Applied Social Research Doctorate

Doctorate, MSc, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate


As a Doctor of Applied Social Research student in the Faculty of Social Sciences you will follow a programme of study that will allow you to develop your skills as a researcher before working with experienced supervisors on the conduct of an original piece of research.

Our Professional Doctorate programme is very flexible - you are able to take a tailored pathway through your studies. Currently there are six professional pathways: Housing; Social Work; Dementia Studies; Drug and Alcohol Studies; Criminal Justice and Social Research.

In the taught components of the programme, each route allows you to work together with other professionals to build key research skills while also deepening your professional development through a range of specialist options. You will then complete an assignment based on a professional project within the workplace. This will connect your research skills and real-world experience, encouraging you to engage
reflexively at an advanced level over your professional role and practice. The thesis then provides an opportunity for advanced research on a topic of your choice.

The Professional Doctorate programme is open to experienced executives or professionals.

  • The award of Doctor of Applied Social Research is equivalent to a PhD.
  • Doctoral students will demonstrate scholarship, methodological expertise, a contribution to knowledge about practice and a contribution to practice.
  • Directed study for the Professional Doctorate is on a part-time basis over two or three years, followed by the Thesis.


We welcome enquiries from prospective students. Informal enquiries may be made to Richard Simmons (Programme Director) using the details opposite.

Study pathways include:

Key information

EU Applicants
EU students enrolling for a taught postgraduate degree in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic year will be admitted as Scottish/EU fee status students and will be eligible for the same tuition support as Scottish domiciled students.

  • Qualification: Doctorate, MSc, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate
  • Study methods: Full-time, Part-time, Online only
  • Duration: Full-time: 3 - 4 years Part-time 4 - 8 years
  • Start date:

    September, January or February.

  • Course Director: Richard Simmons
Download postgraduate prospectus

Faculty of Social Sciences
Colin Bell Building
University of Stirling
Scotland UK

Course objectives

Our Professional Doctorate programme is very flexible - you are able to take a tailored pathway through your studies. Currently there are six professional pathways: Housing; Social Work; Dementia Studies; Drug and Alcohol Studies; Crime and Criminal Justice and Social Research. In the taught components of the programme, each route allows you to work together with other professionals to build key research skills while also deepening your professional development through a range of specialist options. You will then complete an assignment based on a professional project within the workplace. This will connect your research skills and real-world experience, encouraging you to engage reflexively at an advanced level over your professional role and practice. The thesis then provides an opportunity for advanced research on a topic of your choice.

  • The Professional Doctorate programme is open to experienced executives or professionals.
  • The award of Doctor of Applied Social Research is equivalent to a PhD.
  • Doctoral students will demonstrate scholarship, methodological expertise, a contribution to knowledge about practice and a contribution to practice.
  • Directed study for the Professional Doctorate is on a part-time basis over two or three years, followed by the Thesis.

What makes us different?

World-class library and teaching facilities

Studying for a degree means learning in different ways; managing your own time; conducting research; mastering new computer skills. We have the facilities and advice on hand to help you do all this - and do it well.

Learn more

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Life at Stirling

Of the many reasons students come to Stirling, such as academic reputation and research standards, one factor is always cited: the outstanding beauty of the University's Stirling campus. View our online films to get a picture of what it's like to live and study on our beautiful campus.

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Entry requirements

Academic requirements

The Professional Doctorate is intended for experienced professionals; you will normally need the equivalent of a minimum of two years' appropriate professional experience. For entry onto our Professional Doctorate programme you will also normally need an Honours or Masters’ degree in a relevant social science from a UK university or equivalent. Credit may be awarded for previous study, according to SCQF guidelines.

Please note: If you are a student from overseas and applying with a Tier 4 student visa, we unfortunately can not accept your application for this course as it falls into the category of being part-time, delivered online or a distance learning course.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

  • IELTS: 6.5 with 6.0 minimum in each skill
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Grade C
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Grade B
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic): 60 with 56 in each component
  • IBT TOEFL: 90 with no subtest less than 20

For more information go to English language requirements

If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard. View our range of pre-sessional courses.

Flexible Learning

If you are interested in studying a module from this course, the Postgraduate Certificate or the Postgraduate Diploma then please email to discuss your course of study.

Fees and costs

2016/17 Home/EU £13,250
2016/17 Overseas £36,550


2017/18 Home/EU £13,465
2017/18 Overseas £37,100


2018/19 Home/EU £13,670
2018/19 Overseas £38,030

From 2016/7 onwards, the fees for all taught postgraduate courses are to be held at the level set upon entry.

Please note there is an additional charge for the conferral of your degree. This will be charged at the rate applicable when you complete your studies. View more information

Cost of Living

Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

Payment options

Find information on paying fees by instalments

Scholarships & funding

Information on possible sources of funding


Please note that fees can be paid in instalments. Please see further information.

Benefits to sponsoring organisations

It is expected that many Professional Doctorate students will be supported by their organisations. The benefits to sponsoring organisations include:

  • In-depth Doctoral study. Driven by an issue relevant to the continued development of the organisation
  • Generation of ideas and critical thinking
  • Development of key individuals
  • Rigorous process of learning providing depth and insight
  • Clear identifiable outputs through the process
  • Interactive and facilitative process
  • Stirling expertise in applied social science and research training

Scholarship finder

Structure and teaching

Delivery and assessment

Teaching methods are adapted to suit the aims of each module, and include lectures, seminars, computer-based workshops and group work. There are many opportunities for discussion and feedback from peers and teaching staff. Students experience a range of different forms of assessment — these include coursework essays, critical review essays, book reviews, research proposals, research papers, conference posters, group project reports and oral presentation.

At the thesis stage, each professional doctorate student will have two supervisors, with the Principal Supervisor having expertise in your chosen area of interest. In addition, you will also have access to courses, seminars and development opportunities offered by Stirling Graduate Research School (SGRS) and the Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences, giving access to advanced training and summer school programmes.


For the convenience of part-time students, attendance for each of the ‘core’ Applied Social Research modules is concentrated into either three or four one-day blocks. The professional modules are also designed for part-time students, several being offered online (Housing and Dementia Studies). On-campus attendance is kept to a minimum.


The programme is designed to change the way you think as a professional. It is expected that you will be able to make a significant difference to your professional environment from the very beginning of the programme. Ideas and methods from a range of disciplines will be applied to your own fields of expertise. Candidates on all Professional Doctorate pathways work together on a range of ‘core’ research modules:

Core modules
ASRP002: Research Design and Process 20 credits, SCQF 11
The module takes students through the process of designing a research project. It enables them to think up an interesting research idea, to carry out a literature review, identify appropriate theoretical frameworks, refine the research question and then work out which methods to use. It introduces students to some of the more common research strategies and methods. It invites reflection on the ethics and politics of the research process, and encourages students to think systematically about dissemination of findings, knowledge exchange and research impact. The assessment for the module reinforces what has been learned: it involves thinking up a research topic, refining it into some researchable questions and then writing a proposal for funding.
ASRP003: Introduction to Information Technology and Library Services No credits given
The module is designed to make you aware of resources concerning Information Technology and Library Services; make you comfortable in the application of certain core IT and Library skills and aware of how to go about extending your knowledge of and confidence in further IT applications and Library Services.
ASRP004: Quantitative Data Analysis 20 credits, SCQF 11
The module introduces quantitative data analysis, covering a selection of those statistical techniques which are most commonly employed in social science research. It also covers practical training in the application of quantitative methods to social science data. The emphasis will be on the analysis of data collected in social surveys, particularly the secondary analysis of large scale surveys.
ASRP001: The Nature of Social Enquiry 20 credits, SCQF 11
This module aims to introduce students to the theoretical foundations that underpin social scientific research and analysis. The module begins by examining the main themes and issues within the philosophy of science and social science and then investigates different classical and modern theoretical perspectives for exploring the social world.
ASRP005: Qualitative Data Analysis 20 credits, SCQF 11
This module introduces students to qualitative data analysis. It aims to provide them with understanding and experience of conducting the analysis of qualitative data (including visual data), as well as a critical awareness of the role of computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS). Students will demonstrate the ability to conduct secondary analysis on a qualitative dataset and a critical appreciation of the impact of analysing secondary as well as primary data.
ASRP020: Professional Practice Research 60 credits, SCQF 12
This module aims to provide students with the ability and insights to reflect on their place and role as a professional within situated and wider communities of practice. With supervision, students are encouraged to use and develop their accumulated research skills and theoretical, epistemological and ontological knowledge to engage in an exploration of their own practice. In examining these issues, the module therefore aims to configure students’ relationship between practice, practice development and academic enquiry.
ASRP011: Thesis 360 credits, SCQF 12
Following completion of the taught modules, you progress to the empirical research stage and ultimately construct a thesis of approximately 45,000 words on a topic that will enhance the knowledge base in your field of practice.

Optional Modules

Thie core modules give the opportunity both to build high-quality research skills and to learn from each other’s experiences as professionals. Each professional pathway then offers a choice of modules from which two mayt be selected to tailor your own programme. (See 'Pathways' above).

The aim is to bring you up to date with the latest ideas, findings and methods, challenging assumptions and changing how you as a professional think about the relationship between research, scholarship and expertise. You will be encouraged to look at new ideas about systems, how decisions are made and how to design the professional environment so that you can see, understand, evaluate, plan and take action with maximum speed and efficiency.

Study method

Full-time or Part-time

Why Stirling?


In REF2014 Stirling was placed 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK with almost three quarters of research activity rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.

In the Social Work and Social Policy unit of assessment for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework:

  • 24% of our overall research activity was assessed to be world-leading.
  • 78% of our overall research activity was assessed to be internationally excellent or world-leading.
  • 99% of our outputs were assessed to be internationally recognised, internationally excellent or world leading.
  • 100% of research environment factors assessed as internationally excellent or world leading.
  • 100% of our research impact was assessed as world leading or internationally excellent.
  • The work of more than 90% of our researchers was assessed.
  • We were judged to have the 2nd highest research power in Scotland and 13th highest in the UK.
  • We ranked 17th overall in the UK and 3rd in Scotland for our research, with a grade point average of 3.01 (out of 4).

The School has attracted considerable sums of external research funding from Research Councils, Government, Independent and Charitable funders, and from the European Commission.

International Students

The University of Stirling welcomes students from around the world. Find out what studying here could be like for you .


Professional Doctorate candidates within the Faculty of Social Sciences join a growing community of research students from varying backgrounds working on a range of topics. We provide the opportunity to conduct research in a world-class, interdisciplinary school with strong links to theoretical, empirical, policy and practice developments. At the most recent Research Assessment Exercise 95% of our research was ranked as internationally excellent, with the top 10% judged as being ‘world class’. We are part of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences and our research training is accredited as part of the ESRC Scottish Doctoral Training Centre. Research postgraduate students are all members of one or more of our research groups: Childhood, Families and Relationships; Crime and Justice; Dementia and Social Gerontology; Governance, Participation and Inclusion; Scottish Addiction Studies; and Social Statistics. You can find details of the research interests of our staff and current research students by following the links on our website.

Our students

“The Professional Doctorate has allowed me to
combine both work and research interests in a
stimulating and rewarding educational experience
that I would recommend to any senior managers
contemplating postgraduate study”

Carole Hunter, former student

Careers and employability

Career opportunities

As a practitioner as well as a research student, you will find a supportive home within the school for putting research into practice and having a direct impact on people’s lives. Professional Doctorate candidates also frequently find themselves at the forefront of cutting-edge developments and initiatives in their organisations. You may find this helps you to develop your career to a new level, or to open up interesting consultancy opportunities. You may also choose to carry out further research and build an academic career.

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