Structure and modules

The programme has a modular structure with three core modules and three support modules. All modules are compulsory and they are assessed along with the thesis proposal and the final thesis.

  • Part One (years 1 and 2) consists of five modules that offer participants guided study in key areas of Higher Education Research, Evaluation and Enhancement.
  • 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) with the benefit of a sixth module.

Whilst this programme is undertaken entirely online, the Certificate produced on successful completion of the course will say "Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation and Enhancement", with no mention of the mode of delivery.

Part One

Part One compulsory core modules

Assessment for each core module involves researching and writing a publishable paper for an academic journal (7,000 words).

  • EDS845: Enhancing Higher Education: Policy and Change Processes

    Enhancing Higher Education is a compulsory core module which introduces you to recent research, key theories, concepts and critical perspectives about policy-making and change processes that are aimed at enhancing practices and outcomes in higher education.

    This theoretical foundation will enable you to better understand issues in the management of change and help you to become a more effective change agent in your professional setting.

    The skills that you will develop over the course of the module are vital to you as a researcher and as a practitioner; they benefit your employing institution when applied to the improvement of organisational performance and outcomes.

    As a researcher, you will gain practical experience of the research process – the module assessment involves researching and writing a 7,000-word paper suitable for publication in an academic journal. As with the similar assignments for the other two core modules you are offered detailed formative feedback on a draft before final submission. A key feature of the module is that publications from module assignments are capable of making a real difference to policy and practice in higher education.

    As a professional you will be capable of both critically addressing and initiating change in your own institution (at strategic policy, implementation and practice levels). You will also become a critical user of data provided via student evaluation and feedback mechanisms.

    This module is currently taught by Professor Paul Trowler.

  • EDS844: Evaluative Practice in Social Policy Domains: Higher Education

    This core module will equip you as a professional working in higher education with a comprehensive understanding of evaluative practices. We will take a look at the contemporary field of evaluation and apply approaches to higher education at individual programme, institutional and at sector levels.

    You'll also begin to consider the ways in which higher education impacts development, both nationally and internationally.

    The knowledge you'll gain of evaluation approaches, methods and theories is both essential for your development as a higher education researcher and as a professional able to effectively lead evaluation of change initiatives in your own higher education institution.

    This module will provide you with practical knowledge of how to conduct relevant evaluative research, which will strengthen your institution and be suitable for publication in a high-status journal.

    Evaluative Practice in Social Policy Domains: Higher Education is assessed through a 7,000-research paper. This enhances your research experience in preparation for your thesis.

    This module is currently taught by Professor Murray Saunders.

  • EDS842: Enhancing Learning Teaching and Assessment at University

    The core module Enhancing Learning Teaching and Assessment further improves your critical appreciation of the way that learning, teaching and assessment in higher education is perceived, implemented, organised, and intrinsically linked to policy and larger socio-cultural and political structures.

    You'll scrutinise the latest critical developments in the ways that learning, teaching and assessment, and subsequently knowledge, are understood, explored and applied. You'll be encouraged to employ relevant theories and perspectives creatively as a lens in that process. This module is designed to push the boundaries of what it means to teach, learn and assess in higher education, and reach out beyond academia. 

    The module will also see you make significant progress as a professional in your employing institution - you will be capable of recognising and critically comprehending the relationship between higher education practice, research, policy, ideology and strategy.

    This module is unique as it will give you a good grounding to develop a 7,000-word paper suitable for a) peer-reviewed publication in a targeted academic journal or b) presentation at conference, or c) a peer-reviewed book chapter, as a tangible outcome of your involvement in the module. This piece is the core means of assessment for this module. 

    Moreover, the module will provide you with insights into public engagement strategies, which are becoming increasingly important across higher education institutions worldwide to link tertiary practice to wider communities.

    This module is currently taught by Dr Natasa Lackovic.

Part One compulsory support modules

  • EDS843: Researching Higher Education

    The Researching Higher Education module supports you both as a researcher leading up to the creation of a thesis and as a professional looking to improve and enhance your practice by using research and evidence.

    You will gain insights in a wide variety of different methods, which produce both qualitative and quantitative data. Taking this further, you'll then consider how the underlying philosophy and theory of different research approaches can affect how you carry out your investigations. 

    Practically, you'll learn how to carry out a successful research project: constructing a research design, selecting appropriate methodology and methods, following correct procedure to gather data, and critically reviewing your results.

    Back in your employing institution, this means that you’ll be able to apply the outputs of existing research to your professional setting. You’ll also be able to design and execute highly-relevant research projects within your institution.

    This module is a strong foundation upon which you will build your research portfolio. It is assessed via several short assignments, totalling 5,000 words. They allow you to polish your research and writing abilities as you progress towards later assessments and, if you wish, longer papers suitable for journal publication. 

    This module is currently taught by Dr Janja Komljenovic.

  • EDS841: Connecting Research and Practice (integrated into core modules)

    The overall aim of this module is to enhance your ability to articulate and analyse aspects of your professional practice and to connect these to the related research literature.

    In this way, Connecting Research and Practice turns your day-to-day professional activity into more reflective engagement, illuminated by theories, concepts and research findings.

    The module is integrated into all three of the core modules in Part 1 of the programme. Within each of these modules, you will undertake a 2,000-word assignment focused on the links between the module's content and your own professional practice.

    These short assignments offer an early, "low stakes" opportunity to produce academic writing within each module. Our experience shows that getting you writing at an early stage of the programme is essential to its successful completion and for the pace of your development as a researcher.

Confirmation process

Thesis Proposal

Towards the end of Part One, programme members produce a PhD confirmation document containing a research plan for the PhD thesis (up to 5,000 words). This is assessed by a panel of academics to confirm that progression to Part Two is suitable and the likelihood of success is strong. Feedback will be given where necessary. When Part One is successfully completed and the confirmation document approved, the candidate has their progression to Part Two (researching and writing the main thesis under the guidance of an academic supervisor) confirmed

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.

Ongoing guidance from an experienced PhD supervisor, with whom you will work on a one-to-one basis, helps you throughout your project.

Part 2 centres on researching, writing, and then defend your thesis during a viva voce oral examination by both external and internal examiners.

  • EDS846: Writing and Defending a Thesis

    The Part two module (EDS 846) is designed to keep you on track as you carry out your main research project, and to provide invaluable guidance on writing and defending your thesis. Resources are available for your use as required, and the module provides the opportunity to consult with other students working in similar areas.

    Module EDS 846 has no required assessment as you are concentrating solely on your PhD research project. It does however provide opportunities for engagement beyond the personal support of your supervisor should you wish to take them, especially interaction with others whose interests align with yours and access to a range of resources.

    The module and your supervision time will help you evidence personal and practical proficiencies including:

    • in-depth understanding of how research is carried out;
    • recognising and eliminating issues, following good practise guidelines;
    • critically reviewing your own work and working independently.
  • Assessment of the thesis

    The thesis is approximately 45,000 words and is assessed in the same way and against the same criteria as other Lancaster University PhDs. There will be a viva voce (conducted via video conference where preferred). External and internal examiners will be appointed to examine each student's thesis.