Professional Doctorate in Children and Young People’s Services

This Programme is now recruiting for the October 2022 cohort

Recruitment: Academic year 2022/2023

  • Application Deadline: 8 August 2022 (UK Nationals) and 30 June 2022 (International/EU Applicants)
  • Application interviews: September 2022 
  • Registration: 3 October 2022

Programme Description

The Professional Doctorate in Children and Young People's Services is a part-time doctoral award within the portfolio of postgraduate degrees offered by the Institute of Applied Social Research (IASR) in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences at the University of Bedfordshire. Members of IASR produce work which anticipates and shapes key changes in policy, administration and practice in the area of children’s and young people’s services and is at the forefront of applied social research in the UK.

The programme offers the opportunity to study at the highest level to professionals and managers working in children and young people's services, and allied fields, while continuing to work full time. It provides an alternative route to a traditional PhD, leading to a doctoral award of equivalent academic status. The majority of students who successfully complete the programme have subsequently achieved promotion or moved into different areas of employment that might have not been available to them had they not achieved a doctorate. Six students who were not previously working in academia have obtained positions at Universities. A further six graduates who were already in academia have all obtained more senior roles. One graduate who was employed as a policy officer in the voluntary sector has established their own charity; another is now the Director of Legal Services at the Howard League for Penal Reform.

The programme accommodates students who wish to study in the fields of youth justice, child sexual exploitation, child protection, contextual safeguarding and young people, children and families services. It offers participants a unique opportunity to study at the highest level, specialise in the area of their interest and expertise, and conduct an independent research project of their own choosing.

The programme is designed to accommodate the fact that many of the students, though experts in their field, will have been away from academic study for some time. It aims to support students to successfully complete the degree by equipping them with the philosophical, theoretical, ethical, practical and methodological expertise necessary to undertake independent research at at a high level commensurate with that required to achieve a doctorate.

Supervision and teaching is delivered by leading experts in their field, providing a dynamic and stimulating environment that enables participants to make an original contribution to professional knowledge, policy and practice.

Programme Summary

The programme has a variety of elements to support students at different stages of their study.

The first stage of the programme consists of directed studies including a series of lectures, seminars and interactive workshops delivered over the course of five three-day schools. The content at this stage varies according to the specialist research interests of the student cohort but encompasses three broad themes:

  • The conceptual framework: theories shaping public policy for children and young people's services
  • Critical perspectives in policy, planning and delivery of children and young people's services
  • Models and Methods of Social Investigation and ethical considerations associated with such investigation.

These themes are complemented through the sessions directed to the development of study skills and academic writing.

Within 18 months of registration, students are required to submit an article of 6,000 – 8,000 words, in the area of their specialist interest, with an appendix of 2,000 words outlining their proposal for independent research in order to progress to the second stage of the programme.

During the second stage of the programme, students undertake an independent research project in their area of choice. In order to demonstrate progress towards completion of their final thesis, there is a second progression point, at which students are required to submit a written piece of work of a maximum of 25,000 words, within 32 months of registration.

The research undertaken during this stage of the programme leads to the submission of a doctoral thesis of a maximum of 80,000 words, which must demonstrate an original contribution to knowledge in their area of specialism. The fieldwork for the thesis must have relevance for, and will usually derive from, students' chosen area of professional practice and expertise. It may be based in their own agency or workplace, where ethical considerations permit.

Overview of the programme structure

Stage Programme Time frame from registration 
Directed Study Registration October 2022
Directed Study Submission of article/proposal (PP1) 16 months
Directed Study Resubmission (where required) of PP1 18 months
Directed Study Progression to stage 2 (or withdrawal if unsuccessful) 24 months
Independent Study Earliest submission of PP2 (with agreement of supervisory team) 20 months
Independent Study Latest submission of PP32 32 months
Independent Study Earliest submission of thesis 36 months
Independent Study Expected submission of thesis 48 months
Independent Study  Maximum period of registration (excluding cases of approved extensions) 60 months

Entry Requirements

Entry to the programme is dependent on prior academic engagement and professional experience and expertise.

Applicants will be working in, or have experience of, a relevant professional context that enables them to carry out a practice-based inquiry and to generate accounts of this practice for relevant practitioner and academic audiences. Applicants will have an advanced level of understanding of youth justice, child sexual exploitation, child protection, contextual safeguarding or other aspects of children and young people's services.

In order to be eligible to apply, applicants should have:

  • A relevant Bachelor's degree awarded with first or upper second class honours by a UK university or other recognised awarding body, and/or
  • A relevant Master's degree, and/or
  • An equivalent academic qualification to the above.

Applications are made using the downloadable Research Graduate School Application Form and should be accompanied by a CV and a proposal outlining the intended research project.

The detail of the proposal may be less developed than would be expected for a traditional PhD since the initial stage of the programme enables students to refine their research question and methodology.

Application and Contact Information

  • Next intake: October 2022
  • Location: Postgraduate &CPD Centre, Luton campus, University Square, Luton, LU1 3JU (or online depending on circumstances)  See map and directions
  • Duration: part-time students: 36 months minimum, 60 months maximum
  • Fees: see Tuition Fees
  • Open to: UK students
  • To discuss: please email Dr Isabelle Brodie at to arrange a chat by email, phone or in person.
  • To apply: all applications must be submitted to the Research Graduate School using the downloadable application form
  • Programme Director: Dr Isabelle Brodie, Principal Lecturer School of Applied Social Sciences
  • Web page:

The Institute of Applied Social Research

The Institute of Applied Social Research (IASR), which hosts the PDCYPS, is committed to social research with an applied orientation particularly in relation to 'hard to reach' groups and marginalised communities.

The IASR has three research centres each of which contribute to the doctoral programme: 

The IASR has built on a history of success working to produce high quality, ethically sound, relevant and accessible applied research, not only impacting on training and student experience within the University but influencing theory, policy and practice nationally and internationally.

Two thirds of the research outputs of the IASR are rated as 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent' in the most recent the UK-wide 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). The IASR is developing the volume and scope of research to continue to influence local, national and international policy and practice.

Given the wide-ranging expertise of the research and teaching staff within it, PDCYPS students have access to researchers who are at the forefront of developing professional knowledge and are able to play an active role in contributing to the impact that the Institute can have on policy and practice.

Programme team

The PDCYPS is co-ordinated by Dr Isabelle Brodie with assistance from a core programme team. Members of the IASR and SASS staff and speakers from outside of the University supplement the core team by presenting guest lectures on the programme and, in the case of IASR and SASS staff, offering supervision to students.

IASR contributors include:


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