Clinical Doctorates

Doctorate, MSc, Postgraduate Diploma

Study towards a:

Doctor of Nursing, Doctor of Midwifery or Doctor of Professional Health Studies.


Our Clinical Doctorate is the only one of its kind in Scotland, tailored to the needs of Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professionals, of all varieties. The programme is practice-focused and has been designed to prepare future leaders of practice, education and leadership. Students will join other professionals from a range of disciplines for on-campus and online study, to benefit not only from the extensive knowledge delivered by the Clinical Doctorate team, but from each others experiences and expertise.

The Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport is well placed to deliver a clinically focused programme such as this. We are a multi-award winning institution, led by a group of world-leading academics, with strong and established research records, real nursing experience and a wealth of world-class publications. 

Who is the Doctorate for?

The ‘Clinical Doctorate’ programme is designed for experienced clinicians who wish to attain the highest goal of becoming ‘clinical academic’. This is the ideal qualification for those who retain a clinical focus with commitment to the improvement of patient care.

Health care professionals on the Programme may include: nurses; midwives; dieticians; genetic counsellors; occupational therapists; paramedicine; physiotherapists; speech and language therapists; sport and exercise psychologists and podiatrists.

1st for Research


In the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) the Faculty of Health Sciences came top for health research in Scotland and was ranked 12th in the UK overall, showcasing our commitment to producing world-leading research which improves the health of people in Scotland and reduces health inequalities through impact on policy and practice.

Key information

EU Applicants
EU students enrolling for a postgraduate taught 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
  • Study methods: Full-time, Part-time, Campus based
  • Duration: 3 years f/t, between 4–8 years p/t.
  • Start date:

    Students usually begin the programme at the start of a new academic year, in September.

  • Course Director: Dr Kathleen Stoddart
  • Location: Stirling Campus
Download course leaflet
Download postgraduate prospectus

Programme Secretary

University of Stirling

  1. You will join a programme that is unique in Scotland in its clinical focus and differs greatly from all similar programmes in the UK.
  2. You will be supported by a dedicated team of academic staff and the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (NMAHP RU), both renowned for their expertise in world-leading research that permeates the programme.
  3. The blended teaching approach allows you to relate everything you learn, including assignments, directly to what you do in practice and realise the impact this has on your day-to-day work.
  4. You will join other learners from a range of clinical backgrounds, learn from one another, and have the opportunity to discuss within a critical space.
  5. As a qualified Doctor of Nursing, Midwifery or Professional Health Studies, you will have attained the highest level of academic qualification within your specialism, placing yourself at the forefront of your profession as a recognised, and highly employable expert.

Course objectives

The programme aims to develop you as a clinically focussed senior Nurse, Midwife or Allied Health Professional who will be at the cutting edge of clinical research and practice in your field.

Working autonomously, you will be able to design and execute research to deal with problems and issues in practice and apply constant and integrated approaches to critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas, information and issues.

In summary, the programme is about: 

  • Tackling complex ideas and challenging established modes of thinking;
  • Developing research and scholarship skills harnessed imaginatively to the field of clinical practice;
  • Preparing to be at the cutting edge of clinical and research practice for your area of ‘expertness’;
  • Familiarity with leading-edge research, an ability to redesign the clinical environment and understanding of the research process.


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.

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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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Live Life

Entry requirements

Academic requirements

Candidates should normally hold a good Honours degree and/or a Master’s degree or equivalent of a university or college recognised by the University of Stirling; hold an appropriate nursing, midwifery or allied health professional registration; and normally at least five years’ post-registration experience. Selection follows consideration of written application and statement.

*Please note that due to the nature of this programme we can only accept applications from EU based students. Applicants from outwith the EU are advised to contact for a discussion on your suitability to joining the programme.

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



Home/ European Union

Doctor of Nursing/Midwifery


Full programme






Doctoral thesis NURPD5


Master's dissertation NURPM1


Home/ European Union

Doctor of Nursing/Midwifery


Full programme






Doctoral thesis NURPD5


Master's dissertation NURPM1


Fees for all new applicants to postgraduate taught courses are held at the level set upon entry.

Please note there is an additional charge should you choose to attend a graduation ceremony. 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

SAAS Postgraduate Loans

The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) is now offering a generous loan scheme to assist eligible Scottish and EU-domiciled students pursuing a Masters at the University of Stirling during 2018/19. Find out more about SAAS Postgraduate Loans

information on possible sources of funding

Scholarship finder

Structure and teaching

Structure and content

The programme is designed to challenge and change the way you think.  Throughout the programme, your endeavours focus on your own field of practice. You can expect to make a significant difference to your clinical environment right from the very start.

The programme can be studied over three years full-time or, more commonly, over four and eight years on a part-time basis. It consists of three taught modules, an expert practice module and an empirical thesis. Taught components are clustered into two three-day sessions over the first three semesters.

Each taught module is studied over one semester.

  • The first module brings you up to date with the latest ideas, findings and methods – taken from across the spectrum of academic research and harnessed imaginatively to your field of practice.
  • The second module builds on the first but looks at clinically-applied problem solving to design evidence into fields of practice and organisations. The potential of the research and its impact is part of that design process.
  • In the third module we work together to promote a generic knowledge of research methods whilst keeping the clinical relevance of your research in our sights at all times. You also start to more fully develop your research ideas.
  • The fourth module is about assessment of your expert practice including its currency and engagement with others. You are also supported to develop your research proposal further.

Following two years of taught modules, you progress to the empirical research stage and ultimately construct a thesis on a topic that will enhance the knowledge base in your field of practice.

Delivery and assessment

Period of Study

Full-time Doctorate 4 - 6 years
  Masters 2 - 3 years
  Diploma 1 - 2 years
Part-time Doctorate 4 - 8 years
  Masters 3 - 6 years
  Diploma 1.5 - 4 years

Taught modules

  • Contemporary Health Care Theory and Research (NURPD01) - SCQF 40 credits / level 11
  • Project Management in Health Care Organisations (NURPD02) - SCQF 40 credits / level 11
  • Research Design for Clinical Practice (NURPD03) - SCQF 40 credits / level 11
  • Expert Practice (NURPD04) - SCQF 80 credits / level 12

Research module

  • Practice Based Empirical Project & Thesis (NUPRD05) - SCQF 340 credits / level 12

Each taught module and Thesis module (NURPD05) is organised and supported by a module coordinator. They will offer you any advice and guidance required during each module and offer you support with your endeavours.


The main method of assessment for each module is coursework, with one practice based examination.


Students must successfully complete all taught modules before commencing the research stage (NURPD05).


Students are well supported through regular face-to-face contact, video conferencing, skype, email and phone. There is tutorial time in preparation for each assignment, and detailed feedback afterward. 

'Succeed' is available to all students via the University portal. Each taught module is supported by a bespoke set of web pages where information, teaching materials and learning resources are deposited by the module coordinator.


(NURPD01) Contemporary Health Care Theory and Research:

This module brings you up-to-date with the latest ideas, the latest findings, and the latest methods – taken from across the spectrum of academic research, and harnessed imaginatively to the clinical environment. It’s a module that will probably challenge some of your assumptions – and it will certainly challenge how you think about the relation between research, scholarship and expertise.

Assessment: Coursework

(NURPD02) Project Management in Health Care Organisations:

The second module builds on the first, but the underlying theme of the second module is problem solving – not in an abstract sense, but in a way that is directed to a particular clinical problem that you will be invited to identify in your own clinical environment. Students are encouraged to think about designing evidence into fields of practice and organisations.

Assessment: Coursework

(NURPD03) Research Design for Clinical Practice:

This doctorate is about clinically significant research. You have to know about research. It’s an essential part of the modern health service. In this module we work together to promote a generic knowledge of research methods whilst keeping the clinical relevance of your research interests in our sights at all times. You start to develop your research proposal ideas at this point.

Assessment: Literature review

(NURPD04) Expert Practice:

A clinical doctorate is a PhD-level test of your effectiveness as a clinician. This includes familiarity with recent research, an ability to redesign the clinical environment, and an understanding of the research process. Crucially, however, it also includes your specialist clinical skills. We don’t think we can teach you those, but we do think we can assess them – with the help of experts from your field of practice, and in consultation with you, the student. So this module is all about preparing for that: you have to prepare a demonstration of your expertise; we organise a full and fair assessment. It sounds daunting, but students describe it as ‘a really worthwhile opportunity’; ‘such a validation’.

Assessment: Development of research proposal and assessment of expert practice

(NURPD05) Practice Based Empirical Project & Thesis:

The climax! You spend around four years on this – and end up producing a thesis of approximately 60,000 words. You choose a topic that is relevant to your field of practice. You determine whether it’s worthwhile, original – and feasible. Then you design a research study capable of answering a specific question. Next, you conduct the study – thoughtfully, ethically, and meticulously. Finally, you complete analysis of the data, and write the thesis. It’s a long slog, with plenty of ups and downs. You will need a lot of motivation, and excellent supervisors. You provide the first, we provide the second.

Assessment: Thesis

Study method

Part-time and Full-time routes of study are available using blended learning. Taught components are clustered into two three-day sessions over the first three semesters.

Example timetable

The timetable below is a typical example, but your own timetable may be different.

Each module consists of two 3-day blocks (and six weeks of independent study). 

1 Sept - 3 Sept NURPD01: Contemporary Health Care Theory and Research
3 Nov - 5 Nov
12 Jan Assignment due
2 Feb - 4 Feb NURPD02: Project Management in Health Care Organisations
8 March - 10 March
19 April Assignment due
6 Sept - 8 Sept NURPD03: Research Design for Clinical Practice
1 Nov - 3 Nov
22 Nov Assignment 1 due
10 Jan Assignment 2 due
Dec/Jan Work with Supervisor to develop research proposal
Feb - June NURPD04: Expert Practice
2 May Assignment due (research proposal)
Feb - June Observation and examination
Subsequent 4 - 6 years NURPD05: Practice Based Empirical research
Submission of thesis

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.

1st for Research

Our research is world class and is recognised for its quality and innovation. We are the premier faculty for health sciences research in Scotland.

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014):

  • The Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport came top for health research in Scotland and was ranked 12th in the UK overall;
  • Our research environment is outstanding and was rated as top-equal in the UK;
  • Overall nearly half of our research activity was rated as 4* placing us top in Scotland and 9th in the UK;
  • Nearly 90% of our peer-reviewed research papers were rated as being of international significance.

We are a new Faculty and will continue to build our capacity to deliver high quality research which improves the health of people in Scotland and reduce health inequalities through its impact on policy and practice.

International Students

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


Research in the Faculty focuses on clinically and socially relevant research about the quality and delivery of health and social care; the development and evaluation of health interventions; health behaviour change and social marketing.‌

ISM logo‌The Institute of Social Marketing (ISM) conducts research in three key areas: the development and evaluation of behaviour change interventions based on social marketing principles; the impact of public policy on health and social welfare and the impact of commercial marketing on the health and behaviour of individuals and of society more generally.

The Faculty hosts the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (NMAHPRU) funded by the Scottish Government's Health Directorates, Chief Scientist Office. NMAHP-RU has two programmes of research: interventions and quality and delivery of care.

Colleagues from across the Faculty, NMAHP-RU and ISM are committed to sharing their expertise with students on the programme.

Our students

“ We’re all from different clinical backgrounds, which makes the class discussions we have very interesting: we’re constantly learning from each other. This is something we do a lot in class: discuss the work we’re doing for our assignments. It’s amazing how much you can learn from that and, how enjoyable it is”.

“ The best thing about the Doctor of Nursing is the way in which everything is directly linked to what you do clinically, including the assignments. It’s not just an academic exercise: what I’ve done on the course has a real impact on my day-to-day work.”

Our staff

The core Doctorate team includes:

Dr Kathleen Stoddart; Dr Carol Bugge and Dr Joyce Wilkinson.

Far-reaching clinical academic expertise feeds into the programme and into student supervision.

Keynote contributions are made to the clinical doctorate programme by UK and International academics.

Careers and employability

Career opportunities

Students find a difference in their thinking right from the start and take that different thinking into practice. Within the current body of students, ten have advanced their careers by achieving a promotion during their time on the programme.


98% of our postgraduate leavers are in employment or further study withing six months of graduating - Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2015/16

Professional Doctorates are recognised internationally as a qualification granted to those who have reached the peak of professional and academic achievement in their field of expertise. 

‌Increasingly within the National Health Service (NHS) a Professional Doctorate is seen as an essential academic qualification for progressing to higher level posts within the NHS Agenda for Change career framework.

Graduates have reported benefits of studying a Clinical Doctorate as being: gaining the confidence to see themselves as an expert in their field; the personal fulfilment of achieving the highest academic qualification; enhanced critical and analytical thinking; confidence within specialist areas; the opening of new and advanced career opportunities.

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