Professional Doctorate in Sport and Exercise (Postgraduate Research)

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Please note; modules for this programme will be delivered online.

The Professional Doctorate is aimed at professionals who may not have studied for some time but are experts in their area, it provides a higher degree programme specifically structured to support change within professional practice and/or within your organisation. Our Professional Doctorate in Sport and Exercise (DSE) is designed to enable experienced professionals to lead and respond innovatively to the rapidly changing sports, physical activity and wellbeing environment. It is ideal for those who wish to study at doctoral level whilst maintaining their professional commitments, as it integrates part-time doctoral level study with continuing professional practice. We develop leaders who can improve practice within sport and physical activity realms, through addressing local, regional, national and international concerns, and who have the ability to build evidence bases that inform policy and practice development.

The unique structure of the award supports you to ensure your academic research skills match your professional knowledge. During your Professional Doctorate, the changes you propose, plan and, potentially, implement are designed to have a positive influence on your professional practice/on facets of your organisation.

Unlike a PhD, a professional doctorate is not training for a role in academia - although many graduates use it as a route to change their career. Most applicants are experienced or developing professional practitioners seeking to develop their academic research skills from a variety of professional settings.

The Doctoral Journey

The DSE is a structured route to doctoral level achievement, delivered in two phases. The initial phase is a pre-thesis element, comprising two taught modules over a period of 18 months. These modules are delivered via a blended learning model of online delivery, webinars and remotely supervised and guided study.  You will develop advanced skills in critical thinking and working with leading academics, you can engage with a wide range of topics, and undertake in-depth study of some of the complex issues facing sport today, for example those based on applied sport performance, clinical practice, health promotion, applied sports coaching and community engagement. The programme provides a focus for ‘embedded scholarship’ within a range of sport and exercise professions.

In phase two, you present and undertake your formal research plan. Having completed your research project, you submit and defend a thesis in a viva voce. Linked to the real-world relevance and original nature of the project, the DSE provides an understanding of issues in the sport and exercise professions that it is difficult to attain through other means. The acquired knowledge and understanding gained through the research journey can then be integrated directly into the organisations and systems in which you work

Compared with a more traditional PhD, the DSE provides you with a vocational and professional doctorate, well suited to your needs and those of your industry.

You will attain the standards required of any doctorate and produce a substantial and original study that identifies you as an independent researcher.

DSE cohorts are limited to 8–20 participants, to preserve the quality of the taught experience in a collaborative and supportive learning environment.

Course modules

Reviewing and Critiquing Literature

This module is a continuous development throughout the pre-thesis phase of the programme. You are guided to develop practices of deep ongoing reflection on your business experience, research topic and broader contexts, including communication skills. Through encouraging a systematic engagement with a substantial body of relevant literature, you will be able to critically analyse and evaluate previous research work using theoretical frameworks and literature review approaches.

Research Design, Analysis and Interpretation of Data

The role of methodology and review approaches, critique tools and techniques by which knowledge can be generated and applied is examined. You are guided to explore the methodological schools that characterise sport and exercise research, to establish their applicability to your work. You’re introduced to theoretical frameworks and the many approaches to analysis and interpretation common to sport and exercise doctoral work. A range of analytical and interpretative approaches are considered that derive from both the natural and social sciences. You will use various data analysis packages to analyse and interpret data. The module provides you with opportunities to practise and reflect on the tensions that are likely to occur in engaging with a piece of professionally related research.

When to apply

Applications are accepted throughout the year, with cohorts developed carefully to start in Autumn or Spring each year.  You should indicate your preferred start on your application.

Before applying

If you are interested in applying or submitting your own proposal for your Professional Doctorate project, please contact us at to discuss your application before applying.

Guidance Specific to your Professional Doctorate application can be found here.

Get Professional Doctorate in Sport and Exercise (Postgraduate Research) course updates and hear more about studying with us.

Study style

The DSE is structured into two phases:

  • Phase one (18 months) - modules are delivered via a blended learning model of online delivery, webinars and remotely supervised and guided study
  • Phase two (minimum a further 18 months) – thesis guidance through a supervisory team leads to completion of major research project

Part-time (typically 4-6 years). Please note that this programme will be wholly delivered online.

Entry requirements

  • A master’s degree or equivalent in a subject area relevant to the proposed research topic
  • A minimum of two years’ post-qualification professional practice and ability to demonstrate professional competence to a high standard in the relevant research area
  • EU and international students need IELTS 6.5 overall (with a minimum of 6.0 in writing and 5.5 in any other component) or equivalent


Fees - 2020/21 Academic Year
Home Students
Full-Time Fees Part-Time Fees
Year 1 £3408 £3408
Year 2 £3408 £3408
Year 3 £3408 £3408
Year 4+ £3408 £3408
International Students
Full-Time Fees Part-Time Fees
Year 1 £3408 £3408
Year 2 £3408 £3408
Year 3 £3408 £3408
Year 4+ £3408 £3408

For further information on our tuition fee policy please refer to the Tuition Fee and Bursary Policy for payment methods and timescales.

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Join our DSE programme connecting with Governing Bodies and Organisations worldwide

With around candidates working across the breadth of the sport sector, from leadership to risk, to rehabilitation, the Doctorate in Sport and Exercise (DSE) programme is one of the most exciting of its kind.

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DSE study in the UK or from your location

2020 sees us launch the successful UK model to being accessible for our International colleagues across the Sport world. If you are interested in studying the taught element of the DSE online, please apply.

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Benefit from additional training opportunities

The School of Sport and Exercise runs a number of additional training sessions on subjects such as developing a research proposal, doctoral authoring, and preparation for the viva. It also organises an annual Doctoral Colloquium where research papers are presented to a scholarly audience.

School of Sport and Exercise

Our School of Sport and Exercise degrees are based in our new international-standard sports arena and state-of-the-art labs. You'll be challenged and supported by experienced coaches, therapists and scientists, building strong skills for employability and for lifelong learning.

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