Doctorates at a distance: the opportunities and challenges in taking a more flexible approach to research degrees in the UK

Karen Heard-Laureote, Heather MacKenzie

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    Abstract

    Flexible Learning has a long history in Higher Education, and a large body of literature explores the emergence and practice of Flexible Learning, particularly in undergraduate education. Scholarly discussions of Flexible Learning in the context of Postgraduate Research Degrees (PGRDs) have been less prevalent, mirrored in practice by the relatively low offer of flexible doctorates in UK Higher Education Institutions; potentially a missed opportunity to increase access to PGRDs. This paper: reviews the state of the art for Flexible Learning doctorates in the UK, explores the specific risks and opportunities for the development of flexibility in research degrees, and sets out a vision for the future of Flexible Doctorates. There are certainly challenges in ensuring the high quality delivery of Flexible Doctorates. Nevertheless, these are not without solutions, and enhancing the flexibility of PGRDs has the potential to support the development of growth and inclusivity in UK doctoral education.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalStudies in Higher Education
    Publication statusIn preparation - Sep 2018

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    abstract = "Flexible Learning has a long history in Higher Education, and a large body of literature explores the emergence and practice of Flexible Learning, particularly in undergraduate education. Scholarly discussions of Flexible Learning in the context of Postgraduate Research Degrees (PGRDs) have been less prevalent, mirrored in practice by the relatively low offer of flexible doctorates in UK Higher Education Institutions; potentially a missed opportunity to increase access to PGRDs. This paper: reviews the state of the art for Flexible Learning doctorates in the UK, explores the specific risks and opportunities for the development of flexibility in research degrees, and sets out a vision for the future of Flexible Doctorates. There are certainly challenges in ensuring the high quality delivery of Flexible Doctorates. Nevertheless, these are not without solutions, and enhancing the flexibility of PGRDs has the potential to support the development of growth and inclusivity in UK doctoral education.",
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