Theorising Social Work Research

Doctoral and advanced studies in Social Work Seminar topics

Doctoral and advanced studies in social work 15th November 1999, Warwick

The Warwick EdD Professor Geoff Lindsay University of Warwick

The Institute of Education EdD started in October 1998, with the second cohort joining this term. The present degree is different in orientation from the programme which was initially approved by the university and some reflections on the history may be useful as a precursor to a designation of the degree itself.

The EdD is now well established across the UK with, I believe, over 20 universities running a programme. The degree was a logical outcome of the success of the masters programme - a large number of teachers and educationists in LEAs (e.g. advisers) had Masters degrees and many had expressed interest in pursuing studies at doctoral level. However, relatively few teachers or LEA personnel had successfully made the transition to the PhD. There appear to be three main reasons: firstly, pursuance of a single focussed, substantial piece of research is difficult to generate and carry out as a teacher. Secondly, the pool for recruitment was among senior staff, often on a career trajectory which could take them to at least one other post during the period of research - this would limit the nature of the study, or render some studies already embarked upon impossible to continue, Thirdly, the PhD course did not match the type of research these professionals were interested in. Above all, most wanted something with practical, often immediate impact and implications. For varied reasons, therefore, an EdD programme comprising several strands found favour.

However, another important issue was the fact that the degree had no direct implications for the person's career: A Masters degree is not a requirement, let alone a doctorate. Within education the only professional group for whom a doctorate has been proposed as an entry qualification are educational psychologists. Presently, a specialist masters degree is required but the British Psychological Society has approved a move to doctoral training. However, this has been put on hold while a DfEE working partly on the profession deliberates.

A taught doctorate?

Examination of many EdD programmes indicates a reasonably substantial taught component, with associated assignments. Some are referred to as 'taught doctorates'. While the original Warwick EdD was of this kind, that which we actually implemented was deliberately not a taught doctorate (see below), This is an important issue in course design, but also has implications for the recognition of the degree. It was our view that we wanted a research degree equivalent to a PhD, but comprising several research studies, supported by some taught element. The Warwick EdD therefore has a low percentage of time and CAT units for taught options.

Who is it for?

As indicated above, we targeted senior educationists; the first two cohorts included head teachers advisers/inspectors, university lecturers and directors of education for LEAs.


I think all of our two cohorts have masters degrees. The issue that arises, therefore, is whether recognition should or can be given by exemptions for the programme. At this time the university has two processes for consideration of this issue: Accreditation of Prior Learning Achievement (APLA) and Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). The former essentially considers degrees and diplomas, the latter allows a student to submit a portfolio of work (e.g. previously published journal papers, book chapters or research projects for the LEA). Each submission is considered individually, APLA is the simplest to administer and the basic yardstick is the Warwick MA (Educational Studies). Any student who passes this degree within the past three years (or up to five years) with marks of 60% or more may be exempt from up to 90 CAT points (of 360). This effectively exempts them from the two taught options and Foundation Research Methods.

APLA is not currently available for students whose masters was taken longer ago. Other masters (e.g. an MBA) may be allowable provided they can be shown to be comparable to the yardstick MA.

Core Description

The Warwick EdD comprises elements which add to 360 CAT points as follows:

The options are examined by 4000 word assignments (1 per 15 CATS); the projects are 8000. In total, therefore, the 'wordage' equals a PhD - 80,000 words. Each assignment must be passed at 60% minimum.

Hence, the 'taught' element is small: 60 CATS for the options. The research element, on the other hand, including training in methodology, comprises over 80%.

Students are all interviewed individually by the Course Director and the likely supervisor, who will then supervise all the research elements, as with a PhD. In terms of workload, the EdD is equivalent to a PhD for staff time allocation.

In addition to the above elements, students are also assigned to the relevant research grouping in the Institute, and expected to attend its research seminars. Also, a special programme exists for the EdD cohorts as a whole to meet together - partly social, to engender a sense of group and community of scholars, but also for seminars of general interest.

Specialist programmes

There is currently a specialist programme with the Turkish Ministry of Education, training teacher educators. A further specialist programme for educational psychologists has been under consideration, but because of discussion on the future of the profession, has not yet been proposed.

Final Comments

I was pleased to be able to set up the EdD and see it through its first year, before handing it on to my colleague Dr Ann Lewis. It is demanding, and some students have had to withdraw. I recognised this at the start, and was confirmed in this view by other course directors - our clientele comprise students who have been successful academically and professionally but who also have demanding jobs as a result.

For the doctorate to work, the commitment must fit in with the student's job. Research projects must be relevant and usually should also arise out of real tasks which would need to be done, but perhaps in lesser depth.

The future is difficult to predict. There is strong support from the regions, including chief education officers. But it is unlikely that a doctorate will be a requirement for senior posts in the foreseeable future. This is, of course, liberating also as it means each student is free to pursue their own research agenda.