doctoral program and transfer to the appropriate masters level program.

Given credit transfer policies above, a student may also upgrade from the appropriate masters program to the related professional doctorate.

Faculties are required to draw up their own minimum transfer requirements and to submit them to the GRC for approval. In determining the appropriateness of such procedures, the Committee must be assured that they test the capacity of the student to undertake independent research.

The start date of the professional doctorate candidature will normally be backdated to the start date of the program from which the student has transferred. However, in those cases where some prior work in the first program is not considered to be of appropriate doctoral level, or is irrelevant to the professional doctorate program, a later commencement date may be negotiated.

7. Examination

7.1 Thesis Length

The length of a thesis will be in accordance with the norms of the discipline and the percentage of the degree which it represents.

7.2 Number of examiners

The appointment of examiners for professional doctorates will adhere to the minimum standards and practices that apply in the appointment of examiners for PhD theses.

Examiners should be informed of the structure and format of the relevant professional doctorate and the proportion of that program represented by the thesis.

7.3 Oral Examination

An oral examination is not a mandatory component of the professional doctorate examination process.

7.4 Examination assessment criteria

A successful professional doctorate student should be adjudged, through examination, to have made a significant contribution to knowledge and/or professional practice.

7.5 Thesis as a portfolio of papers

Where the thesis is presented as a series of papers or a portfolio of research projects there should be no more overlap than normally occurs between thesis chapters when it is necessary to recapitulate in order to link chapters.

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