Professional doctorates reconciling academic and professional knowledge: towards a diffractive re-reading

Dennis, Carol Azumah; Aubrey-Smith, Fiona; Álvarez, Inma; Waterhouse, Philippa and Ferguson, Gillian (2024). Professional doctorates reconciling academic and professional knowledge: towards a diffractive re-reading. Higher Education Research & Development (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2024.2339844

Abstract

This paper explores the different epistemologies that define the Professional Doctorate, paying close attention to how Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs) doing a Professional Doctorate reconcile academic and professional knowledge. Through a narrative exploration of the literature published since the first UK Professional Doctorates were awarded in 2000, the paper situates the Professional Doctorate within the confluence of the workplace, the profession and the university. From this stance, the paper explores distinct knowledge terrains between knowledge generated by Professional Doctorates in the context of application and knowledge generated in the context of disciplinary laws applied to sites of practice. The purpose of this discussion is to understand if, how and to what extent Professional Doctorates reconcile competing knowledge terrains. This study draws towards two broad conclusions. The first conclusion suggests that in the literature identified, the distinction between academic and professional epistemologies has little resonance. Instead of the dichotomous knowledge generated in the context of practice in contrast to knowledge generated in the context of disciplinary laws, Professional Doctorates were ensconced within several competing epistemologies. The literature identified focuses on impact and identity, concepts the study employs as lenses to guide a discussion. The paper thus views the process of reconciliation first through the lens of impact and then through the lens of identity. The investigation then draws a second conclusion: The epistemic landscape occupied by the Professional Doctorate is involved in a reconciliation of more significance that the putative academic and professional binary. The paper is compelled towards a diffractive re-reading of this academic-professional knowledge tension. This new reading allows a full recognition of both difference and mutual entanglement between knowledge generated in the context of practice and knowledge generated in the context of disciplinary laws.

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