Have you completed your master’s degree and are you working, for example as a researcher, but want to carry on studying? Then the pilot professional doctorate programme may be for you. You will be educated as a highly qualified investigative professional who learns to intervene in complex issues such as energy transition or healthcare.

Professional doctorate at the HU

In 2023, the HU started the pilot professional doctorate and introduces a new professional education with which we are pushing the boundaries in professional practice. The pilot was initiated by the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and several universities of applied sciences are participating.

What is a professional doctorate?

The professional doctorate (hereafter referred to as PD) is a doctoral programme. It is a learning path focused on (professional) practice that trains highly qualified, research-oriented professionals who 'learn to intervene in complex practices' at level 8 of the European Qualification Framework. PD candidates learn to develop action knowledge, processes and products for creating and validating interventions in complex practice problems.

Features of a professional doctorate

With a PD, a candidate doesn’t just deliver knowledge on how to handle, but also delivers change in practice. You can demonstrate this change, for example, with a scientific paper, but also with learning or development products or a critical network analysis. From a method to increase the access of vulnerable groups to healthcare to, for example, a robot that provides support in a manufacturing process. All components, such as demand articulation, networking, a plan for change and the knock-on effect in education, professional practice and society are included as elements in this trajectory. Relevant products can be delivered for all these elements, which can be given a place in the portfolio of a PD candidate who thus demonstrates to operate at the highest level of education.

What is the level of a professional doctorate?

The professional doctorate is of equivalent level to a university PhD but has a different character.

How does it work at the HU?

If you start with a PD as a master, you enter into a trajectory that lasts three to six years. A trajectory in which change management, practice-based research, leadership and networking play an important role. So does the instrumentation of the product: the impact and effect it will have on education and practice. It is about intervening by using various research activities in complex practices: networked, short-cycle, with many iterations, as is peculiar to higher education.

How do you qualify for a PD?

As a PD candidate, you:

  • hold a Master's degree

  • you have gained extensive practical experience

  • employed in a relevant work setting, research or education

Within the HU, we offer the PD track within the following domains


For questions, more information or learn more about the possibilities, please contact pd@hu.nl.

Why is the HU introducing a professional doctorate?

The HU sees a doctoral route in higher education as an important and necessary addition within the higher and practice-based education system. The professional doctorate enables a continuous learning line from associate degree through bachelor and master to doctorate in the professional column and helps to meet the increasing need for highly educated professionals who are capable of tackling complex profession-oriented knowledge and design questions. Accordingly, the PD programme will be closely linked to other university of applied sciences education.

Note: Legal status of the professional doctorate

Thus, successful completion of a professional doctorate program does not currently earn the candidate a certificate, degree and/or title. However, the candidate does receive a certificate. The ambition is to successfully complete the required law degree program during the duration of the pilot. And we also aim to include a transitional arrangement that will allow candidates who completed their professional doctorate pathway before the introduction of the law amendment to still be eligible for the then legally protected PD title. However, no guarantees can be made at this time about receiving a legally protected title.

More information

Would you like to know more about professional doctorate? Then take a look at the website of the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences.

Read more about professional doctorate