Why a Professional Doctorate with the RVC?

Our Professional Doctorates in Agriculture and Food (DAgriFood) and Veterinary Science (VetD) aim to offer professionals working in the agricultural and food or veterinary sectors the opportunity to develop their professional roles and to implement an independent programme of research within the workplace. The programmes are structured to deliver the opportunity to acquire advanced research skills and taught knowledge, with the central concept of “critical professionalism”.

Through our two Professional Doctorate programmes we encourage students to find novel approaches for integrating academic and professional knowledge. Students are expected to make a contribution to both theory and practice in their field, and in particular to develop professional practice by making a contribution to professional knowledge.  They are part-time Distance-Learning programmes that run over a minimum of 4 years and a maximum of 8 years. Online-based delivery will be the main method used, although there is the potential for up to 20% face-to-face delivery to be permitted for seminars and discussion workshops so as to provide networking opportunities, and for any practical units or assessment.




The courses offer opportunities for candidates to achieve and demonstrate the following outcomes:

  • Critical evaluation and dissemination of information from a variety of sources to develop understanding and make decisions
  • Collaboration with experts and policy makers across a wide range of disciplines and organisations
  • Designing and executing an independent research project or portfolio of research
  • Effective and scientifically rigorous communication of scientific information and experimental conclusions in oral and written formats
  • Managing human, financial and physical resources as appropriate to achieve project aims
  • Monitoring of own learning and development to identify learning needs and to plan and manage their acquisition
  • Reflective and self-critical approach to research and professional development
  • Professional and intellectual skills to deliver leadership, inspiration and motivation of others

Our Professional Doctorates include a taught component, assessed through in-course assignments and/or examinations in addition to the completion of an original piece of research. The taught components relate to the discipline(s) being studied to increase the breadth or depth of their knowledge, and training in research methodology and professional skills. The research project relates to relevant workplace issues concerned with professional practice or directly relevant to the company that is sponsoring the candidate. In the majority of cases the research will be carried out within the students’ own sponsoring organisation.

After an initial introductory programme, your progress will be supported by your supervisory team and overseen through a combination of formal meetings recorded in a student Log and an annual appraisal.  As a member of the College’s postgraduate student population, you will also be able to attend transferable skills training workshops.  We recognise that every student is different and that your training needs and skills development will differ and also change as you move through your programme of study. Our aim is guide you in developing and extending your existing skills in a way that is most beneficial to your career.

Further details about the structure of the course 

The Professional Doctorates offer 540 credits (360 at Level 8/D level and 180 at Level 7/M level) and consist of five parts.

Modules in Parts I to III may be taken in any order, subject to approval by the student’s supervisor and the Programme Director.

Students must complete Methods of Enquiry 1 (MoE1) and Foundations of Professionalism before commencing Part IV, and must also complete MoE1 before starting data collection for Part V.

Students must complete Parts I to IV before compiling their research thesis. MoE1 is a pre-requisite to MoE2.

Part I
90 credits

VetD: Students choose 90 credits worth of modules from the CertAVP degree offerings

DAgriFood: Students complete the core modules from the PGCert ILHP and choose two 15 credit elective modules from MSc ILHP

OR Alternate entry route (APL transfer) for VetD

  • European/American/RCVS Diploma
  • MVetMed
Part II
30 credits
Foundations of Professionalism*
Part III
60 credits:
Research Methods

Methods of Enquiry 1* (30)

Methods of Enquiry 2* (30)

Part IV
60 credits
Organisation-focussed study*
Part V
300 credits
Research thesis*

*Compulsory modules

Common component overviews

Methods of Enquiry 1 and 2

MoE1 starts by providing a broad overview of research methodology, including basic research methods, literature searching, critical analysis of papers, developing a research proposal and writing a project report, a journal article or a thesis. MoE 2 progresses to provide a detailed examination of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies and statistical techniques, allowing students to select methodologies of most value to their research plans.

Foundations of Professionalism

This module will allow students to explore the concepts that surround professionalism, professionalisation and professions. For those who have already undertaken a professional certificate with a module focused on professional skills, it will build on these foundations.
Students will explore literature from a variety of traditions dealing with professionalism, and, depending on their background, current interests and roles, and building on relevant debates, develop their own original, critical appreciation of professional thinking and professional attitudes and behaviours. Considerations will include socio-political attitudes and values, including the “legitimacy” of professions, rationalisation and ways of thinking, ethics across the full spectrum of professional responsibilities, inter-professionalism and inter-professional communication and working, characteristics of successful organisations, leadership and team-working, and the implications of all this for self. The latter will include self-awareness, consideration of identity, allegiances and professional and personal values and development.

Organisation-Focused Study

The OFS is a small-scale scholarly study usually based on the doctoral student’s own institution. This calls for particular skills in research and negotiation, and raises some of the complex issues of ‘insider research’. Students are first required to develop a detailed research proposal with a clear statement of the professional context in which the research will be undertaken. They should also show how the proposed study will contribute to their professional understanding and development and to the organisation on which their research has focused.

Research Thesis

The thesis must consist of the student’s own account of his/her investigations and must indicate in what respects they appear to advance the understanding of the chosen subject, and how the research has contributed to the student’s professional development and role.
It must:

  • make a “distinct contribution to knowledge, affording evidence of originality by the discovery of new facts and/or by the exercise of independent critical power”;
  • demonstrate the candidate’s capability to pursue original research in the field of study based on a good understanding of the research techniques and concepts appropriate to the discipline;
  • demonstrate the candidate’s understanding of professionalism and his/her own professional role and the contribution of the thesis to his/her own professional development.

In the professional doctorate context students should bear in mind that the ‘new facts’ are likely to be in the professional domain (“professional knowledge or insight”).

The thesis is expected to comprise a series of 4-5 separate studies connected by a common theme, which should be presented as separate chapters with an overall introduction and discussion.

Course specific information


Entry to the course will be open to graduates with:

  • a university degree that is acceptable to the Royal Veterinary College. Appropriate degrees are an Honours degree (first or upper second class) related to biological sciences, animal sciences, veterinary science or livestock production.
  • an MSc degree related to the previous categories for Honours degrees.

Candidates must have at least 2 years work experience and currently work in the agri-food industry. They must also have identified a work-place supervisor.

Subject to the discretion of the Programme Director, applicants with other degrees or prior equivalent experience may be considered.


Entry to the course will be open to graduates with:

  • a veterinary degree registrable with the RCVS

Candidates must have at least 2 years work experience and currently work in the veterinary sector. They must also have identified a work-place supervisor.

Subject to the discretion of the Programme Director, applicants with other degrees or prior equivalent experience may be considered.

Candidates possessing a European/American/ RCVS Diploma or an MVetMed may enter through the alternate entry route and transfer in 90 credits at Level 7.

English Language Requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide documentary evidence of a proficiency level that is acceptable to the RVC.

This may take the form of relevant work experience (minimum eighteen months) conducted in English in a majority English speaking country/Institute undertaken no more than two years prior to the proposed date of enrolment* or  an English language proficiency test score acceptable to the RVC e.g. IELTS (Academic) normally with an overall score of 7.0 and a minimum of 6.5 in each sub-test.   
*Proficiency will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and may require an additional English reference.

See English language requirements for further information.

Tuition fees for part time study for 2015/16 are as follows:

VetD or DAgriFood
(per annum)



Funding Options

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