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Doctor of Social and Public Policy (SPPD) (Professional Doctorate)

n/a (full-time) / 5-7 years (part-time) / n/a (distance / e-Learning)

Course Aims

The Professional Doctorate is a doctoral qualification that is fully equivalent to the PhD, but substantially different from it in that it is strongly professionally oriented focussing on ‘applied’ rather than ‘pure’ research. While the PhD is essentially a pre-service degree aimed at preparing candidates for a research-based career, the Professional Doctorate is a more in-service orientated degree concerned to address the career needs of practising professionals, particularly those in or who aspire to senior positions within their professions. The linkages between research-based knowledge and its application in a wide range of professional settings are central to this Doctorate.

At Cardiff University School of Social Sciences we offer an integrated Professional Doctorate scheme that integrates academic and professional knowledge in new ways. The unique interprofessional learning allows students to reflect on both what is shared across professional boundaries and what is distinctive to their own occupational traditions.

The Professional Doctorate is aimed at managers and a wide range of practitioners who are experienced and who are working at senior and middle levels of their professions and organisations. It offers the opportunity to examine contemporary leading theories and research evidence, and to apply these within the professional context.

Programme Description

The Professional Doctorate is a part-time programme which combines seven taught modules and a research thesis. There are currently four doctoral degrees:

Each degree consists of two major elements:

There are three different types of taught modules: 4 core, 2 specialists, and 1 generic options:

Core modules

Specialist modules

Education (EdD)
Social Work (DSW)
Health Studies (DHS)
Social and Public Policy (SPPD)

With the exception of Changing Modes of Professionalism, which introduces the Professional Doctorate scheme, the modules may be taken in any order, as appropriate to a student’s needs and interests. Provision for generic options will vary from year to year, according to demand and staff availability. Students can also select a specialist module from another pd degree as their optional.

All students are required to take seven modules of study. Pass mark for each module is 50%. However, students are required to achieve an overall mark of no less than 60% for all modules collectively in order to progress to the thesis stage of the programme.

Teaching Methods

Each taught module is delivered over the course of a single weekend. This means that module teaching start on Thursday evenings and continues throughout Fridays and Saturdays. Professional Doctorate teaching is carried out through lectures and smaller seminars and workshops where the emphasis is on discussion. Teaching also places emphasis on directed independent study.

Skills Acquired

The Professional Doctorate demands the acquisition of high order professional knowledge and skills within a distinct pedagogical framework of learning and assessment. By the end of the programme, entrants will have acquired research skills, theoretical capacities, and will have experience of deploying them in a manner appropriate to their particular professional context that include the following:

Entry Requirements

Candidates must possess a good first degree and usually have completed a Master’s degree. They should also have two or more years’ professional experience in a field appropriate to their chosen degree. Much of the module learning and associated assignments aim to support applied professional development and applicants are expected to have access to professional settings in a field appropriate to their doctoral degree. A score of 600 on TOEFL (250 on computer-based marking) or band 7.0 on IELTS is required where English is not a first language, or for those who have not had a substantial part of their education taught in the English language.

Note: International students pursuing part-time programmes of study are not eligible for Tier 4 General Student) visas and must have alternative leave to remain in the UK if they intend to study at the University in person.


The scheme provides a maximum period of candidature of seven years. However, students many complete in as few as five years. This will depend on student’s flexibility and availability for study.

Admission Dates

The course has an annual admission date in October. Applications are welcomed until early June annually. We welcome any enquiries and early discussion of prospective applications. Please contact

Tuition Fees

Please visit the Postgraduate fees section for the most up to date information.

Application Notes

Application to this programme must be supported by a research proposal of between 500 and 1500 words. For more information on what is required, please contact

Next intake: October each year

School Contact

Name: Adriano Neri  

Telephone: +44 (0)29 2087 0855 

Fax: +44 (0)29 2087 4175  


School Website:

More information

Important legal information

The programme information currently being published in Course Finder is under review and may be subject to change. The final programme information is due to be published by July 2016 and will be the definitive programme outline which the University intends to offer. Applicants are advised to check the definitive programme information after the update, to ensure that the programme meets their needs.


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