Professional Doctorates: Grasping A New Way


  • Peter John Larmer School of Clinical Sciences Auckland University of Technology
  • Elizabeth Smythe School of Clinical Sciences Auckland University of Technology
  • Marion Jones Graduate Research School Auckland University of Technology



It is one thing to write a curriculum for a professional doctorate with a graduate profile that talks of practice-change and leadership development. Our experience of initiating the Doctor of Health Science in 2002 was that it was all too easy to fall back on the PhD mindset. It took inspiration from the literature, and pioneering candidates, to show us how this programme could be distinctively different from a PhD. We tell our story to reveal both challenges and possibilities. We see that all our candidates have a focus on bringing change to practice. Some do this through research ‘on’ practice, others by research ‘in’ practice, and then there are those caught up in the research/practice nexus. We believe a professional doctorate programme has potential to significantly grow the candidate into a leader of practice-change.


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Author Biographies

Peter John Larmer, School of Clinical Sciences Auckland University of Technology

Peter is Head of School of Clinical Sciences.  He has previously held the positions of Head of School of Rehabilitation and Occupation Studies, Head of Department of Physiotherapy and Head of Postgraduate Studies. Peter has been teaching in the Department of Physiotherapy since 1995 and in the Master of Health Science programme since 1999 and the Doctor of Health Science since 2012. Prior to joining AUT in 2001, his professional background was in Private Practice Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy. His current research focus is on arthritis management and outcome measures. He has also published a number of systematic reviews. 

Elizabeth Smythe, School of Clinical Sciences Auckland University of Technology

Elizabeth (Liz) Smythe is a Professor in the Health Faculty at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). Her practice background is nursing and midwifery. She has spent the past twenty-five years researching and supervising in the hermeneutic phenomenological paradigm. She is Programme Leader of the interprofessional Doctor of Health Science and facilitates the paper that encourages students to explore the nature of their practice issue alongside possible research approaches.

Marion Jones, Graduate Research School Auckland University of Technology

Professor Marion Jones has been with AUT for some years. A significant focus of her academic career has been the development of postgraduate study at AUT. For ten years, she provided her expertise as an Associate Dean Postgraduate in the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences and served as an Associate Professor from 2005-2012 and now as a Professor. This leadership was recognised in her appointment as the first Dean of Postgraduate Studies and Academic Leader for the South Campus in 2011. Currently, she is Dean of the University’s Graduate Research School.


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How to Cite

Larmer, P. J., Smythe, E., & Jones, M. (2019). Professional Doctorates: Grasping A New Way. ealth ducation in ractice: ournal of esearch for rofessional earning, 2(2).