A significant number of the 745K doctoral students in Europe (2011 Eurostat) are undertaking modern doctorates. These practice based/professional doctoral degrees fulfill a variety of purposes, ranging from knowledge exchange between industry and academia, the development of higher levels of professional practice and individualised development programmes for practitioners of advanced standing. A significant driver in the growth of such programmes is their contribution to training individuals who are ‘creative, critical and autonomous intellectual risk takers’ capable of contributing to all sectors where deep rigorous analysis is required.’ (ERA 2010). Doctorates are also increasingly required for advanced levels of practice within the professions: in applied research, in policy making, in management, and in many other leadership roles in society. As identified by the League of European Research Universities ‘if the Europe is serious about its objective “to become the most dynamic knowledge society in the world’ then strong support of doctoral education is vital”.

The collaborative involvement of all stakeholders, and specifically the sponsoring organisation, is central to the design of these doctorates – ‘It is essential to … build trust between universities and other sectors. Such trust is, for example, built on formalised but flexible research and research training collaboration between industry and higher education institutions, including joint research projects, industrial doctorates or similar schemes.’(EUA 2010)

In these modern doctorates there is a broadening in the focus and context of the study from work within a single discipline within the academy to addressing multidisciplinary issues within the workplace itself. The corresponding shift in purpose, form, structure and context of the doctorate (Jackson, 2009) poises some significant pedagogical issues that must be addressed by the supervisory team. Namely,

  1. the candidate’s significant expertise and knowledge of the work context and environment that may not be shared by the supervisory team
  2. the outcomes will not be new knowledge in the abstract but knowledge of interest, application and direct impact to work
  3. the criteria for assessment must remain the same for all doctorate types irrespective of context and design
  4. the focus will be, in general, multi- and trans- disciplinary in nature, in contrast with single disciplinary work within academia.

State of the Art: The supervision of such work based research requires complex capabilities from the supervisor(s) as they seek to (1) address the diverse needs of a candidate operating at doctoral level within a work environment where their priorities are, in part at least, set by the needs of their organisation and work role and (2) supervise the creation of knowledge at doctoral level. And yet there has to date been little study of these needs and no commonly accepted framework of practice for supervisors to draw upon.

In moving beyond this state of the art this project is specifically focused on the capabilities and framework for practice required for effective supervision of the modern doctorate.