A significant shift is occurring in refocusing the purpose and assessment of
PhD study towards 'Doctoral attributes or competencies'.
The nature of this change is likely to reframe and may potentially make
irrelevant current debates about the relation between 'design and art
practices and research.
Prof Bryn Tellefsen and myself found evidence of this shift in direction
already well established by 2001 (see, Tellefsen, B., & Love, T. (made
available 2004, published date 2002). Doctoral Research in Design: The
Future of the Practice-based Doctorate. International Journal of Design
Science and Technology, 10(2), pp. 45-59 . Pre-print at
By the late 1990s, it was clear that governments worldwide were dissatisfied
with the value of PhD education to their societies and were already
reconfiguring the rules by which it operated. Some of the first steps were
to insist that PhDs were completed in a shorter time (3-4 years) and that
PhD candidates underwent research training that was formally delivered. At
street level this is now mostly implemented and is the current state of
play in PhD curriculum practice.
The longer term shift, however, is to a refocusing of the purpose and
assessment of PhDs guaranteeing that all PhD candidates on completion have a
certain minimum set of skills useful to societies. This marks a very
significant shift from the idea of the purpose of a PhD as the production of
Until recently, it has been assumed that the long thesis process, the
US-style research training courses plus research project and the
requirement that the PhD research would result in new findings would provide
reliable indirect evidence of the PhD candidate's possession of those
The outcomes of research into PhD education and examination have indicated
that 'PhD practices' and recent changes in them have meant that the
assessment of the PhD outcomes is no longer guaranteed to provide a valid
assessment of that minimum skill set.
The result is an increasing shift towards assessing the doctoral skills
A transitional shift towards this assessing of doctoral skills is the
increasingly use of checklists of PhD attributes given to PhD examiners.
At this point, these skill checklists are very loose and generic. The trend,
however, is for these assessment checklists to evolve into a more
structured assessment of research skills independent of assessing the
research outcomes and given priority over it.
The forces and factors currently acting on the development of the PhD as an
award suggest that such a refocusing of the purposes and assessment of PhDs
will centre on assessing the PhD candidate's acquisition of the following
Set up and manage new research projects
Develop new research and theory (different from their PhD)
High-level reasoning skills
Collaborate effectively in a variety of team roles
Good team worker
Accurate and honest budget management
Develop quotes for work and plan workflows and resources
Write professional documents and reports that will stand legal scrutiny
Manage their personal and work lives professionally
Establish and maintain professional networks
Make sound professional and ethical judgments
Be politically and administratively effective
These new directions in the purpose and assessment of PhDs are already
emerging in some of the higher quality research institutions.
When implemented broadly they will mark a significant educational and
organisational shift towards the PhD candidates acquisition of practical
high-level professional skills and doctoral professional attributes and
away from the current focus of PhD candidates and supervisors on the PhD
candidate's research/practice outcomes.
Dr Terence Love, FDRS, AMIMechE, PMACM, MISI
PhD, B.A. (Hons) Eng, P.G.C.E
School of Design and Art, Curtin University, Western Australia
Psychology and Social Science, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia
Honorary Fellow, IEED, Management School, Lancaster University, UK
PO Box 226, Quinns Rocks, Western Australia 6030
[log in to unmask] +61 (0)4 3497 5848
From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related
research in Design [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Martin
Sent: Monday, 18 June 2012 2:48 PM
To: Dr Terence Love
Subject: Re: Research through Design?
Thank you for the article. I will look forward to reading it. there is a lot
going on right now regarding design-based design research.