Doctor of Professional Practice

Perfect for you if you are an expert in your field and want to create new knowledge in your area. This course is self-directed where you will reflect on your own experience and investigate your chosen issue.  

About the programme

Are you an advanced practitioner who is ready to achieve a doctoral qualification while making a significant contribution to their organisation, hapū, iwi, community or professional area?

This programme is delivered through our assessment of prior learning centre, Capable NZ.

The Doctor of Professional Practice captures emergent knowledge relevant to the candidate’s work and relevant for work contexts, integrating work-based knowledge with disciplinary knowledge to create new knowledge. 

All professional doctorates share significant features: the study is focused on generating substantial original knowledge from and about practices within a professional setting and combining it with formal disciplinary knowledge. New synthesised knowledge informs the candidate, the organisation, the field of practice and the profession.

This innovative and advanced educational programme aims to enable candidates to create new knowledge for and about New Zealand’s workplaces through applied practice and research projects; thereby facilitating the development of their personal and professional practice as leaders of practice.

Our goal is to help you design and then achieve new professional and personal learning goals, over a three year (full-time) enrolment period. These goals will be identified by you. There are no taught courses in this programme; instead it is self-directed and you will be provided with academic support staff who will work with you by combining distance and face-to-face learning, supported by online resources. 

The programme will attract learners who are self-managing and highly motivated, already skilled in initiating and maximising learning opportunities. They have well-developed higher-level thinking skills; critical as well as strategic thinkers, with global as well as organisational perspectives. They may have already investigated complex problems; they may be recognized experts in a field, as well as change agents for new and innovative practices. They may have already demonstrated leadership and the capability to influence others. They are able to articulate their professional practice and propose innovative change with informed ideas.   

Studying part-time 

We know that full-time study isn't always possible. This programme will take between three to four years to study full-time but we offer a part-time option which can take up to seven years.

Is this for me?

  • Ready to undertake a substantial piece of research over at least three years?
  • Ideal for those who have already gained a Masters level qualification and want to take a further step into Doctorate level work-based research
  • Learning is self-paced, guided by two highly qualified Academic Mentors.
  • Are you willing to devote at least three years to the project (approx. 23 hours per week over 52 weeks if studying full-time).
  • Ideal for those in paid or unpaid work, or self-employed. 

What will I learn?

Overall, the Doctor of Professional Practice requires learners to:

  • create new knowledge that will contribute to practice. The Doctor of Professional Practice design parallels the key principles of doctorate level study, whereby it is a research degree with a significant research element (including a 50,000 word practitioner thesis). This research is conducted within a workplace setting.

You will achieve this new knowledge by:

  • exploring the literature relevant to the field of study (academic, practitioner, policy)
  • design research projects using relevant methodological frameworks
  • applying relevant research methodologies
  • applying relevant ethical understanding to their research
  • understanding, considering and critiquing the beliefs and values that influence their own professional practices.

A graduate is able to:

  • systematically and critically reflect on experience, theory and practice as a means of creating new knowledge
  • employ contemporary, specialised personal cognitive, technical and research skills in a discipline area or organisational field to independently and systematically frame projects and proposals
  • demonstrate autonomy, authoritative judgement, adaptability and responsibility as a leading practitioner in their field. 

Courses and delivery

This doctorate is a single cohesive programme comprising two phases, considered as Courses. Candidates enrol initially in Course One, and on successful completion of specific outputs are approved to enrol in Course Two.



NZQA Level



Articulating Practitioner Research  (1-year full time) 



2 and 3

The Practitioner Research Enquiry (2 years full-time appx)



Programme delivery

The Doctor of Professional Practice is based on the learner undertaking independent study. Learners will be assisted and supported by a team of doctorally-qualified, and experienced Academic Mentors. 

  • The candidate will be assisted by a Lead Academic Mentor and a second Academic Mentor.
  • The candidate will be encouraged to seek out a Professional Mentor in their workplace, profession, iwi or community.
  • Academic Mentoring is based on up-to-date knowledge and current research findings
  • Academic Mentors are flexible regarding days/times they can meet with learners. 
  • Academic Mentors are actively engaged in research that informs their roles in the Doctor of Professional Practice.
  • Learners are supported by online resources, meaning those who are working or not based in Dunedin are fully supported. 
Course information

Course 1: Articulating Practitioner Research

This Course has two main outcomes:

The Review of Learning, in which the candidate reviews their professional experience and learning, drawing on evidence from their history, to support their claim to be able to work at the doctoral level. Approx 5,000 word paper.

The Learning Agreement, in which the candidate critically evaluates a range of appropriate methods and approaches to develop a proposal for a research programme intended to have a significant impact on their workplace or organisation, and potentially have an impact nationally and internationally. Approx 15,000 -  20,000 - word Learning Agreement

Course 1 Workload (approx. one year if studying full time)

Teacher-directed Learning Hours

200 (3.8 hours/week)

Student-managed Learning Hours

1000 (19 hours/week if studying full time)

Total Learning Hours

1200 (23 hours/week if studying full time)

Course 2 - The Practitioner Research Enquiry

The Practitioner Research Enquiry is structured by the candidate into a series of projects (framed within, or emanating from the research plan) to enable candidates to demonstrate the successful use of resources to produce sustainable outcomes that affect or influence others within and beyond the candidate’s organisation. Projects are expected to result in knowledge creation that adds to the organisation’s intellectual and structural value, leading to an increase in the organisation’s overall capability.

  • Approx 50,000 word Practitioner Thesis
  • Panel presentation.
  • Reflective activity.
  • Public presentation.

Course 2 Workload (approx. two years if studying full time)

Teacher-directed Learning Hours

400 (3.8 hours/week)

Student-managed Learning Hours

2,000 (19 hours/week if studying full time)

Total Learning Hours

2,400 (23 hours/week if studying full time)

We are part of Te Pūkenga

When you apply to study with Otago Polytechnic, you will be enrolled with Te Pūkenga, the new national network of vocational and applied education in Aotearoa New Zealand. You will learn in the same way, in the same place, and with the same people, and you will graduate with a Te Pūkenga qualification.


While every effort is made to ensure that this sheet is accurate, Otago Polytechnic reserves the right to amend, alter or withdraw any of the contained information. The fees shown in this document are indicative only. Both domestic and international fees are subject to change and are dependent on the development and implementation of Government policies. Please note that additional fees may from time to time be required for external examination, NZQA fees and/or additional material fees.