Regulations for Doctoral Degrees by Examination and Thesis or Portfolio [DProf]

These regulations govern the award of Doctoral Degrees by Examination and Thesis (Professional Doctorate – generically DProf – or a specifically named award) at Aberystwyth University. Professional and Practice-based Doctorates will be awarded in recognition of the successful completion of an approved taught programme of study, together with successful completion of further study and research.

Research projects in professional doctorates are normally located within the candidate's profession or practice. In practice-based or practitioner doctorates the candidate's output involves practice-related materials. For example, in the performing arts, the output involves a written component, which complements the practice-based element (this may be shorter than the traditional PhD thesis, and includes both reflection and context), and one or more other artefacts, such as a novel (for creative writing), a portfolio of work (for art and design), or one or more performance pieces (for theatre studies, dance or music).

Professional doctorates are rooted in an academic discipline as well as in a profession (education, engineering, law and so on). Candidates whose research arises out of practice alone, who are not working in an academically related professional field and who spend most of their time learning in their work environment rather than with the higher education provider would be more likely to complete a practice-based doctorate. In both practice-based and professional doctorate settings, the candidate's research may result directly in organisational or policy-related change.

The regulations are intended to enable qualified professionals to engage in high level Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and to study at Master’s and up to doctoral level while remaining in employment and closely associated with their profession/workplace.

Such degrees will be awarded to students who have demonstrated:

the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, extend the forefront of the discipline, and merit publication or production;
a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the forefront of an academic discipline or area of professional practice or is likely to lead to professional or organisational change in the candidate’s workplace/profession;
the general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems;
a detailed understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry.

Typically, holders of the qualification will be able to:

make informed judgements on complex issues in specialist fields, often in the absence of complete data, and be able to communicate their ideas and conclusions clearly and effectively to specialist and non-specialist audiences;
demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level;
continue to undertake pure and/or applied research and development at an advanced level, contributing substantially to development of new knowledge, techniques, ideas or approaches.

Doctoral degree holders will have completed research training that provides the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment, viz:

the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility;
decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations in professional or equivalent environments;
the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

In judging the merit of work submitted in candidature for Doctoral Degrees by Examination and Thesis or Portfolio (DProf), the examiners shall bear in mind the standard and scope of work which it is reasonable to expect a capable and diligent student to present after the period of registered study.

Professional and practice-based doctorates are assessed through submission of a thesis or portfolio, and an individual oral examination ('viva' or 'viva voce')

In the assessment of professional and/or practice-based doctorates, examiners' criteria may include the extent to which the candidate understands current techniques in the subject, for example through demonstrating engagement with and use of research methods and how they inform professional practice.

In the case of professional doctorates, successful completion of the degree normally leads to professional and/or organisational change that is often direct rather than achieved through the implementation of subsequent research findings.

On completion of a Doctoral degree, graduates will have attained Level 8, as defined by the QAA’s Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies October 2014.


1. A candidate for a Doctoral Degree by Examination and Thesis, may study for the degree by pursuing the programme of study and research on a full-time or part-time.  Candidates must be in relevant employment or engaged in relevant professional practice.

2. Candidates may qualify following successful completion of an approved taught course and programme of research pursued either on a full-time basis or on a part-time basis.

3. A candidate for a Doctoral Degree by Examination and Thesis must hold one of the following qualifications prior to commencement of the course:

• an initial degree from Aberystwyth University;
• an initial degree from another University approved for this purpose;
• a non-graduate qualification which the University has deemed to be equivalent to graduation.

Irrespective of a candidate's qualifications, the University must satisfy itself that a candidate is of the required academic standard to complete the scheme of taught courses and research proposed.

4. A candidate must register at the University, pay the appropriate fee prescribed and pursue the scheme of teaching and research for the minimum period defined below:

Full-time candidates: minimum period three years;
Part-time candidates: minimum period five years.

Where a candidate joins the scheme having already met the requirements of Part One, in whole or in part, through completion of a Master’s award, the time limits will be reduced according to the completed credits and previous period of registration so that the candidate would, in total, register and pay fees for the minimum periods above.

5. Candidates will be required to present themselves for examination in two parts.

6. In Part One a candidate shall follow a taught programme of study (which may include periods of approved professional/industrial practice and training), together with a programme of research for the duration prescribed. Typically this will comprise 60 taught credits and a portfolio of work or research thesis (approximately 20 000 words in length) equivalent to a further 120 credits. The taught credits must include an element of research training. Exemptions may be granted by the University (based on previous postgraduate or professionally accredited qualifications) from specified components of Part One of the scheme.

7. Part One examinations shall comprise assessments of an advanced character in fields of study prescribed by the Programme Regulations. These examinations shall include evaluation of the professional practice and training and may take the form of unseen written examination papers or set projects or other forms of course assessment. In order to progress to Part Two students must pass at least 160 credits and obtain an overall rounded weighted average mark of 50%

8. A candidate who has successfully completed Part One but does not wish to continue or is unsuccessful in their candidature for the DProf, will be eligible for the award of an MProf, MRes or other Master’s award forming Part One of their programme of study.

9. A candidate who fails to pass Part One may, at the discretion of the Examining Board for the taught components, re-present themselves for examination on one further occasion only, not more than fifteen months from the date of the original examination. A fee shall be payable for re-examination.

10. Part Two of the examination shall take the form of a thesis or portfolio of work, embodying the methods and results of a research project or projects, examples of which are given in Appendix One below

11. At Part Two the thesis shall be examined via oral examination. A portfolio of work shall be examined in the manner laid out in the specific Programme Regulations.

12. Both the taught and research components of the examination must be passed in order to qualify for the award of the degree.

13. A candidature shall lapse if a thesis is not submitted, in the form and manner prescribed, by the time-limit listed below:

In the case of a three-year candidature, four years from the official beginning of the candidate's period of study.

In the case of a five-year candidature, seven years from the official beginning of the candidate's period of study.

NB For students admitted from September 2018, the following maximum Time Limits for Completion, including any periods of temporary withdrawal and extensions approved by the Head of the Graduate School, apply:

From initial registration date to the first submission of the thesis for examination:

Full-time DProf: six years
Part-time DProf: nine years

Extensions to these limits may be granted by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) provided that:

1. Evidence of special circumstances is supplied
2. The Student’s department confirms that the research project remains current and viable and that the student is capable of completing the project within the requested extension.

14. The University shall ensure that candidates are supervised, on a regular and continuing basis, in accordance with its general procedures for postgraduate supervision.

15. For each candidature, the University shall approve a supervisory team including a minimum of one main supervisor and a second supervisor nominated by the candidate's Department.

16. The main supervisor will normally be a full-time member of the academic staff of the University. The second supervisor will normally be a full-time member academic staff of the University or collaborative institution or organization.

17. Every candidate's research shall be completed by the presentation of a thesis (normally not exceeding 60,000 words in length, excluding Appendices and genuine footnotes) which embodies the methods and results of the research or a portfolio of work. A properly constituted Examining Board is required to conduct an oral examination of a candidate who submits either a thesis or portfolio for examination. This requirement might, however, be waived at the discretion of the Examining Board, when an examination of re-submitted work is being conducted, and the examiners judge the work to be a clear pass

18. Candidates shall sign a declaration to certify that the work submitted has not been accepted in substance for any degree or award, and is not being submitted concurrently in candidature for any degree or other award. The signed declaration shall be included in all copies of the works submitted for examination.

19. The University shall ensure that the form of submission and examination of the thesis or portfolio conforms to the University's ‘Regulations for the Submission and Examination of Research Theses'.

Additional Regulations pertaining to named programmes

DAg (Doctor of Agriculture)

Part One shall comprise a total credit value of 180 credits. The research Examination shall consist of a thesis of up to 60,000 words (excluding Appendices and genuine footnotes).