Applied Social Research Doctorate



The Professional Doctorate

As a Doctor of Applied Social Research student in the School of Applied Social Science 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.

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.

Key information

  • Degree type: Doctorate
  • Study methods: Full-time, Part-time
  • Start date: September/January
  • Course Director: Richard Simmons

Richard Simmons School of Applied Social Science
Colin Bell Building
University of Stirling
Scotland UK
Tel: (+44) (0)1786 466314

View fees and finance

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.

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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 provide evidence of your proficiency such as a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (minimum 6 in each skill).

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.

Structure and teaching

Structure and content

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:

  • The Nature of Social Enquiry
  • Research Design and Process
  • Quantitative Data Analysis
  • Qualitative Data Analysis
  • Policy Analysis and Evaluation Research

This gives 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 candidates may select their own tailored programme.

  • Our Housing pathway includes a choice of specialist modules in Policy and Strategy; Managing Information; Preventing Homelessness; Management and Change; Paying For Housing; Renewal and Regeneration; and Housing Health and Wellbeing  
  • Our Social Work pathway includes a choice of specialist modules in Risk and Decision Making; Developing Practitioner and Organisational Capacity; Managing Change and Innovation; Collaborative Practice; Health, Illness and Disability; Crime, Welfare and Justice and Children, Families and Society
  • Our Criminal Justice pathway includes a choice of specialist modules in Criminological Perspectives; Criminalisation, Social Control and Human Rights and Research Methods in Criminology and Socio-legal Studies 
  • Our Dementia Studies pathway includes a choice of specialist modules in Evaluation and Assessment in Dementia Care and Researching Dementia
  • Our Drug and Alcohol Studies pathway includes a choice of specialist modules in Understanding Addiction: Society, Policy and Practice and Understanding Addiction: Treatment and Recovery
  • Our Applied Social Research pathway includes a choice of specialist modules in Comparative Social Research; Thinking Sociologically; Advanced Quantitative Research; Advanced Qualitative Research; Strategic Public Relations Planning; Social Marketing and Organisational Behaviour and Analysis

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.

  • A further module assesses your expert practice in a professional setting. It requires an ability to reflect upon and analyse your role as a professional in an advanced workplace-based assignment and report.

Following completion of the taught modules, you progress to the empirical research stage and ultimately construct a thesis of approximately 45,000-55,000 words on a topic that will enhance the knowledge base in your field of practice.

Modes of study

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.

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.


Professional Doctorate candidates within the School of Applied Social Science 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 in 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.

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.


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

Online application process

Please choose a start date and study method from the drop-down list below, and click the Apply Now button below to begin the online application process. (Please make sure you have consulted the Postgraduate Study pages on the University website and the Online Application Guidance Notes before continuing).



You should expect to pay fees for every year you are in attendance and be aware fees are subject to revision and may increase annually. Students on programmes of study of more than one year should take this into account when applying.

Scholarships & funding

Information on possible sources of funding


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

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