Professional Doctorate in Policy Research and Practice

Qualifications and durations

This is a part-time distance-learning course which can be completed in four, or up to six years.


The University of Bath Institute for Policy Research offers a pioneering Doctorate in Policy Research and Practice (DPRP). The course is designed to enable experienced professionals working in a range of policy arenas – locally, nationally, and globally – to develop their policy analysis expertise without having to take a full career break. Combining advanced training in policy research and analysis with a thesis based on original research, it is based on a cohort model and can be spread out over up to six years.

Key features

  • A combination of advanced policy research and analysis training with a thesis component based on original research
  • Part-time course structure designed to cater for busy professionals
  • A means to enable participants to draw on their working experience at the same time as engaging with up-to-date academic research and thinking
  • The course is fully flexible, with step-off points at the end of year 1 (for a Postgraduate Certificate) and at the end of year 3 (for a Postgraduate Diploma).
  • A cohort structure based around an annual two-week residential to provide networking with other participants as part of the course
  • Access to a wide range of sector-specific expertise across the University, including Technology Policy, International Development, Health, Education and Social Policy

Why take a professional doctorate in policy research and practice?

In all areas of government and public administration – whether in local government, national civil services or international organisations – the world of policy making is changing fast. There is an increasing recognition of the need for a secure and transparent evidence base on which to make policy, but there are also a range of approaches and methods that policy makers can use to assess the evidence base and consider the likely impact of different policies. This Doctorate will enhance professional capability and critical reflection on the theories, methods and practices of policy making.

The course involves a blend of face-to-face and distance learning. The academic coherence of the course is built around a ‘hub and spoke’ model comprising two core policy analysis units (in Transformational Policy and Practice and Policy Research Methodology) and two specialist units to enable students to broaden and deepen their understanding of policy research across a range of disciplines. You are required to complete four ‘taught’ units over three years of study – two core and two optional – followed by a supervised piece of original research over up to three years.

Educational aims of the programme

The Professional Doctorate in Policy Research and Practice is designed to:

  • give particular priority to the transfer of multidisciplinary research and learning to the workplace, to enhance the academic and the professional contribution that policy makers and practitioners can make to theory and practice in their field
  • engage current practitioners with knowledge, awareness and understanding of philosophical, organisational, political, social, economic, managerial, interpersonal, and technical dimensions of policy
  • develop the capability to broaden an understanding of critical issues facing policy makers today
  • provide you with a broad foundation from which you can hone your specific interests towards the conduct of supervised research and make an original contribution to your field
  • support you in publishing and disseminating your research

Course structure

The Professional Doctorate in Policy Research and Practice is built around a part-time cohort model. You will advance through the course with a cohort of other participants from a range of countries, sectors and organisations. Teaching is focused on a two-week residential held in early September each year, with subsequent virtual seminars, tutorials, and supervision throughout the rest of the year.

For 2017 the residential will take place from Monday 4th to Friday 15th September 2017.

This structure will enable you to interact, learn, and network with a stable cohort of participants, while ensuring the flexibility to continue your own professional career.

The course is structured into two stages: the taught stage and the thesis stage.

If your circumstances change and you are unable to complete the course, there are alternative qualifications that may be awarded depending on the number of credits accumulated.

Taught stage

The taught stage is based on four units. In the first year, two compulsory core units provide advanced training in policy analysis and research methods. The first year is designed to equip you with the knowledge and capability to understand and use a range of research methodologies, novel analytical frameworks and toolkits to address key issues within a broad policy context. The two core generic analysis units include:

  • Transformational Policy and Practice – to introduce you to theoretical understandings of ‘policy’ and policy making and how they relate to practice. This will include a series of case studies of policy making and implementation from different countries
  • Policy Research Methodology – to develop your knowledge and understanding of the methodologies (philosophic frameworks) employed in policy research, their advantages and disadvantages, as well as the merits of particular quantitative and qualitative methods.

Each of these generic units carry 18 credits and are assessed with an 8,000 word assignment or equivalent. Successful completion of these units would normally entitle you to the PG Certificate exit award if appropriate.

Specialist streams

Over the subsequent two years you elect two specialised units, relevant to their field of practice, from a choice of up to four units. These are designed to enable you to develop and hone specific interests towards the conduct of supervised research: current optional units are listed below. The five initial units are:

  • international development policy
  • education policy
  • health policy
  • technology policy
  • networks, governance and citizenship in a digital world

Each specialist unit carries 18 credits and is assessed by an 8,000 word assignment.

You will be asked to choose a specialist unit in the first year, while undertaking your core modules so that teaching resources can be planned for the following year.

Research enquiry

You will spend the final three years of your study developing a supervised research enquiry. Supervision is primarily provided virtually over this period but it would normally be expected that you adhere to a minimum number of face-to-face contact hours. We also provide other online support for you during this time including webinars and online forums.

Course structure

The DPRP is organised on a cohort basis, encouraging interaction amongst candidates; the sharing of experiences, good practice and concerns; and peer group support. In Years 1 to 3, each unit will be ‘launched’ during a two-week residential course in September. (In Year 1 this covers the two generic units for the year).

A wide variety of learning methods are used including formal lectures, case study analysis, seminars and class presentations. There is plenty of opportunity for large and small group discussions and individual tuition, both face-to-face during the residential periods and remotely at other times. Online learning is provided to you during your time away from campus, delivered through various methods including webinars and email contact. You are expected to undertake a minimum number of face-to-face contact hours via Skype and webinars and time dedicated to online study.

You must successfully complete 270 credits (at level 8) to be awarded the DPRP (total of at least 72 credits in Years 1 to 3 and 198 credits for the supervised research enquiry (in the final three years).

Only in very exceptional circumstances would we allow students with more study time at their disposal to accelerate their progression through the course. This would be restricted to the supervised research phase of the course only.

All taught students are allocated a Personal Tutor and postgraduate research students a supervisor who are responsible for monitoring and supporting the academic progress and general welfare of their students.

Staff in these roles are able to respond to many of the questions and concerns raised by their students. However, there is also a range of specialist student support services that is able to offer both information and advice to support these staff working with their students, as well as take referrals to work more directly with the students. You can also self-refer to these services.

These services can provide information, advice and support in relation to accommodation, emotional difficulties, assessment of needs and provision of support relating to disability, student funding, general welfare, academic problems, student discipline and complaints, careers, international students, spiritual matters, part time work, security and personal safety. The Students’ Union can also provide advocacy for students.


An induction programme is arranged for you during the first two-week residential course. This introduces you into the research community and the IPR in addition to outlining administrative procedures, support and facilities within the University. It also provides an opportunity for you to meet personal tutors. You are encouraged to stay in University accommodation for the two-week residential course and the cost of the accommodation is included in the annual tuition fee.

Training for Research Students

Doctoral research students should engage in training at each stage of their research course. Students in the Research Enquiry phase are expected to undertake five days of skills development activities each year. Elements of this training are provided online to ensure greater flexibility for students during their time away from campus. DPRP students have access to a full programme of research skills training courses offered within the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). This programme includes formal training, attendance at conferences, seminars and workshops. It includes subject specific knowledge, skills as a researcher and more generic key skills. To succeed in the DPRP, as well as developing research skills and subject specific knowledge, you will also need to develop a range of academic (key) skills which will help them to become an independent learner. Many of these skills are transferable to the workplace and will therefore also benefit your professional career.

You and your supervisors (at the Research Enquiry stage) or their assignment tutors (at the Taught stage) have joint responsibility for identifying your principal training needs and for identifying appropriate developmental opportunities to meet these. You are expected to be proactive in this role and adopt the use of an (e-) Personal Development Plan (PDP) as a vehicle for identifying, reporting and monitoring their progress. Further details regarding training will also be available via induction and Moodle:

Admissions criteria

Academic requirements

  • First or 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject, from a recognised university
  • Advanced qualification (MEd, MA or MPhil) in a related field. Where professional experience is extensive and has involved research practice, this requirement may be waived

Professional requirements

  • Appropriate professional experience in the practice of policy or a related field. Students in the programme will normally be expected to have at least three years of experience

English Language requirements

Certificates must be dated to within two years of the start of the programme of study.

  • IELTS 7.0 (with not less than 6.5 in each of the four components)


  • Two references are required. At least one of these should be an academic reference

Summary of assessment and progression regulations

To gain the degree of DPRP candidates must:

  • successfully complete two core and two specialist units in the taught phase; having obtained at least two ‘Pass’ and two ‘Merit’ grades
  • successfully defend a thesis in a viva voce at the completion of the supervised research phase

Taught phase assessment

Each 18 credit taught unit will normally be assessed through an assignment of 8,000 words – excluding references and Annexes - with a maximum 10% variation either way. Each unit assignment includes a 200 word (max) abstract (not included in overall word length). Students may be requested to also pass an oral or written defence of their submission. The Unit Convenor, in consultation with the Director of Studies, designates individual assignment tutors for each student to support work on assignments and to serve as the First Internal Examiner in assessing the assignment. Students negotiate the details of each assignment with their designated assignment tutor for the relevant unit.

Extensions for the submission of unit assignments are only granted in exceptional circumstances at the discretion of the Director of Studies, who may consult with the unit assignment tutor. Extensions will normally be granted for a maximum of three calendar months. To request an extension, a student must submit a Unit Assignment Extension Request form to the Director of Studies before the date on which the assignment is due. A further extension will not normally be granted, except under very exceptional circumstances, at the discretion of the Director of Studies, who may consult with the unit assignment tutor.

Requests for suspension will be treated according to standard University procedures, and their development in the Programme Handbook.

Research enquiry assessment

The 45,000 word supervised thesis will be assessed by the same arrangements and criteria as to those for the award of a PhD.

Progression and exit points

Exit points are:

  • PG Certificate in Policy Research and Practice: After having completed (with a pass grade or above) two core generic units. You will only be permitted to have retrieved failures in up to 18 credits towards the award of the Postgraduate Certificate
  • PG Diploma in Policy Research and Practice: After having completed (with a pass grade or above) four units, of which two must be core units. You will only be permitted to have retrieved failures in up to 18 credits towards the award of the Postgraduate Diploma
  • MSc in Policy Research and Practice: After having completed (with a pass grade or above) four units and, in addition, a further 8,000 word, 18 credit assignment. You will only be permitted to have retrieved failures in up to 18 credits towards the award of the MSc
  • You spend the final three years of their study developing a supervised research enquiry
  • You can progress to the Research Enquiry phase upon satisfactory completion of the taught component of the programme (having passed 4 units, at least two with a grade of ‘Merit’ or higher)

To apply for this programme please complete the online application form (there is no need to provide a comprehensive research proposal at the application stage, however, please outline your research interests in section seven of the application form).


Financial information


Option 1: Accelerated pathway (two units in year 2)***

Year 1 - Annual Fee* (two compulsory taught units)

Year 2 - Annual Fee* (two optional units)

Year 3 - Annual Fee* (research enquiry)

Year 4 - Annual Fee* (research enquiry)

Year 5 - Annual Fee* (research enquiry, if needed) with option to transfer to writing-up status (subject to approval)

Year 6 - Annual Fee* (research enquiry, if needed) with option to transfer to writing-up status (subject to approval)

Option 2: Alternative pathway (with discount applied due to one unit in years 2 and 3)

Year 1 - Annual Fee* (two compulsory taught units)

Year 2 - 2/3 of the Annual fee** (one optional unit)

Year 3 - 2/3 of the Annual fee** (one optional unit)

Year 4 - Annual Fee* (research enquiry)

Year 5 - Annual Fee* (research enquiry)

Year 6 - Annual Fee* (research enquiry, if needed) with option to transfer to writing-up status (subject to approval)

Students will need to confirm their study plan option by the 7th of August on the commencement of Year 2.

*The Annual fee is published on the fee schedule and is subject to annual increases.

**A discount of the 1/3 of the annual fee is applied, so that 2/3 of the annual fee is payable.’

*** Director of Studies approval required to take fast-track route

Additional costs:

  • Cost of attending the Residential Course, meeting your supervisor during the programme, and attending the final Viva Voce, including travel, breakfast and evening meals and accommodation.
  • IT equipment and miscellaneous costs to enable participation on the course from a distance
  • Cost of Printing final Soft-, and then Hard-Bound theses


  • 30 June 2017 for International/Home/EU students


Admissions Officer


Tel: +44 01225 38 6180

About Bath

The University of Bath is one of the top universities in the UK. Its research is internationally respected, and its students are in demand by employers because of the high quality teaching offered here.

The campus is located about a mile from the World Heritage City of Bath – one of the most beautiful, vibrant and elegant cities in the UK, hosting excellent museums and galleries, exquisite parks, restaurants, cafes and pubs and a great range of shopping.

Located in the South West of the UK, Bath’s closest international airport is Bristol, with London only 90 minutes away by train. Locally frequent bus services link the campus and city.

Related links


Our research

The Institute for Policy Research undertakes research into major public policy challenges. Our work is organised in four global policy challenges.

  • Changing Behaviour
  • Developing the Public Good
  • Innovation, Growth and Inclusive Prosperity
  • Resourcing the Future

We foster interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers at the University of Bath in these areas, and undertake specific research projects.

We currently have active research projects on:

  • The use of big, open and connected data in policymaking and citizen-led activism
  • Welfare states in transition, including analysis of proposals for a Universal Basic Income
  • Access to renewable energy in development contexts
  • Interdisciplinary approaches to public policy theory
  • Devolution in the UK, including analysis of options for greater devolution to London

We support policy relevant Research Networks in different world regions, involving researchers, policy makers and practitioners. Through these we aim to engage more effectively with policy challenges emerging in different national and global contexts and make the IPR a vehicle for cross-national policy learning.

We have active partnerships with a number of university research institutes around the world, including Yonsei University, South Korea, Institute of Government Sciences and Strategic Development, Mexico, Sciences Po, Paris and Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia.

Find out more about our work.

About the IPR

The University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR) is a leading institute of public policy research in the UK. We undertake and enable policy-relevant research to make an impact, especially through building links with the worlds of policy and practice as well as by increasing public understanding of policy research through our Public Lecture and Policy Brief series. We deliver activities for policy makers, researchers and practitioners to enable two-way learning and original contributions to both research and practice, delivered through our Policy Fellowship Programme, Professional Doctorate, and Outstanding Visiting Fellows and Visiting Policy Fellows Schemes.

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Contact us

For more information about the Professional Doctorate, entry requirements, how to apply, fees, or about the Institute for Policy Research, please email or phone +44 (0)1225 38 5333.