Equal but Different: Students Can Now Pursue Doctorates at Universities of Applied Sciences

Equal but Different: Students Can Now Pursue Doctorates at Universities of Applied Sciences

Professional Doctorate Trials at Dutch Universities of Applied Sciences to Start in 2022

From next year, students at university of applied sciences (UAS) will be able to pursue a Professional Doctorate (PD) after completing their master's. Up until now, furthering their academic studies after a master's by way of a PhD has only been available to students at research universities. Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences welcomed the idea when it was first proposed in a position paper by the Association for Dutch Universities (VSNU) and the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences (VH). The two organisations represent 14 universities and 36 universities of applied sciences.

The idea is that the extra academic title available to UAS students affords them more research possibilities. A comprehensive plan has been developed by the VH with the approval of the Dutch Ministry of Education. The first PD students are to start in 2022 with the hope that their numbers will grow to 125 by 2025 and even more after that.

According to the plan, just under €56 million will be needed in the trial phase. It is hoped that the ministry will share some of the costs. "The PD programme helps to fulfil the increasing need for 'research professionals'. In other words, highly skilled professionals who are able to tackle complex knowledge and design questions and thereby contribute to sustainable innovation. The programme will also boost the profile of applied research at UASs," the plan reads.

It is foreseen that the duration of the study will be 3-4 years. The idea is that it be "equal but different" to a PhD and a PDEng (Professional Doctorate in Engineering). The PD trials will focus on the following academic clusters: Art and Creativity, Energy and Sustainability, Health and Social Services, Maritime and Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality. It will be followed by PD programmes in Education as well as Technology and Digitisation.  

The programmes will be offered by a so-called Graduate Network per cluster – a collaboration between UASs that will jointly develop different aspects of the programmes. The plan does not exclude collaborating with Dutch and international universities. The Network's Graduate Commission will be responsible for the quality of the programmes and degrees will be conferred in its name by the different UASs.

When the plan was first put on the table in 2019, it was welcomed by Wittenborg. Chair of the executive board Peter Birdsall said at the time Wittenborg had already started discussions about gaining PhD-awarding powers with the previous Dutch minister of Higher Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker.

According to Birdsall, "Wittenborg will certainly look at developing the so-called third cycle of professional doctorates within the scope and size of the business school. The market need for applied sciences DBA's within accredited business schools will continue to develop, and we must be ready for the moment that the award is made available to universities of applied sciences."

WUP 24/3/2021
by Anesca Smith
©WUAS Press