Structure and modules

The programme is divided into two parts, and has a modular structure with six modules in total. All modules are compulsory.  Each of the six modules, a thesis proposal, and the final thesis are assessed.

  • Part One (years 1 and 2) consists of five modules that offer participants guided study in key areas of higher education;
  • Part Two (years 3 and 4) - participants carry out an original piece of research under the supervision of a member of staff and produce a thesis (45,000 words).

Part One

Part One modules

Assessment of Part One of the Programme consists of:

  • A written assignment of 7,000 words for each of the three core modules UPPHE, ECHE, RLTA;
  • Three short assignments for support Module A (5-6,000 words equivalent, in total);
  • Four very short submissions (reports, presentations, exercises), for support Module B.

Core modules

For each of the core modules you write one assignment for each, of around 7,000 words, receiving detailed feedback on a first draft from your tutor before final submission. This is modelled on the process of submitting an article to an academic journal.

These assignments are chosen by you and if you wish to you can submit them for publication in an academic journal. The PhD operates on a publish-as-you-go model. This is helpful to you in a number of ways, and is a distinguishing characteristic of this PhD programme.

These core modules run sequentially, each for around 7 months, each with sessions at three of the residentials. There are four residentials per year in Part One.

  • Understanding policies and practices in higher education (UPPHE)

    This module, one of the three core modules taken in Part 1, enables you to engage critically with developments in higher education that impact on academic practices in universities around the world. You will deploy appropriate concepts and theories to critically appraise policy-making and policy implementation processes, including those located in your own local circumstances. You will be able to engage in effective change management which is orientated to the enhancement of teaching, research or other University functions, again this may be located in the local circumstances. You will conduct rigourous research in the area of policies and change and be able to write academic articles of significance to a wide readership in this area. 

    The current module leader for UPPHE is Janja Komljenovic and her research interests are in higher education, policy and governance.

    The module is organised into the following themes:

    1. exploring professional practices in relation to the module aims;
    2. global trends in higher education;
    3. policy and policy-making - theory and practices;
    4. policy implementation and enactment - theory and practices;
    5. exploring the implementation gap - why outcomes don’t match intentions, usually
    6. learning architectures in universities – structures and processes that scaffold or inhibit enhancement structures and agency in universities - cultures, disciplines, ideologies, identities;
    7. effective change agency - some principles, some practices.

     

    As with each of the three core modules on the programme, the assessment of this one is a journal-length assignment on a topic relevant to the module chosen by you. The assessment criteria are those of a PhD generally: the assignment offers an original contribution to knowledge and is of publishable standard. The model on which this assessment strategy is based is that of submitting a journal article: you initially submit a preliminary version which receives extensive formative feedback from the module tutor. Here the tutor is acting in the same way as peer reviewers of a submitted journal article. You are then able to improve your assignment based on that advice and submit it for summative assessment. If the assignment does not reach PhD standard at this stage you have the opportunity for one further resubmission, again based on substantial advice from the module tutor.

    Having successfully completed this module you will be a specialist in an area of the topic, able to publish in that area, and able to enhance professional understanding, practices and approaches relevant to the module’s topic.

    Participant comment: “Excellent, thank you.  Thank you for the support and encouragement.  Very happy as always.  More than happy with everything during the residential.”

  • Evaluation cultures in higher education (ECHE)

    “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

    Albert Einstein.

    Do you want to know more about how evaluation influences academic life and higher education organisations?  This module aims to provide students with sufficient theoretical and practical understandings of academic and higher education evaluation to engage with current and ongoing evaluation policies critically. 

    The current module leader for ECHE is Gemma Derrick whose research interests involve methods of research evaluation including academic notions of scientific and societal excellence in research and how these are measured.

    This is one of the three core modules taken in Part 1, and it helps you engage critically with developments in understanding how evaluation is conducted and theorised, and the ways in which these developments are impacting on higher education cultures and practices. You will consider this in relation to the role of higher education and its relationship with society generally. The module prepares you to engage in current and prospective policy debates surrounding the value of higher education and the ways in which the sector is evaluated. The module goes beyond research, theory, concepts and debate however, empowering you to engage personally in effective evaluation of the enhancement of teaching, research and other sector functions. The rigorous evaluative research that you conduct for this module, on a topic of your choice, will enable you to write a journal article of significance to a wide readership.

    The module is organised into the following three main themes each with subsidiary topics:

    1. The changing role of the University

    • employability agenda and the role of university in preparing for, and creating work
    • universities as a “public good”, and the accountability agenda
    • responsible research and innovation (RRI) agenda
    • internationalisation and marketisation of the University

    2. Theories of and approaches to university evaluation

    • evaluative frameworks around higher education
    • peer review and group-peer review
    • notions of “excellence” in evaluative cultures in our education
    • metrics and their constitutive effects

    3. Learning through evaluation- research dynamics

    • uses of evaluation (development, accountability, nudging and knowledge)
    • evaluative effects and the impact of higher education interventions
    • evaluating notions of public good and effect on university cultures.

    As with each of the three core modules on the programme, the assessment of this one is a journal-length assignment on a topic relevant to the module chosen by you. The assessment criteria are those of a PhD generally: the assignment offers an original contribution to knowledge and is of publishable standard. The model on which this assessment strategy is based is that of submitting a journal article: you initially submit a preliminary version which receives extensive formative feedback from the module tutor. Here the tutor is acting in the same way as peer reviewers of a submitted journal article. You are then able to improve your assignment based on that advice and submit it for summative assessment. If the assignment does not reach PhD standard at this stage you have the opportunity for one further resubmission, again based on substantial advice from the module tutor.

    Having successfully completed this module you will be a specialist in an area of the topic, able to publish in that area, and able to enhance professional understanding, practices and approaches relevant to the module’s topic.

    Participant comment: “Good, very supportive feedback. Tutor availability good, support offered regularly… “I am really enjoying the whole programme and gaining a lot, personally and professionally.”

  • Researching Learning, Teaching and Assessment (RLTA)

    This module, one of the three core modules taken in Part 1, deepens and extends your knowledge about research and theory concerning learning, teaching and assessment in higher education. It provides a range of theoretical frameworks and perspectives from which to address these issues and so empowers you to critically engage with institutional developments at the levels of policy, strategy and practice. Finally it enables you to be a critical user of data provided by student evaluation and feedback mechanisms and by other research. Taken together these aspects of this module help you to become an effective change agent orientated to enhancing learning, teaching and assessment at the different levels of practice and policy.

    The current module leader for RLTA is Richard Budd.

    The module is organised into the following themes:

    1. analysing institutional learning, teaching, and assessment policies, strategies and practices;
    2. conceptualising learning, teaching and assessment in higher education;
    3. approaches to learning and phenomenographic approaches to learning, teaching and assessment;
    4. social practice approaches to learning, teaching and assessment;
    5. the place of knowledge and curriculum in research into learning, teaching and assessment in higher education;
    6. designing research into learning, teaching and assessment in higher education;
    7. writing about learning, teaching and assessment in higher education.

    As with each of the three core modules on the programme, the assessment of this one is a journal-length assignment on a topic relevant to the module chosen by you. The assessment criteria are those of a PhD generally: the assignment offers an original contribution to knowledge and is of publishable standard. The model on which this assessment strategy is based is that of submitting a journal article: you initially submit a preliminary version which receives extensive formative feedback from the module tutor. Here the tutor is acting in the same way as peer reviewers of a submitted journal article. You are then able to improve your assignment based on that advice and submit it for summative assessment. If the assignment does not reach PhD standard at this stage you have the opportunity for one further resubmission, again based on substantial advice from the module tutor.

    Having successfully completed this module you will be a specialist in an area of the topic, able to publish in that area, and able to enhance professional understanding, practices and approaches relevant to the module’s topic.

    Participant comment:I find that after each RLTA session, I leave with a clear understanding of the content explained in addition to being intrigued as well as having a genuine desire to learn more about whatever concept/theory that was introduced.”

Subsidiary modules

You are supported in Part One by two further subsidiary modules: Module A - Research Design, Approaches and Tools, and Module B - Theory and Professional Practices in Higher Education

Here the assessment is designed to be formative and helpful for the core modules.

Modules A and B run for the whole length of the Part One. Module A is the primary means through which we support your acquisition of research skills. It is oriented towards the world of academic research. Module B develops your ability to approach your professional role in a more research-informed way.

  • Module A - Research design, approaches and tools

    This module, taken in Part 1, will assist you to critically evaluate the research of others and to facilitate your ability to design and carry out your own research for the program modules and for the thesis.

    In order to do this you will benefit from a sound grounding in a range of research techniques in this module, helping you to collect different types of data and to understand the philosophical and epistemological principles underlying the techniques being used as well as the associated research processes.

    You will be able to analyse, interpret and present qualitative and quantitative data in a variety of forms to a range of audiences. As a result you will have the tools for autonomous research and theoretical approaches which will equip you to conduct and publish from your own research projects.

    The current leader for module A is Kyungmee Lee.

    The module is organised in five main sections:

    1. exploring and experimenting with qualitative methods;
    2. quantitative methods and analysis;
    3. mixing methods;
    4. doing literature reviews and documentary analysis;
    5. communicating research findings: writing up and writing with data.

    Because this is a support module the assignments are assessed on a pass/fail basis and are designed to allow creativity, risk-taking and experimentation. You are not expected to be writing at doctoral level for these assignments.

    There are three short assignments. The first involves trying out, on a very small scale, a method of acquiring qualitative data. The second is similar but this time involving quantitative data. The third assignment involves helping you to plan your major research project for the thesis and the feedback you get assists in making sure that your project is practicable and at the right standard.

    Participant comment:I enjoyed all of the modules. I think the staff were friendly approachable and supportive.. I leave Module A with an interest in learning more about the subject matter because [the tutor] is an intelligent researcher and teacher.” “I loved Mod A …. very practical and full of useful knowledge. And very much what we need at this point in the programme since we are starting to think about [moving to Part 2].”

  • Module B - Theory and professional practices in higher education

    This module, taken in Part 1, will enhance your ability to articulate and analyse aspects of your professional practices and to connect these two the relevant research literature. So the module helps you relate your day-to-day professional role to concepts and theory as well as significant data that are relevant to it, helping you see professional practice within higher education in a new light and so enhance it. Module B is closely related to work you will do in the core modules as well as aspects of your professional life.

    The current leader for module B is Ann-Marie Houghton whose interests include inclusive curriculum development, evaluation of widening access and transition issues into higher education and the academic and learning experiences of disabled learners.

    The module is organised in four main sections:

    1. The relationship between policies and practices;
    2. Theorising practices;
    3. Organisational cultures;
    4. Organisational change.

    Because this is a support module the assignments are assessed on a pass/fail basis and are designed to allow creativity, risk-taking and experimentation. You are not expected to be writing at doctoral level for these assignments.

    There are four very short assignments, each of which relates to one of the four sections above. One paper analyses a policy or guidance document that is relevant to you. The second applies theory to an area of relevant professional practice. The third is about organisational cultures and involves a short presentation or a written paper. The final assignment is again a written paper or a short presentation about organisational change in this case. Because most participants on the doctoral program write about their own professional practice for their thesis, this module is very relevant to the work they will do in Part 2 of the programme.

    Participant comment:I leave Module B with a great desire to improve my own teaching practice because [the tutor] is a very passionate and dedicated teacher who inspires me to use some of her teaching methods in my class.”

Confirmation process to Part Two

Progression from Part One to Part Two is dependent upon successful completion of all Part One modules.

In addition you need to successfully complete the PhD confirmation process by producing a confirmation document of up to 5,000 words detailing a research plan for your PhD thesis.  This document will be assessed by a confirmation panel and ensures you have a practicable project which will enable you to complete the PhD successfully.

An MRes exit route is also available at the end of Part One of the programme.

Part Two

In the second half of your PhD programme, you will embark on an original research project and produce a 45,000-word thesis based on the research proposal that you developed in Part One.

Assessment of Part Two of the Programme consists of:

  • Three further short assignments for support Module C (2-3,000 words equivalent, in total).
  • A thesis of 45,000 words equivalent for the PhD.
  • There is an oral examination (a 'viva voce') of your PhD thesis, with both an external (to Lancaster) and an internal examiner.

Your thesis is assessed to exactly the same standards as a 'traditional route' (i.e. non-programmatic) PhD.

Module C

This module, taken in Part Two, will assist you in the various phases of conducting your research and writing it up for the thesis in Part Two. Over the two years of Part Two, the module attends to the needs of each phase: data collection and analysis; the process of writing the different chapters of the thesis; integrating theory and data; considering different audiences for your work and engaging in a defence of the thesis. The module is also responsive to needs of the cohort as they arise during the process of research and allows you to benefit from the collective intelligence of both departmental staff and other researchers on the doctoral programme.

Because this is a support module the assignments are assessed on a pass/fail basis and are designed to allow you to explore and experiment with some of the themes and concepts you will develop more fully in your thesis.

You are asked to write three short papers for this module, each focusing on a different aspect of the process of writing and defending a thesis. There is an opportunity to give a presentation on each assignment at the residential prior to the submission date and so to receive formative feedback from both the module tutor and other members of your cohort.

The module leader for module C is Malcolm Tight.

Participant comment: “…things fell into place and I was happy with all modules delivered.  Really good knowledgeable supportive lecturers.  Excellent, all questions answered and others posed!”