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About Doctorates

The below information outlines everything you need to know about Doctoral study.

Northumbria offers several research degree programmes. The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degrees are designed to develop research and enquiry skills to the highest level, and to advance career opportunities through academic and professional development.

PhDs allow students to undertake an individual programme of research development, which will enable original research to doctoral level in their chosen field of study. In some areas they also include practice-led research.

DBAs (also known as Professional Doctorates) are equivalent in standing to PhDs, but with a clear focus on developing and improving professional skills and practice. They are the logical choice for experienced professionals who wish to continue their lifelong learning.


What is a Doctorate?

Each PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) and DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) is totally unique, with its own research aims, findings and its own original contribution to knowledge in your chosen field.

A typical doctorate normally involves:

  • Carrying out a literature review (a survey of current scholarship in your field)
  • Conducting original research and collecting your results
  • Producing a thesis that presents your conclusions
  • Writing up your thesis and submitting it as a dissertation
  • Defending your thesis in an oral viva voce exam

How long does a Doctorate take?

Most PhD and DBA programmes take three years to complete.

When should I apply?

Our application deadlines are as follows:

October DBA / DBL* 1 June
October entry 1 July
March entry 1 December
June entry (Faculty of Engineering and Environment only) 1 March

*DBA / DBL is an October intake only. The deadline is 1 June.

What to expect in the first year

You will normally begin the year by having initial meetings with your supervisor and working with them to discuss a plan of action based on your research proposal. You will submit and agree a detailed project plan within the first four months of the programme. The plan will also identify any training requirements. Northumbria University offers a programme of researcher development sessions available throughout the Doctorate to support students. Students have a minimum of two supervisors to support them during their Doctoral programme, and at this point the rest of the supervision team will also be appointed.

You will usually start by critically reading and evaluating existing scholarship to situate your research and ensure your work is original. This will form your literature review and will provide a starting point for your research.

You will then plan how you are going to conduct your research, and design your experiments, surveys or qualitative interviews.

What to expect in the second year

Your will generally do most of your research in your second year through experiments, surveys, archival research or exploring other sources. Your thesis will develop as your research progresses.

You will have regular meetings with your supervisor and may start writing up your thesis. Their role is to check your progress and provide feedback and guidance, but not to do your work for you.

By your second year you should have a good knowledge of research in your area and be using this to develop insights of your own.

This part of your Doctorate is a perfect time to think about presenting your work at academic conferences, gaining teaching experience or perhaps even selecting some material for publication in an academic journal, as you won't have the pressure of a thesis submission deadline looming.

Each year, students will submit an update confirming progress against their plan for review.

What to expect in the third year

Most people do the majority of the writing up of their Doctorate in their final year, so you will need to pull your results together and hone your thesis into a dissertation.

Your supervisor will be very involved in this process. They will read through your final draft and help you to get your Doctorate ready for submission.

Once your thesis is ready you will defend it through a formal discussion called a viva voce.

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