Postgraduate Research

Professional Doctorate in Cultural Leadership

Please note that this course is under review and application is not possible until that process is complete. Updates will be posted here.

This qualification is aimed specifically at senior practitioners within the arts and cultural sector who would like to gain a doctoral qualification through an extended period of study and critical reflection designed to be undertaken alongside existing work or freelancing commitments.

Why QMU?

  • By studying the work-based doctorate at QMU you will be supported by two experienced supervisors who will guide you in your learning. The work based nature of the programme allows you to link projects from your workplace with academic development thus enhancing the impact you can have on your profession.
  • The student focused nature of the doctorate offers you the chance to select and study topics of direct relevance to your work.

Course overview

The Professional Doctorate in Cultural Leadership is designed to produce professionals who are competent and confident in using their skills to tackle emergent problems and to develop new practice that will meet the demands of the cultural sector in the 21st century. You will be creating, conceiving, developing and undertaking doctoral research projects that require a strong emphasis on individually determined learning and self directed study. Professional Doctorates recognise the value of professional practice and applied critical thinking. Senior practitioners are at the forefront of their field and create vital new knowledge through their everyday practice. The focus of your study would be specific to the context in which your professional practice takes place and as such is intended to complement and build upon the work that you will already be undertaking in your role. The findings from your study are therefore intended to contribute not only to the body of knowledge that exists about cultural leadership and practice, but also to have real-world impact on your own professional practice, and the practice of the organisations and individuals that you work with.

Exit awards

Professional Doctorate (540 credits)


To complete the Professional Doctorate, you will complete two work-based learning modules, plus doctorate research and a thesis.

Teaching, learning and assessment

The focus of the learning is on collaborative enquiry, shared learning, individual learning, individual exploration and mutual challenge and support where you and your supervisors relate as professional equals. Emphasis is placed on facilitated learning to enable you to develop detailed, analytical leading edge and lateral ways of thinking that enhance your critical insights into professional and work-based issues. Autonomy of learning is promoted through the creation of a Doctoral Learning Plan devised by you with reference to your own learning requirements.

Your learning is facilitated through a mix of seminar presentations and workshops alongside your colleagues undertaking PhDs. Summative and formative assessment and discussions maximise opportunities for problem solving, analysis and synthesis of material, project planning and implementation, construction of written reports, reflection and reflective analysis and assimilation and presentation of evidence. Assessment strategies are designed to ensure rigour of academic thinking and to promote the achievement of your personal and professional goals, augmenting your experiences and expertise. Normally, there would be a cohort of between three and nine students studying for this qualification and an intake of one or two students each year. This cohort approach supports doctoral level development, pertinent both to your individual practice and to the wider professional arena.

Teaching hours and attendance

If studying full time you will attend QMU for three, one-week blocks of study in September, January and April in your first year. Further to this, you will meet (in person or online) with your Supervisory Team at least once every four to six weeks, and you will be required to undertake a significant amount of independent study. Subsequent years require a reducing level of attendance at the study weeks. Many students study for this qualification part-time and these students can agree a programme of studies that works around their existing professional commitments. Part-time students are required to attend at least one study week a year and to meet (in person or online) with their Supervisory Team at least once every eight to ten weeks.

Class sizes

Normally around 7-13 students enrol each year.


  • Work-based learning - Theory and Context of Professional Practice (90 credits)
  • Work-based learning - Development and Evaluation of Professional Practice (90 credits
  • Doctorate Research (60 credits) 
  • Thesis (180 credits)

Students enter with ‘advanced standing’, possessing 120 credits from a postgraduate diploma/master’s award.

The modules listed are correct at time of posting (Nov 2020) but are subject to change. In the event that modules change, QMU will seek to use reasonable endeavours to ensure that there is no detrimental impact on students.


There are no placements on this course.


Graduates will already be well established as a professional in the cultural and creative industries, but you will now have high levels of knowledge and investigative and research skills, which you can use to advance practice in your professional spheres. The qualification offers you recognition of your expertise and professional standing acknowledged worldwide. You may also go on to conduct further research, publish, or teach in further and higher education

Links with industry/ professional bodies

This is a high-level academic award, extremely relevant to a broad range of professionals working in the cultural and creative industries. Doctoral graduates are in a position to investigate and transform professional practice in their field. In addition, any work-related projects are carried out in conjunction with the student’s own work, ensuring partnership working with all involved, and communication with peers, professional colleagues and policy makers.

Entry requirements

You should have a postgraduate diploma or master’s qualification, which includes research methods, and strong evidence of personal and professional development. Candidates should normally have significant experience, and show evidence of development in an area of expert practice, and /or management and leadership skills. There will be an interview process.

International: You will be required to take an IELTS test receiving an overall score of 6.5 and no individual component score below 6.0.

Application deadline


More information and contacts

Admissions or Dr David Stevenson on tel: +44 (0)131 474 0000

Please Note:

The delivery of this course is subject to the terms and conditions set out in our 2023/24 Entry - Terms and Conditions (Postgraduate).

Photo credit: Mike Wilkinson Photography. The photo is from the Orla Kiely Life in Pattern Exhibition, running at Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh in 2019.

Start Your Application

Course Overview

Initial attendance at QMU followed by individual learning.
3 – 4 years full-time OR 6 – 8 years part-time
Start Date
September 2023
Start Date
January 2024
Fees & Funding

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16 or 23 November 2023

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