This route is for those who have a portfolio of publications (single-authored, joint authored or multi-authored) that have not been academically peer-reviewed and which are in the public domain or a portfolio of works that are worthy of publication.


You will write an analytical commentary of 20,000-40,000 words (to accompany your publications), which will critically explore the relationship between the published work submitted and the current body of knowledge in the field.

Throughout the production of the portfolio and the analytical commentary academic supervision and support is provided and you will follow a supporting programme to enhance your research skills.

The final submission will consist of the published work and the analytical commentary, and will be examined in a viva-voce examination (oral defence) in Manchester.


Course information

The programme normally lasts 2 years (full-time) or 4 years (part time)*

Distance learning is also available.

As with any PhD route, the PhD by Professional Practice must demonstrate a substantial contribution to knowledge. For more information, please read Section 4 (PhD by Professional Practice - Route 3) of the .

*Please note that this is indicative; in individual cases, where work is proceeding exceptionally well, it is possible to complete the PhD more quickly.


How do I apply? The next steps

Individual applicants should have a preliminary discussion with Dr Geoff Walton, who will then put you in contact with a potential supervisory team for further discussions.


For information and guidance on how to apply please see Applying for Postgraduate Research Courses.



To register for the PhD by Professional Practice, enrolled applicants need to complete;

  1. The university’s Research Degree (RD)1 form, which is an application to do research, and
  1. A research proposal of 1,000-2,000 words (including a brief argument for contribution to knowledge in a particular field.)

Once registered, you are required to complete online induction, which outlines the research journey, yours and your supervisor’s role and responsibilities and the pre-registration and registration processes.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is an analytical commentary?

The analytical commentary provides evidence of the significant contribution of the work submitted in the portfolio to the relevant domains (these can be in any professional field or the wider subject areas with which the work is concerned).

The analytical commentary is expected in the form of traditional academic writing, although this can take different discursive forms, including process-based personal narratives. Whichever discursive form is deemed most appropriate, the analytical commentary must demonstrate the substantial contribution to knowledge of the work submitted in the portfolio. Usually, the analytical commentary is between 20,000-40,000 words. 

The conventional structure of the analytical commentary comprises: 

  1. An introductory section, comprising a written critical overview of the current state of the field, a literature review/appraisal of the field, and an indication of how the portfolio relates/contributes to an existing body of knowledge/scholarship and research methods. 
  2. A critical reflection on the approaches, methods and theories deployed. 
  3. An explanation of the technical procedures employed. 
  4. A discussion of the works’ aesthetic premises in its relevant historical, theoretical or critical contexts.

What level of authorship is acceptable?

Joint authorship where you has made a substantial contribution.

Multi-authored where you can provide evidence demonstrating how much of the work you have written.

Anonymously-authored works are also acceptable as long as authorship can be proven.

If I am a distance learner - what can I expect?

What support is available?

You will have regular meetings with supervisors who will guide and advise on your research. The meetings will take place via Skype (or an equivalent platform) at mutually convenient times.

You can also follow a supporting programme of research training provided via online workshops that can be accessed at any time. The precise programme will be tailored to each individual needs, and will be decided by discussion between you and your supervisors, but could include:

  • Introduction to academic writing
  • Writing for publication
  • Introduction to ethical issues
  • Managing your research project
  • Making an impact with your research
  • Effectively communicate your research to any audience
  • Qualitative research
  • Quantitative research
  • Preparing for your viva

Should you wish to present your research at national or international conferences, you can apply for university assistance towards attending.

How will my final submission be assessed?

Once you have completed your programme of study, your final submission is examined in a viva-voce examination (oral defence). This will take place in Manchester. (The viva is the only time distance learning students are required to come to Manchester, though if your schedules permit you are more than welcome to visit at any point during the programme of study to meet with supervisors and attend training workshops.)

What research support is available to distance learners?

You will receive the same level of dedicated support as students based on campus and will be connected to Manchester throughout your studies via:

  • Regular meetings with your supervisors (conducted through Skype or equivalent)
  • Access to MMU library resources, with full training provided
  • Participation in our online chat forums for our community of research students
  • Elected student representatives who act as a bridge between learners and the university
  • An annual Postgraduate Research Conference which enables you to present research findings; distance learners can take part either in person or via Skype
  • Our annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, in which you can record a 3-minute video describing your research
  • Dedicated Facebook and Twitter accounts and YouTube channel