Professional Doctorate Regulations

These regulations apply in their entirety for all students first matriculating on the Professional Doctorate programme at QMU from September 2023 onwards. They also apply in full for most continuing Professional Doctorate students. Individual transitional arrangements, where these apply, will be communicated in detail by September 2023.


This resource contains the regulations relating to Professional Doctorates undertaken at Queen Margaret University. PhD regulations are published separately.

Professional Doctorate candidates and their Supervisors are required to read these regulations, and also the Professional Doctorate Candidate Handbook, the most recent version of which is available on the QMU Graduate School website.

Where questions of procedure arise, and especially in the case of any appeal, candidates and Supervisors will be deemed to have read the regulations and all relevant institutional Codes of Practice and Handbooks. All candidates and supervisors are also expected to be aware of the Essential Information for Students publication. This is available on the current student A-Z (under the letter E).


General Regulations and Policies

Under these regulations, where a University officer is named by their title, they may act through their properly appointed nominee.


Committee Structure and Remits

The Research Strategy Committee is the standing committee of Senate with overall responsibility for the academic standard and quality of research degrees at Queen Margaret University. The Research Strategy Committee makes recommendations to Senate on the regulatory framework for doctoral programmes and related matters. It also promotes best practice in admission, supervision and examination of doctoral candidates.

The Research Strategy Committee delegates some matters concerning individual candidates to the Graduate School Academic Board. The remit of the Graduate School Academic Board is attached as Appendix One.

The Graduate School Academic Board has overall academic and operational responsibility for the programme and its development within defined policies, procedures and regulations. The Board will be responsible for maintaining and enhancing the academic standards of the programme.

Professional Doctoral candidates are represented on the Graduate School Academic Board and Research Strategy Committee by the Doctoral Candidates’ Association.

Equal Opportunities

Queen Margaret University is committed to equality of opportunity and believes in a culture of diversity and inclusion. Each application received by the University is considered carefully on its own merits. The University seeks to open access to a wide range of students, subject to the essential principle that there is a reasonable expectation of completion within the normal duration of registration.


Candidates with Disabilities

Information for candidates with disabilities, including contact details for the Student Disability Advisors, is available from the Services for Students website.

It is recommended to make contact with the Academic Disabled Student Co-ordinator for the relevant area at the earliest opportunity.

Campus Facilities

The University will provide access to office space and use of office facilities, as well as support services. Further details can be obtained from the Prof Doc Candidate Handbook.



Full details regarding the payment and amount of fees applicable for a particular session can be found on the QMU fees website.

The following fees apply depending on fee status: tuition fees; continuation fee; examination fee. Candidates, or their sponsors, are also required to cover the cost of printing theses and the graduation fee.

All Professional Doctorate candidates exceeding their normal prescribed period of study, without submitting their thesis, are registered as continuing candidates, and pay the appropriate continuation fee.

All Professional Doctorate candidates must pay the examination fee, which is charged following the submission of the thesis for examination. A second fee is charged for any re-examination.

It should be noted that fee levels are reviewed on an annual basis, and may be subject to increase during the period of study. It is therefore possible that, by the time a Professional Doctorate candidate reaches the continuation or examination stage, the continuation or examination fee will have increased from the fee in place on initial matriculation.

Fees will be adjusted in accordance with any change to a candidate’s registration status, e.g. suspension of studies or change in mode of study from full-time to part-time.

There are three categories of Professional Doctorate candidate in relation to fees: fee-paying; fee-paying with support from an independent sponsor; and staff.

Fee-paying and Fee-paying with Support

Fee-paying Professional Doctorate candidates pay tuition fees where applicable, annually for the prescribed period of study, plus any continuation fee, and the examination fee. If an independent sponsor has agreed to support study (e.g. an employer, embassy, or other funding body), arrangements can be made to invoice the sponsor directly. It is a condition of registration that candidates accept liability for their fees. Even if the fees are to be paid by a sponsor, such as an employer or embassy, it is the candidate’s personal responsibility to ensure that they are paid and to provide evidence of funding at matriculation. Where a candidate has failed to provide written confirmation of funding within 28 days of the start of their programme of study, they will be deemed to be personally liable for the payment of the fees, and an invoice will be issued to the candidate accordingly.



Fees may be waived for current members of staff registered for a part-time Professional Doctorate. Fee waivers will be at the discretion of the Dean of School. Members of staff are expected to participate in the study weeks and engage with their supervision team as per all other doctoral students. Members of staff are required to cover the costs of printing theses and graduation themselves.


Collaborating Establishments

The University encourages co-operation with relevant establishments and organisations (Collaborating Establishments) for the purposes of research.

Less formal collaboration normally involves access by the candidate to the facilities and other resources of the Collaborating Establishment. Supervision and other facilities will be provided by Queen Margaret University, but the Collaborating Establishment may provide a nominated Advisor as part of the Supervisory Team. Examples would be where a candidate was conducting fieldwork outside the UK, or was registered on a non-resident basis. In such cases, a letter from the Collaborating Establishment should be provided, outlining the facilities that will be made available to the candidate.

More formal collaborations may involve joint supervision, intellectual property considerations or joint funding. Examples might include situations where a studentship is attached to a joint funding application, or collaboration with a research programme. In such cases, a Collaborative Agreement must be drawn up in which the performance obligations and responsibilities of each party are explicitly stated. The Agreement shall set out the terms and conditions of collaboration, covering areas such as financial provisions, reporting, intellectual property, publication of results, and liability/indemnity. Guidance regarding agreements of this kind is available from the Research Grants and Contracts Unit.

The contribution of the Collaborating Establishment must be duly acknowledged in the candidate’s thesis.



For the most recent version of the guidelines and the forms required for an ethics submission, please see the QMU Ethics website. Advice and guidance is also available from the Secretary to the University Research Ethics Committee via

No research may proceed without formal ethical approval received in writing. Applications for ethical approval are reviewed initially by the Divisional Research Ethics Committees (DivRec) with four possible outcomes: (a) referral back to applicant for amendments b) approval by the DivRec; c) referral to the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC) for further review; d) referral to an external ethics committee such as NHS (IRAS). All research must receive QMU ethical approval irrespective of external ethical approval requirements.


Data Protection Act and Research Data Management

QMU is committed to protecting the rights and freedoms of individuals with respect to the processing of their personal data. Such processing is undertaken in compliance with:

  • The UK General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018 (the Act), which together are referred to as the "Data Protection Legislation" within this section
  • associated legislation
  • the University's notification with the UK Information Commissioner, which sets out the purposes for which the University holds and processes personal data about employees, students, graduates and others.

It is essential that all candidates are familiar with the University’s Data Protection Policy and Guidelines. These are to be read and followed by all candidates and are available on the QMU privacy website.

In addition, the University’s Research Data Management Policy requires that researchers take steps to ensure strict confidentiality of data relating to study participants, and that research data is managed to the highest standards as part of the University’s commitment to research excellence. Further information is available on the Research Data Management site.


Health and Safety

Health and Safety information, including fire regulations, is available from the QMU website. It is extremely important that candidates observe the University’s Health and Safety Policy and any health and safety precautions which may be prescribed. This includes the University Smoking Policy. It is also important that candidates are sensitive to issues of risk in the Health and Safety context.


Intellectual Property Rights

All IP generated by candidates during the course of their studies at the University and/or using University resources (“Student IP”) will be owned by the inventor (the candidate who created the IP), except:

  • Where as a condition of support an external funder providing funding or other support requires that Student IP is assigned to them (for example projects involving 3rd parties and work requiring use of pre-existing University-owned IP); or
  • Where the Student IP has been developed in the production of an MSc or PhD thesis or in the production of course or teaching materials, in which cases the Student IP will be owned by the University.

In the event where any of the exceptions above are considered by the University to apply, the candidate shall execute and deliver such documents and perform such acts as may reasonably be required in order to ensure that ownership of Student IP is vested in the correct party, as set out above, and the University may require the candidate to do so at any time.

Candidates may wish to publish the results of their research during or after their PhD. There is no restriction on publication, unless commercial interests are involved. Candidates should always consult their Supervisory Team first, to agree attribution of authorship. Further details are available in the University’s Intellectual Property Policy.


Academic Dishonesty, Plagiarism and Fraud

The University’s regulations on Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism are available in full from the Assessment Regulations for taught programmes.

Plagiarism, collusion, falsification of data and other forms of academic dishonesty are considered fraudulent and an offence against University discipline. Whilst the principles described in the general Assessment Regulations apply to all students, the procedures for reporting and evaluation for a suspected offence differ slightly in the case of Professional Doctorate candidates.

A high standard of referencing is expected from all Professional Doctorate candidates, and Supervisory Teams should seek to correct any examples of poor academic practice found in candidates’ written work. Candidates are encouraged to refer to the most up-to-date version of Cite Them Write (available through the QMU library web-pages) to ensure correct referencing.

Professional Doctorates differ from taught degrees in that much of the candidate’s work is not assessed formally. It is possible that a member of the Supervisory Team may have concerns about possible plagiarism in submitted work. In extreme cases, doubts may arise about the veracity of data.

Where academic misconduct is suspected in formal assessed work, the assessors should first discuss the concerns with the Supervisory Team. Serious cases should be referred to the Dean of School, in accordance with the QMU Code of Discipline. Staff in the Graduate School should be contacted for advice.

The Supervisory Team shall decide whether there is a prima facie case established for plagiarism or research malpractice and, on that basis, the appropriate route for handling the case. If it is judged that there is academic misbehaviour or academic misconduct, then the case will be referred to the Dean of School under the QMU Disciplinary Regulations. The Supervisory Team will be responsible for the submission of evidential material to the Dean of School and for informing the candidate(s) involved and any referring staff member of the decision to move to the Disciplinary process. Please refer to The Regulations on Student Discipline.

Such offences on the part of academic staff would be dealt with by disciplinary procedures described in staff guidance available from Human Resources.

Complaints Procedures

The University has established procedures for the making and hearing of complaints and grievances. Students are encouraged to seek resolution of such matters informally first, if at all possible. Staff in the Division of Governance and Quality Enhancement can offer advice.


UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) Regulations

The University is bound by the regulations of UKVI, including visa requirements for international students. The University will comply in all cases with UKVI requirements, such as may be amended from time to time.

Relevant advice will be provided to international applicants and students as appropriate and within the remit of University officers. Advice on visas and immigration should be sought from the University’s Recruitment and International Liaison Office (RILO).

Students studying on a Student Visa may only study on a full-time basis, and must be resident within reasonable commuting distance of the University. Please refer to the information on candidates studying on a Student Visa.


Academic Regulations

1. Professional Doctorate Regulations

Doctoral degrees are higher degrees involving a programme of research and supervision, and/or the development and measurement of professional competencies.

A Doctorate may be taken by a candidate for reasons of wishing to complete a professional qualification, or a candidate may just wish to gain an academic qualification in an area that interests them.

Academically, the Professional Doctorate requires the same challenge, rigour and volume of work as a PhD. The differences lie in the manner in which the work has been undertaken and the material presented for the award, in that it may not be assessed solely by dissertation but may include a portfolio of professional work, of which an academic thesis is an integral part.

Structurally, the Professional Doctorate is a modular credit accumulation programme. All Doctorates are SCQF credit rated at a minimum of 540 credits, of which up to 120 may be at SCQF Level 11, with the remainder at SCQF Level 12 (See regulation 5).

These regulations provide a reference for all staff at QMU who are involved with the operation of such an award. They also serve as a point of reference for all Professional Doctorate candidates registered at QMU.


1.1 Level of Awards

1.1.1 Within the SCQF, there are two parameters which determine qualifications: level of learning outcomes and volume of outcomes, calculated as number of credits. The QMU awards which fall within the SCQF Level 12 category are PhD, Professional Doctorate and the Doctoral Certificate in Researcher Enhancement and Development.

1.1.2 Standards of awards will be determined by the demand made on learners and their response to that demand. Standards will be benchmarked against the appropriate external reference points such as expectations of professional bodies and standards of similar awards in other universities, as determined by the external examining system.


1.2 Aims and Learning Outcomes

The following aims and learning outcomes apply to the Professional Doctorate programme.


1.2.1 Aims

The aims of the Professional Doctorate are:

• To facilitate the development of independent, critically reflective professionals, who possess advanced professional knowledge and understanding with the skills to proactively judge and deal with complex issues and problems and lead professional and organisational developments; and

• To support professionals to develop the knowledge, skills and ability to create and interpret new knowledge and conceptualise design and undertake projects and research in order to contribute to the advancement of an area of professional practice that can influence practice in the UK and internationally.

1.2.2 Learning Outcomes

Professional Doctorates are awarded to candidates who meet the following learning outcomes:


Knowledge and understanding

  1. Identify, explore and interpret theories, principles and concepts at the forefront of their sphere of professional practice and specialist body of knowledge including any ethical implications to create new insights into the complexities of professional practice.
  2. Challenge established ways of knowing, through critically analysing the complex and uncertain nature of domains of professional knowledge and consider the transferability of new ways of knowing into practice in order to advance professional practice and development.
  3. Make judgements on and justify appropriate approaches to work-based research and development through reference to philosophical perspectives and pragmatic implications of diverse methodologies.
  4. Through original research and advanced autonomous scholarship, create and develop new knowledge/outcomes that address the uncertainties, ambiguities and challenges associated with contemporary professional practice and extend the boundaries of the discipline.


Intellectual/Subject/Professional/Key skills

  1. Provide evidence of an exceptionally high level of independence and creativity in scholarship and learning through autonomously, pioneering professional development using innovative knowledge that transforms their domain of professional practice.
  2. Conceptualise, design and conduct an original project applying research and technical skills relevant to their domain of practice.
  3.  Utilise and evaluate a high level of literacy and practical skills, including use of appropriate technology, to retrieve and manage information and data from a wide range of sources in order to synthesise new perspectives to address complex challenges.
  4. Apply effective critical thinking and reflection to make informed judgements and formulate solutions in response to unforeseen difficulties and challenging situations.
  5. Develop resilience and sustainable professional development through on-going maintenance of their own and others well-being.
  6. Devise, sustain and disseminate an original argument that contributes to professional knowledge, meets peer review standards and is of a publishable quality.
  7. Embed continuous critical reflection on learning, performance and development, and seek, evaluate and use feedback to plan and implement strategies to meet ongoing professional development needs.
  8. Evidence the development of contextually relevant leadership skills and mature professional effectiveness in complex organisational domains.
  9. Proactively and effectively communicate and engage in critical dialogue with individuals from various disciplines, at different levels and in different situations, on complex matters using a variety of media and communication styles.

2. Entrance Requirements and Admission

The University seeks to provide access to as wide a range of candidates as possible, subject to the essential principle that there is a reasonable expectation of candidates completing their programmes of study successfully within the normal expected duration of the course.


2.1 Start dates

New Professional Doctorate candidates normally begin their programmes of study at the beginning of the academic year in September, when the first of three annual Doctoral Student Study Weeks take place incorporating induction. An exceptional alternative start date is January to coincide with the second of the Doctoral Student Study Weeks.


2.2 Entry Requirements

  1. All applications will be considered on an individual basis. No offer will be issued to an applicant who fails to meet the minimum entrance requirements although, exceptionally, an offer to Associate student status may be made.
  2. An applicant for registration for a Professional Doctorate shall normally hold, or anticipate gaining, a Postgraduate Diploma (120 level 11 credits) from a United Kingdom Higher Education Institution, or a degree from an overseas institution accepted as equivalent by the Graduate School, acting on advice from the Head of Admissions.
  3. Applicants without a Postgraduate Diploma may be considered as an Associate student, if they can provide evidence of learning equivalent to SCQF level 11. This would then need to be formally applied for through the University’s established procedures for Recognition of Prior Learning (experiential route). Alternatively, a potential candidate without a PGDip may be counselled to undertake QMU 120 level credits on the MRes programme and then apply to the Professional Doctorate.
  4. Associate students should successfully complete claims for Recognition of Prior Learning credit within 12 months (in exceptional cases, and only for part-time students, within 24 months) of admission to the programme.


2.3 English language requirements

All overseas students must provide evidence of their English language ability. A minimum score of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent, with no element of performance lower than IELTS 6.0, is the current QMU entrance requirement*. Completion of a previous degree delivered in English may count as evidence of English language ability.

* English language requirements may be subject to change. Current requirements are published in the Admissions Policy.


2.4 Making an application
The application process is published on the University website with advice available from the University’s Admissions and Recruitment Team.


2.5 In addition to verifying academic and professional qualifications, it should be established through admission processes, including an interview, that the candidate:

  1. is capable of independent learning;
  2. can demonstrate evidence of recent academic study, intellectual skills and/or relevant post qualification study (within five years);
  3.  if part-time, has demonstrated a sufficient level of motivation to sustain study over a period of years;
  4. understands the nature of a Professional Doctorate programme and can clearly demonstrate how the programme will contribute to their continuing professional development.

These regulations must be read in conjunction with the University’s general admissions regulations. Where a topic is not addressed in this document the relevant section of the University regulations should be referred to. Individual programmes may also have specific regulations. For example, the Professional Doctorate requires candidates to have support from a work context and/or have ideas on how to apply the learning in an appropriate work context.


2.6 Decision making on applications

The Admissions Team forwards applications and supporting documents to the relevant School Doctoral Research Coordinator. The Doctoral Research Coordinator considers applications and liaises directly with supervisors where they are named or where no supervisors are named, with Research Centre/Institute Directors and potential supervisors. Occasionally, it may be necessary to involve Heads of Division or Deans.

Wherever possible, each suitable applicant is invited for interview as determined by the Doctoral Research Coordinator, including at least one member with relevant subject expertise and one Research Centre/Institute representative. It is the responsibility of the Doctoral Research Coordinator to ensure that the applicant has appropriate entry requirements and is suited to pursuing a Professional Doctorate programme, and that an appropriate Supervisory Team is available.

A recommendation for acceptance of the applicant and for appointment of the Supervisory Team is then submitted to the Admissions Team, and a letter offering a place is sent to the applicant.


2.7 Staff

Members of staff of the University wishing to register for a part-time Professional Doctorate must first discuss this with their line manager through the Performance Enhancement Review process. If it is agreed that appropriate study time can be set aside within the staff member’s workload, they may submit a formal application through the usual channels. It is expected that members of staff who are accepted for a part-time Professional Doctorate will have some study time protected, although much of the work will need to be done out with normal working hours.

All applicants must be interviewed in line with the usual admissions process. The decision-making process above must also be followed.


2.8 Disability

All applications be assessed on the basis of academic suitability. Discussions about the support requirements of candidates will be separate from that consideration. Applicants are encouraged to indicate any disabilities on the application form. Where a disabled candidate meets the academic entry requirements, the relevant Academic Disabled Student Co-ordinator must be consulted. The standard process for determining special support needs must be followed before making an offer.


2.9 General precepts

Where not otherwise stated, the general precepts of the QMU Admission Regulations apply.

3. Residence, Leave of Absence and Holidays

3.1 Residence

3.1.1 Full-time candidates should normally be resident within reach of Edinburgh, except during holiday time. This is to allow adequate contact with the Supervisory Team and participation in the research culture of the School.

3.1.2 Part-time candidates are expected to commit to attend the three study weeks a year in the University. They must negotiate with their supervisory team an appropriate and robust mechanism for their contact every 2 months for supervision. Resident part-time candidates should be encouraged to use the facilities available to them as candidates at QMU to encourage participation in the research culture of the University. As far as possible, non-resident candidates should visit QMU for three weeks each year to allow participation in Doctoral Study Skills weeks; face-to-face supervisory meetings; and participation in the research culture of the School(s) and the University.


3.2 Leave of absence

3.2.1 In the case of members of staff registered for a Professional Doctorate who are planning to be absent for a sabbatical period, suitable arrangements for continuing supervision must be agreed.

3.2.2 Applications for staff leave of absence for purposes such as fieldwork and extended visits to archives must be approved by the candidate’s Dean of School, with the support of the Supervisory Team and line manager.

3.2.3 Supervisory Team Chairs and candidates are required to notify staff of the Graduate School of any such absence in advance of the absence occurring. International candidates on Student Visas are additionally bound by the University’s regulations for sponsorship, which are communicated separately.


3.3 Candidate holidays

Candidates may take holidays at their own discretion, subject to meeting the usual requirements of study and any visa restrictions. Dates for holidays should be agreed with the Supervisory Team.

4. Admission, Matriculation and Payment of Fees

4.1 All Professional Doctorate candidates, whether full-time or part-time, must be matriculated students of the University. It is the candidate’s responsibility to matriculate each year, usually in September, following the University’s standard matriculation procedures.

4.2 Staff of the Graduate School will notify the Student Records Office of prospective candidates to be expected for initial matriculation. Initial matriculation will take place, no later than the first Doctoral Study week.

4.3 At initial matriculation a candidate will register on the Professional Doctorate Programme. Continued registration is conditional on the candidate meeting the progression requirements outlined in Section 8.

4.4 Following matriculation, Professional Doctorate candidates will be invoiced for fees due, where applicable. Fee liability is determined by the Student Records Office, and invoices will be raised and sent by the Finance Office.

4.5 Full details regarding the payment and amount of fees can be found on the QMU Fees and Funding website. Candidates will be liable for tuition fees for each year of study within the prescribed period (see Section 6). If a candidate does not submit by the end of the prescribed period, they will be classed as a continuing student. Continuing students are liable for the continuation fee beyond the prescribed period, i.e. usual tuition fees do not apply during this period (see regulation 5.4). The University reserves the right to review fees on an annual basis. Candidates in certain subject areas may be liable for bench fees.

4.6 Candidates will be charged the examination fee following receipt of the thesis for examination. A second examination fee will be charged should the candidate require a second oral examination.

4.7 Professional Doctorate candidates must pay tuition fees and other charges as required in order to continue study.

4.8 Professional Doctorate candidates must be matriculated and must have no outstanding tuition fee debt to the University in order to be eligible to graduate.

4.9 Professional Doctorate candidates may not be concurrently registered for any other research degree at QMU or at another Higher Education Institution.

5. Professional Doctorate Programme Structure

5.1 The doctoral programme is offered through either full-time or part-time routes. The structure will be as in the table below.

Programme structure

Standard entry

Non-standard entry


PG Diploma 120 SCQF points at Level 11 (Masters)

Undertake 120 Level 11 points (Masters) using QMU array


RPL up to 120 Level 11 Masters points

Theory and Context module XD025

90 credits Level 12

90 credits Level 12


90 credits Level 12

Developing and evaluating module XD026

90 credits Level 12

90 credits Level 12


90 credits Level 12

Doctoral research XD011

60 credits Level 12

60 credits Level 12


60 credits Level 12


180 credits Level 12

180 credits Level 12


180 credits Level 12

Total credits

540 credits

540 credits


540 credits

5.2 A Professional Doctorate candidate may register on a full-time or a part-time basis. Full-time status reflects a commitment to study for approximately 35 hours per week. Part-time status is considered to be the equivalent of half full-time and therefore reflects a commitment to study for approximately 18 hours per week. Such an amount of work is considered to be a pre-requisite for reaching the standard of the degree. Candidates who devote less time to their study may find that progress is inadequate, which can lead to de-registration.

5.3 A full-time candidate should normally reach the standard for a Professional Doctorate within a prescribed period of study of three years and a part-time candidate within a prescribed period of six years. Full-time candidates should normally submit their thesis at the end of the third year for examination, or at the latest after one further continuation year. A continuation fee must be paid for this fourth year of study. Part-time candidates will normally submit their thesis at the end of the sixth year for examination, or at the latest after two further continuation years. The continuation fee, covering the seventh and eighth years of study, must be paid at the start of the seventh year.

5.4 Candidates are normally expected to complete within the prescribed period. Progress will be subject to regular review at supervisory meetings and through annual assessments, allowing students to identify barriers to completion and Supervisory Teams to put in place appropriate support mechanisms.


5.5 Mode of Study

5.5.1 Professional Doctorate programmes are designed to facilitate choice and to allow candidates to pursue doctoral study while still in employment or an equivalent professional engagement. It is therefore intended that the elements of the programme will be available in ways that facilitate full or part-time study.

The elements may be delivered:

  • by work-based learning,
  • in concentrated blocks of study,
  • in normal working hours during the weekdays,
  • by flexible learning, or
  • through a combination of these formats.

6. Registration and Periods of study

The tables below summarise the standard periods of study for the Professional Doctorate degree. The length of time an individual candidate is registered for may be amended following approval of applications for suspension or extension (see regulation 6.4 and 6.5).

Minimum if Masters (1)

Minimum If abbreviated (2)

Prescribed Period

Maximum (3)


24 months (2 years)

30 months (2.5 years)

36 months (3 years)

48 months (4 years)


48 months (4 years)

60 months (5 years)

72 months (6 years)

96 months (8 years)


  1. Up to 270 credits may be awarded by Recognition of Prior Learning. This would reduce the registration period by one year FTE.
  2. Candidates may apply for abbreviation of study in the event that the research is proceeding ahead of schedule. A student may apply for both credit and abbreviation of study.
  3. Exceptionally, candidates may extend their final registration date by applying for suspensions and/or extensions. Such applications must be accompanied by documentary evidence supporting the application.


6.1 Recognition of Prior Learning

6.1.1 As set out above, up to 270 credits may be awarded by Recognition of Prior Learning. This would reduce the registration period by one year FTE.

6.1.2 Candidates entering the Professional Doctorate programme at QMU should have normally gained 120 credits at SCQF level 11. The Professional Doctorate, in line with SCQF level 12 requirements and standards, is awarded on the completion of 540 credits, of which a minimum of 420 must be at level 12, with the remainder at level 11.

6.1.3 Within the QMU framework of a maximum of 50% credit being allowed at each level of study and due to the complexity of doctoral work, the Professional Doctorate will normally offer a maximum of 180 (D Level 12) credits for Prior Certificated Learning. For Prior Experiential Learning, normally a maximum of 90 credits (at level 12), or exceptionally 120 credits at level 11 for Associate students may be awarded on each application.

6.1.4 The thesis is worth 180 credits (SCQF level 12) and must be completed at Queen Margaret University in order for the candidate to be eligible for award of Professional Doctorate.

6.1.5 If the candidate is a QMU graduate, their existing credit is subsidiary to the new qualification and this is noted on the transcript where possible.

6.1.6 The Graduate School should consider evidence relating to the applicant’s previous qualifications and experience and make a decision regarding Recognition of Prior Learning through the standard QMU procedures. All new entrants should hold 120 SCQF level 11 points (see also regulations 2.2 and 6.1.2 and 6.1.3). For applicants who consider that they may be able to gain level 12 recognition for recent work and/ or other relevant experience, a discussion with the Graduate School should take place. The Graduate School should consider evidence relating to the applicant’s previous qualification and experience and advise the applicant in consultation with the Chair of the RPL Panel.


6.2 Abbreviation of the prescribed period of study

Where there is evidence that the research is proceeding exceptionally well, the Graduate School Academic Board may approve an abbreviation of the prescribed period of study. Early submission of the Professional Doctorate thesis may be permitted up to the following maxima: full-time 6 months; part-time 12 months.


6.3 Change of mode of study

6.3.1 Applications for a change of mode of study from full-time to part-time status or vice versa may only be made for good cause and normally within the prescribed period of study. The application must be made by the candidate to the Graduate School Academic Board on the appropriate form, counter-signed by the Chair of Supervisory Team. It is not normally possible to change mode of study retrospectively.

6.3.2 Following a change of mode of study from full-time to part-time status or vice versa, the minimum and maximum periods of study will be re-calculated.


6.4 Suspension

6.4.1 Where a Professional Doctorate candidate is prevented from making due progress by ill-health or other significant cause, the candidate may, with the support of the Chair of the Supervisory Team, ask the Graduate School Academic Board to suspend their registration for a period between one and twelve months in the first instance. A request for suspension on medical grounds must be supported by a letter from the candidate’s doctor that supports the length of the full suspension period. The maximum total period of suspension is normally two years. No fees are payable for the period of the suspension.

6.4.2 The Chair of the Supervisory Team will contact the candidate before the end of the period of suspension to confirm the candidate’s return date. If the candidate does not return within one month of the agreed return date, without extenuating circumstances accepted by the Graduate School Academic Board, procedures for de-registration due to lack of contact will be followed as in 6.9.4 below.


6.5 Extension

Only in exceptional circumstances will the Graduate School Academic Board agree to an application for extension of the period of study of a candidate beyond the maximum period. This application must be made, on the appropriate form, by the candidate with the support of the Chair of Supervisory Team. Candidates who have had extensions approved above the normal maximum period of study will be liable for further continuation fees as determined by the Student Records Office.


6.6 Withdrawal

Where a candidate wishes voluntarily to withdraw from their programme of study, this must be indicated on the appropriate withdrawal form and submitted to the Graduate School via email. The candidate must inform their Supervisory Team of the decision to withdraw.


6.7 Exclusion from studies

All candidates are required to observe the University’s Regulations and Codes of Conduct and Practice. The University reserves the right to take disciplinary action against any student on the grounds of a breach of rules and regulations or abuse of Codes of Conduct and Practice. Such cases are considered under the procedures described in the section on Discipline on the Quality website. Outcomes include the possibility of expulsion from the University.


6.8 Annual Progress Reports

6.8.1 Annual reports on the progress of all Professional Doctorate candidates must be submitted separately by the candidate and the Chair of the Supervisory Team to the Graduate School Officer. This is a requirement, even for candidates and Supervisory Teams with no issues to report. Submission of an annual progress report is a mandatory progression requirement for all candidates and for continued programme registration. Non submission may result in de-registration under the terms of 6.9.2 (g).

6.8.2 The Graduate School Officer will provide a full set of reports to the Doctoral Research Coordinators. It is the responsibility of the School’s Doctoral Research Coordinators to follow up any issues raised by the reports and ensure that candidates and Supervisory Teams are briefed on the outcome. A summary report will be presented to the Graduate School Academic Board each year. This report will detail key themes emerging. Issues raised by individual candidates or Supervisors will come to the Board only where it is within the Board’s remit to take decisions. This approach maintains confidentiality and anonymity.


6.9 De-registration

6.9.1 All Professional Doctorate candidates are required to pursue their programmes of study with due diligence. If a candidate wilfully and/or persistently neglects their academic work, or in the case of seriously inadequate progress being highlighted by the Examination Board, or in the annual reports, the candidate’s registration may be terminated.

6.9.2 De-registration may be pursued by the University under any of the following circumstances:

  1. the candidate fails more credits than permitted under the assessment regulations;
  2. the candidate is not in reasonable contact with his/her Supervisory Team;
  3. the candidate has not matriculated;
  4. the candidate has not paid tuition fees as required;
  5. the candidate is making seriously inadequate progress, as determined by the Supervisory Team and/or the terms of the Professional Doctorate Regulations;
  6. the candidate fails to submit the final thesis within the maximum period of study;
  7. the candidate fails to comply with any conditions set by the Research Strategy Committee, Graduate School Academic Board, Head of Graduate School, Dean of School or Supervisory Team.

6.9.3 Fails more modules than permitted under the assessment regulations: As set out in regulation 8.2.3, at the Masters stage (SCQF level 11), assessment will be governed by the regulations relating to taught postgraduate programmes. As set out in regulation 8.2.5, at the Doctoral stage (SCQF level 12), candidates will be allowed to fail modules equivalent to no more than 240 credits in total. The decision to withdraw a candidate from the programme under these circumstances will be made by the Board of Examiners.
An appeal against a decision of the Board of Examiners shall be appealed under the University’s general Academic Appeals Procedure.

6.9.4 Lack of contact. When a candidate has not been in contact with the Supervisory Team for six weeks (full-time) or twelve weeks (part-time), or if a candidate does not contact their Supervisory Team when required to do so by the Team and at the frequency required by the Team as stated in the Doctoral Learning Action Plan (or other negotiated Student/Supervisor Agreement), the Chair of the Supervisory Team will write formally to the candidate requesting an explanation. If no adequate explanation or reply is made by the candidate within ten working days of the date of the written request, the Chair will refer the case to the Head of Graduate School. The Head of Graduate School will ask the Graduate School Officer to write to the candidate, giving them one month from the date of the written request to reply in writing. If, in the Head of Graduate School’s opinion, no reasonable explanation is provided, the Head of Graduate School may recommend to the Graduate School Academic Board that the candidate’s registration be terminated.

6.9.5 Failure to matriculate. Candidates must matriculate every year in accordance with Queen Margaret University regulations. When a candidate has not matriculated, and has not provided an explanation for not so doing, the Graduate School Officer will write to the candidate, copied to the Chair of the Supervisory Team, giving them one month from the date of the written request to reply in writing. Any response received will be referred to the Head of Graduate School for consideration. If, in the Head of Graduate School’s opinion, no reasonable explanation is provided, the Head of Graduate School may recommend to the Graduate School Academic Board that the candidate’s registration be terminated.

6.9.6 Non-payment of tuition fees. All candidates must pay tuition fees and other charges as required. Where a candidate has failed to engage with the University to find a solution to any outstanding tuition fee debt, or has failed to honour an agreement to pay any tuition fee debt, the candidate’s registration may be terminated.

6.9.7 Inadequate progress. If a Chair of the Supervisory Team is concerned about a candidate’s lack of progress, the issues should be discussed with the candidate first, explaining the consequences of failure to improve. The two main Supervisors and candidate should meet to agree an action plan and targets to allow the candidate to improve their performance. If, in the Chair’s opinion, the situation does not improve, this should be reported to the Head of Graduate School. Following this report, the Head of Graduate School may recommend an immediate meeting. Normally, the Head of Graduate School will recommend action to address the points at issue.

6.9.8 If the concerns are extremely serious and urgent, are of a health and safety nature, or if the candidate has failed to meet agreed targets for improvement, the Head of Graduate School will meet with the candidate to discuss whether the project can continue. Where candidates are based overseas, alternative arrangements for this meeting will be applied.
This meeting may result in one of three outcomes:

  1. the candidate continues in registration;
  2. the candidate continues in registration conditionally on the attainment of certain agreed targets which will be monitored by the Head of Graduate School; or
  3. a recommendation is made to the Graduate School Academic Board that the candidate’s registration be terminated.

De-registration under this regulation may be recommended providing (a) the full Supervisory Team has been consulted and (b) the candidate has had an opportunity to respond to the concerns raised. Should de-registration be recommended, the procedure set out in regulation 6.9.7 shall be followed.

6.9.9 Failure to submit the final thesis. If no thesis is submitted within four years (full-time) or eight years (part-time), and no application for extension or suspension has been received and approved, the candidate’s registration will be terminated automatically.

6.9.10 In all cases, candidates will have the right of appeal. Appeals must be lodged in writing to the University Secretary within 21 days of the de-registration decision being communicated to the candidate by written correspondence and should be on the basis of the following grounds i.e. that:

  • Additional information is available that was not, and could not, reasonably have been made available to the Graduate School Academic Board at the time it made its original recommendation to the Research Strategy Committee and which had it been available could have led the Board to make a different decision.
  • There was a material irregularity in the procedures of the Graduate School Academic Board.

Appeals will be heard by the Deputy Principal within 30 days of the receipt of the appeal in accordance with Section 12 of these Regulations. If a candidate is dissatisfied with the outcome of the appeal, they may refer to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman, as set out in Section 12 of these Regulations.

7. Learning, Teaching and Assessment

7.1 In accordance with the University’s Student Experience Strategy, all doctoral programmes are learner-centred. Therefore, candidates are expected to take responsibility for their own learning, and the facilitation of learning and assessment strategies will be designed to enable independent progress within a supportive framework.

7.2 Facilitation of learning and assessment strategies will enable learners to develop their full potential by recognising and building on prior knowledge and experience and by facilitating development of subject related and transferable skills. Strategies should develop and reward critical, evaluative and enquiry-based approaches to study. At this level it is important that there is interchange and collaboration which can extend the learning experiences for all.

7.3 Assessment influences what and how people learn, and therefore assessment should have a formative and summative role. Learners should be given feedback on all aspects of their performance whether or not the assessment contributes to their award.

7.4 Assessment of the Professional Doctorate will include a major piece of work worth a minimum of 180 credits at SCQF Level 12 and allowing the measurement of multiple outcomes. This significant assessment may be a dissertation, an original and creative work, a work-based study, a portfolio or a professional intervention, but must include theoretical evaluation and analysis of a high standard equivalent to a piece of empirical research and must contribute, in an original way, to the development of the subject or profession.

8. Assessment Regulations

8.1 Candidates register initially for a Professional Doctorate. Continued registration is conditional upon satisfactory completion of the assessment requirements below. A candidate whose progress is unsatisfactory may be de-registered.


8.2 Assessment of modules

8.2.1 Candidates must register on modules in each academic year. The candidate’s programme should be agreed with their Supervisory Team.

8.2.2 A candidate who registers on a module will be expected to submit work for assessment in accordance with the assessment requirements state din the module descriptors. Requests for extenuating circumstances will be dealt with in accordance with the QMU extenuating circumstances policy. An assignment which is not submitted within seven days of the agreed submission date without prior approval will be failed.

8.2.3 At the Masters stage (SCQF level 11), assessment will be governed by the regulations relating to taught postgraduate programmes.

8.2.4 At doctoral level, work will be marked as pass or fail, with no compensation possible between elements. All modules weighted at 60 credits or more at SCQF 12 will be double marked.

8.2.5 A candidate may not fail more than 240 credits at Doctoral level. This allows them the opportunity to fail and retrieve each module once. Should they fail more than 240 credits they will be required to withdraw from the programme.

8.2.6 Candidates submitting their work for assessment at SCQF Level 12 should submit work on a regular basis to their supervision team for formative feedback to ensure the work is reaching doctoral level. Candidates must negotiate the timing of their submission with their Supervisory Team in advance to ensure enough time is allowed for due consideration of the work.

8.2.7 Module results will be confirmed by a Board of Examiners. The Board will be responsible for:

  • confirming results;
  • monitoring student progress;
  • ensuring compliance with QMU regulations;
  • assuring the quality of the assessment process.

8.2.8 The Board of Examiners will report to Senate via the Graduate School Academic Board, which makes recommendations on award to the Research Strategy Committee (see also 9.7.2 below).

8.2.9 An External Examiner will be appointed to the Professional Doctorate with responsibility for oversight of the programme as a whole and moderation of work for the modules within the programme. The thesis element is examined by viva with separately appointed internal and external examiners, and not the programme external examiner.

8.2.10 Should a candidate wish to appeal the decision of a Board of Examiners in relation to a module at SCQF level 12, the University’s general Academic Appeals Procedure shall apply.


8.3 Assessment of the thesis

8.3.1 For the purposes of these regulations, ‘thesis’ refers to the major piece of written work submitted by the candidate. This may take the form of a report on a major research or work-based project, a thesis, or some other piece of significant independent work that is consistent with the regulations.

8.3.2 No part of a thesis may have been included in a submission for any other degree or qualification without the permission of the Graduate School Academic Board, acting on behalf of the Research Strategy Committee.

8.3.3 The examination of a thesis normally has two principal stages: the preliminary assessment of the thesis, followed by its defence at an oral examination. The key function of the examination is to establish that both the candidate and the thesis reach the standard required for the degree, with respect to the criteria. Another function of the oral examination is to demonstrate the candidate’s authorship of the thesis and understanding of the field of study.

8.3.4 All doctoral candidates must pay an examination fee, which is charged at the time of the appointment of Examiners, before submission of the thesis for examination. A second fee is charged for any formal re-examination. Copies of the relevant fees applicable can be found on the QMU fees website.

9. Examination Regulations

9.1 The Graduate School Academic Board shall ensure that all examinations are conducted in accordance with the University’s regulations as set out below. In the event of significant deviation from these regulations, the Graduate School Academic Board may declare the examination null and void and appoint new Examiners.


9.2 Preparation for submission of the thesis

9.2.1 The decision to submit the thesis for examination is the candidate’s alone, but only exceptionally should a thesis be submitted without the agreement of the Supervisory Team. However, the candidate must submit within the maximum period of registration. A candidate who does not submit in time will automatically fail. Candidates may exceptionally apply for an extension to their registration (see regulation 6.5)

9.2.2 It is the candidate’s responsibility to ensure that the thesis conforms to the regulations on format and binding in Section 11.


9.3 Appointment of Examiners and arrangements

9.3.1 It is the responsibility of the Supervisory Team to nominate Examiners to the Graduate School Academic Board for approval on behalf of Senate, by completing the examination arrangements form and submitting completed short CV forms for each of the proposed Examiners. These should be submitted to the Board well before the expected date of submission to allow time for scrutiny and approval.

9.3.2 In nominating Examiners, the Supervisory Team Chair will consult the School’s Doctoral Research Co-ordinator and the candidate, and take into consideration any views they may express. The Doctoral Research Coordinator will liaise with Research Centre/Institute Directors, Heads of Division, the Dean and others, as appropriate, to establish whether there may be any conflict of interest with appointment of Examiners.

9.3.3 Normally the Supervisory Team Chair will approach Examiners informally to confirm their willingness to act in this capacity, although this task may be delegated to another Supervisory Team member. The Examiners should confirm their willingness in principle before the examination arrangements form is submitted to the Graduate School Academic Board.

9.3.4 The Supervisory Team Chair must avoid all known conflicts of interest in nominating Examiners, including cases where an External Examiner has acted frequently for the School in the past (the Doctoral Research Co-ordinator and Graduate School Officer can provide guidance on this point). No member of the candidate’s current or previous Supervisory Team (including any formal Advisors), research collaborators or anyone with a close association with the candidate's research may act as an Examiner. The Graduate School Academic Board, before approving their appointment, requires nominated Examiners to declare any other potential conflict(s) of interest.

9.3.5 The candidate must have no contact with the External Examiner(s) between the nomination of Examiners and the oral examination. This rule is waived, however, in the case of practice-based research should it be necessary for the Examiner(s) to view a live event as part of the assessment process. In this case, the Examiner(s) must attend the live event and independently write a detailed report afterwards. There must be no discussion or conversation with the candidate at that stage and the relationship between the candidate and Examiner(s) must remain formal.

9.3.6 There must be a minimum of two Examiners, including one External and one Internal, with normally not more than three Examiners. An independent, non-examining Chair will also be nominated by the Head of the Graduate School (see regulation 8.5.9).

9.3.7 Internal Examiners will normally be members of staff of the University, but may on occasion be previous members of staff who have left not more than five years before, or members of Collaborating Establishments.

9.3.8 No previous member of staff of the University may act as an External Examiner within five years of leaving.

9.3.9 Examiners must hold a doctoral level qualification or equivalent qualification or experience. External Examiners must be independent and must normally be experienced in examining at the relevant level. They must also be experienced in the specialist topic. Internal Examiners need not be specialists in the topic but must have experience of the general field of research. No candidate for a doctoral degree shall normally be appointed as an Examiner.

9.3.10 A neutral, non-examining Independent Chair will normally be appointed. The Independent Chair must have suitable prior experience of examining. Usually, this means they will have examined a minimum of two previous examinations, at least one of which must have been at QMU. They do not require subject or methodological expertise. Their role is to oversee the conduct of the examination to ensure a collegiate approach and consistency with QMU regulations.

The Independent Chair will be nominated by the Head of the Graduate School from a register of suitably experienced QMU examiners. The proposed Independent Chair, the candidate and their supervisory team will be required to declare any conflict of interest. In the event that a conflict of interest is identified, an alternative appointment will be made.

9.3.11 Candidates submitting theses on multidisciplinary topics may have two External Examiners, drawn from the contributing disciplines.

9.3.12 Candidates who are members of staff of the University must have two External Examiners, and the internal examiner must not be the candidate’s Head of Division or Dean of School.

9.3.13 Where it is not possible to identify a suitable Internal Examiner, two External Examiners may be appointed. The Convener of the Graduate School Academic Board, or a delegated member of the Board, shall identify a suitably experienced Examiner to act as neutral non-voting Chair of the oral examination.


9.4 Submission of the thesis for examination

9.4.1 One copy of the thesis (see regulation 11.6.2) and any additional material must be electronically sent to the Graduate School before the expiry of the candidate’s registration period. This should be submitted, along with the candidate’s signed declaration form, to the Graduate School for distribution to the Examiners and Chair. No copy should normally be submitted before the Graduate School Academic Board has approved the examination arrangements.

9.4.2 The candidate’s declaration form, signed by the candidate, must accompany the submission of the examination copies of the thesis. This form certifies that the work is the candidate’s own and that no part has been previously included in a degree submission. Full bibliographic details should also be given of any publication by the candidate, including joint publications, which has been derived from or included in the thesis. The form also contains a checklist to be completed, indicating word length and compliance with the requirements for format and binding listed in Section 11 below. If the thesis exceeds the upper word limit by more than 10% it will not be accepted for examination and will be returned to the candidate by staff of the Graduate School.

9.4.3 All members of the Supervisory Team should sign the declaration form to confirm that the work is the candidate’s own. On the form the Supervisors should indicate whether they:

  1. believe the thesis is worthy for consideration for the award of Doctorate;
  2. do not believe the thesis is worthy of consideration or hold reservations about its quality.

9.4.4 In the event of (b) the candidate will be given the option to delay submission and make further revisions (assuming there remains sufficient time in the candidate’s period of study). Should the candidate prefer to submit the thesis without revision, they must sign the declaration form to confirm this.

9.4.5 The candidate must also complete a candidate declaration form before submitting creative work for examination and the process above should be followed.

9.4.6 Acceptance of the thesis for submission does not guarantee a successful outcome in examination.


9.5 Examination of the thesis

9.5.1 An oral examination is obligatory for all candidates, save in exceptional cases where the Graduate School Academic Board has previously agreed an alternative form of examination for a valid cause such as disability. Inadequate knowledge of the language in which the thesis is presented shall not constitute a valid cause.

9.5.2 The Graduate School is responsible for arranging the date of the oral examination, which will normally be held between six and twelve weeks from receipt of the thesis by the Examiners. The oral examination will be held at Queen Margaret University. Exceptionally the Graduate School Academic Board may give permission for the oral examination to be held elsewhere.

9.5.3 After submission of the thesis, candidates may request postponement of the oral examination for good reason likely to have an adverse effect on their performance. These reasons may include recent bereavement, personal or family illness, or serious domestic problems. Such requests require approval from the Graduate School Academic Board.

9.5.4 After reading the thesis, the Examiners are required to complete a preliminary report form, in which they are asked to comment on the intellectual, scholarly and literary quality of the thesis, and to identify areas on which they would wish to question the candidate in the oral examination.

9.5.5 The preliminary reports must be independent and confidential. The reports must be received by the Graduate School no later than two days in advance of the date agreed for the oral examination. A copy of each Examiner’s report is made available to the other Examiner(s), to facilitate preliminary discussion, before the oral examination, but only after all reports have been received.

9.5.6 In the event that the Examiners judge the thesis is too poor academically to be worthy of examination, the oral examination will still be held to allow the student the chance to discuss the thesis with the Examiners.

9.5.7 A member of the Supervisory Team may attend the oral examination, with the prior agreement of the candidate and of the Examiners. The Supervisory Team member may only speak when addressed by the Examiners on matters of clarification, and must not intervene in the evaluative process. A further function of the attendance of the Supervisory Team member is to be present to hear any comments by the Examiners on necessary amendments.

9.5.8 During the oral examination, the Examiners may explore the candidate’s understanding of the general field of study and research methodology as well as of the specific topic of the thesis. The examination follows a standard format, and no deviation from this is permitted without prior agreement from the Graduate School Academic Board.

9.5.9 The Examiners are required to complete and sign a joint final report at the end of the oral examination, and to indicate which of the options below they recommend to the Graduate School Academic Board:

  1. the candidate be awarded a pass;
  2. the candidate be awarded a pass subject to minor amendments, to be completed within two months of the Examiners’ report being sent to the candidate;
  3. the candidate be awarded a pass subject to major amendments, to be completed within six months of the Examiners’ report being sent to the candidate;
  4. the candidate to be permitted to resubmit a substantially amended version of the thesis for re-examination, within twelve months of the Examiners’ report being sent to the candidate. A second oral examination is obligatory, except where the Examiners specify in their report that this will not be necessary.

In the case of practice-based research, amendments may be stipulated to the thesis but not the creative work.

9.5.10 The comments in the final report by the Examiners should provide a sufficient basis to enable the Graduate School Academic Board to satisfy itself that the recommendation chosen from Regulation 9.5.9 is appropriate. All parts of the form must be completed.
9.5.11 The final report by the Examiners is confidential to the Graduate School Academic Board, Research Strategy Committee, Senate, the student, and the Supervisory Team.

9.5.12 Examiners are also required to provide typed feedback for the candidate, including a formal statement of any necessary amendments, as an attachment to the final report. The full report and feedback should be supplied to the Graduate School Officer within five working days of the examination. It is essential that the amendments listed are complete and clear. Guidance must be appropriately specific, preferably identifying where the amendments should be inserted. The student is required to make only the amendments specified in the final report and Examiners may not introduce new issues later – see regulation 9.5.13 below.

9.5.13 The final report will indicate which Examiner(s) will be responsible for verifying that all, and only, the prescribed amendments have been satisfactorily completed. Major amendments are normally verified by the External as well as by the Internal Examiner.

9.5.14 Where the Examiners are not able to be unanimous in their final recommendations, separate final reports will be completed and signed. In this circumstance, the Graduate School Academic Board may:

  1. accept a majority recommendation (provided that the majority includes at least one External Examiner);
  2. accept the recommendation of the External Examiner;
  3. require the appointment of new Examiners to conduct an independent examination, including an oral examination.

9.5.15 The Graduate School Academic Board may very exceptionally approve an extension to the time period for amendments. Applications must be made well in advance of the deadline and must be supported by the Supervisory Team Chair.


9.6 Submission of amended or revised thesis

9.6.1 Where a candidate has been required to submit an amended thesis under 9.5.9 (b) or (c) above, the amendments will be checked by the Examiner(s), normally within four weeks of receipt. The Examiner(s) may only check against the amendments specified following the oral examination and may not introduce new points of issue. If the amendments have been satisfactorily completed, the candidate will be awarded a pass.

9.6.2 If the Examiner(s) are not satisfied the amendments have been satisfactorily completed the candidate will be so informed and given the opportunity to make the required amendments within a period of two weeks. If after this, the thesis does not incorporate the required amendments, both Examiners must view the amended thesis and discuss it. Where the amendments have been partially completed, the Examiners will consider whether the thesis, as it stands, is worthy of a Doctorate. Should the Examiners be unable to reach agreement, regulation 9.5.14 applies. A candidate knowingly fails to make a required amendment at his or her own risk. The Examiners may make one of the following recommendations:

  1. the candidate be awarded a pass;
  2. the candidate be awarded a fail.

9.6.3 Normally, a thesis may be resubmitted for formal examination (regulation 9.5.9 d) only once, and no candidate may be examined more than twice for a given degree. The appointment of the original Examiners normally remains in force for any second examination. Should any of the original Examiners be unavailable, a revised examination team must be approved by the Graduate School Academic Board, as in regulation 9.3 above. The process of re-examination follows the pattern of a first examination, except that a restricted set of final recommendations is available, as follows:

  1. the candidate be awarded a pass;
  2. the candidate be awarded a pass subject to minor amendments, to be completed within two months;
  3. the candidate be awarded a fail.


9.7 Award of the degree

9.7.1 The authority to award doctoral degrees rests solely with Senate.

9.7.2 The Research Strategy Committee shall make a recommendation to Senate, based on the recommendation(s) and report(s) of the Graduate School Academic Board and Examiners, and following confirmation from the Examiner(s) that any necessary corrections have been satisfactorily completed, that the degree be awarded.

9.7.3 When Senate has agreed that the degree should be awarded, the Graduate School Officer communicates the decision to the graduand.

9.7.4 Following Senate agreement that the degree should be awarded, the Graduate School Officer also notifies the Student Records Office that the student is entitled to graduate. Further correspondence about the process of graduation is then the responsibility of the Student Records Office.

9.7.5 In the event of a recommendation from the Research Strategy Committee that no degree should be awarded, again the final decision rests with Senate. The Graduate School Officer will communicate Senate’s decision to the candidate.

9.7.6 Candidates may appeal against the outcome of their examination, on a limited number of grounds. These grounds and the process of appeal are described in Section 12 below.


9.8 Lodging the final version of the thesis

9.8.1 One electronic copy of the thesis, complying with the regulations in Section 11, should be submitted to the Graduate School Officer.

9.8.2 A thesis deposit agreement form (supplied by the Graduate School) must be completed and submitted at the same time as lodging the final thesis. This will confirm the agreement of the candidate that the thesis may be made available to readers through the open access electronic repository, and may be lent to the British Library.

9.8.3 The electronic copy of the thesis submitted for lodging in the Library shall remain the property of the University, with the copyright in the thesis being vested in the author.


9.9 Restriction of access

9.9.1 There is normally no restriction of access to a thesis for which a higher degree has been awarded. The Graduate School Academic Board will only approve an application for confidentiality in order to enable a patent application to be lodged or to protect commercially or politically sensitive material. A thesis shall not be restricted in this way in order to protect research leads. While the normal maximum period of confidentiality is two years, in exceptional circumstances the Graduate School Academic Board may approve a longer period.

9.9.2 Where the Graduate School Academic Board has agreed that the confidential nature of the candidate's work is such as to preclude the thesis being made freely available in relevant libraries, the thesis shall, during the period of restriction, only be made available to those who were directly involved in the project.

10. Supervision

10.1 Each Professional Doctorate candidate has a Supervisory Team consisting of at least two Supervisors, and potentially one or more Advisors. At least one of the Supervisors should be a current member of academic staff. The other(s) should normally be current members of academic staff.

10.2 The initial Supervisory Team will be suggested by the Programme Director in consultation with the Doctoral Research Co-ordinator, and will be communicated to the Graduate School. The full Supervisory Team will be considered and approved by the Graduate School Academic Board.


10.3 Composition of the Supervisory Team

10.3.1 Both main Supervisors are formally responsible to the Head of Graduate School for a candidate’s progress with their programme of study. Between them, the Supervisors should elect a Chair of the Supervisory Team. The Chair must always be a current member of academic staff at QMU. The Chair is the main point of contact for ensuring that all administrative aspects of the candidate’s progress are conducted appropriately and in particular for ensuring adherence to these regulations.

10.3.2 Both Supervisors will normally hold a Doctorate, and will normally be active researchers. Advisors may be external to the University, especially where they provide a link with a Collaborating Establishment. Advisors may also be internal to the University.

10.3.3 At least one of the two Supervisors must have been a member of a previous Supervisory Team for at least one successful PhD or Professional Doctorate candidate.

10.3.4 A member of staff must not normally be involved with the supervision of more than eight PhD and Professional Doctorate candidates at any one time. Exceptions may be made where a member of staff holds a primarily research focused contract.


10.4 Supervisory meetings

10.4.1 The frequency of supervisory meetings between the two main Supervisors and a full-time candidate should normally be monthly throughout the prescribed period of study, and bi-monthly for part-time candidates. In the early months, the frequency of meetings should be greater. For continuing candidates (i.e. those who have not submitted their thesis within the prescribed period of study), it is expected that supervisory meetings will be required less frequently. Where candidates are based at a distance or conducting fieldwork abroad, equivalent discussions must be held by telephone, email or equivalent.

10.4.2 Records must be kept of all meetings. The candidate is responsible for preparing these. All members of the Supervisory Team must agree to the content of these records and especially any action points.


10.5 Changes to the Supervisory Team

10.5.1 Any proposal for a change in supervision arrangements shall be made, on the appropriate form, and with accompanying short CVs, to the Graduate School Academic Board.

10.5.2 Alternative supervisory arrangements must be formalised in advance of any planned long-term leave (such as maternity or research leave) taken by either of the two main Supervisors.

10.5.3 When a Supervisor has been absent for longer than three months, an application for the appointment of a replacement must be made to the Graduate School Academic Board.

10.5.4 A Supervisor who has been replaced due to their absence will not be automatically reinstated on their return. The case for return to the Supervisory Team has to be made to the Doctoral Research Co-ordinator.

10.5.5 If a candidate is experiencing difficulties with the supervisory relationship, they may contact the Programme Director and/or Doctoral Research Co-ordinator for advice. Normally, it would be hoped that problems could be resolved between the candidate and the Supervisory Team.

10.5.6 In the case of problems which cannot be resolved jointly by the candidate and the Supervisory Team, and especially where the Programme Director or Doctoral Research Co-ordinator is a member of the Supervisory team, either the candidate or the Supervisor involved may ask the Head of Graduate School to recommend a change of Supervisor.

10.5.7 Where the Head of Graduate School is the Supervisor concerned, the Dean of School should be approached to recommend the change.

11. Recommended Format for Thesis Submission

All theses for higher degrees awarded by Queen Margaret University must conform to the same format. Regulations in this Section are designed to promote legibility, to meet the conventions of scholarly presentation, and to facilitate standard library cataloguing.


11.1 Except with the specific permission of the Graduate School Academic Board, the thesis shall be presented in English.


11.2 Length

11.2.1 The text of the thesis, excluding footnotes, references and appendices, should meet the requirements as stated in these regulations.

11.2.2 Normal rules on exceeding word limits apply (i.e. no more than 10% over). There is no minimum limit. However, it is unlikely that a thesis significantly shorter than the recommended word count will be of sufficient depth to achieve all the outcomes of the award.

The following sections should be excluded from the word count:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents and list of tables and figures
  • References and bibliography
  • Appendices
  • Footnotes

Tables and figures within the text are included in the word count, as are quotations from interviews. It is recognised that certain types of qualitative research will therefore require a higher word count. Permission to exceed the word limit may be sought from the Graduate School Academic Board in advance of submission (see below).

11.2.3 Permission to exceed the maximum length of a thesis will only be granted by the Graduate School Academic Board, acting on behalf of the Research Strategy Committee, for exceptional reasons. Permission must be sought at the time the examination arrangements are submitted for approval, well before submission of the thesis. A thesis which is over the word limit, without permission, will not be accepted for examination.

11.2.4 Examiners should be able to understand the thesis from the full argument presented in the main body of the text. Appendices should contain only supporting data and ancillary material. Overlong appendices should be avoided.


11.3 Presentation

11.3.1 Theses must be in A4 format.

11.3.2 A font size of either 11 or 12 point must be used consistently throughout the thesis, except where otherwise specified below for footnotes and references. A slightly larger font size may be applied to headings. It is recommended that either Arial or Times New Roman font is used. Candidates are advised to avoid overuse of print enhancements such as bold, italic and underline.

11.3.3 Text must have at least 1.5 line-spacing, unless otherwise specified below.

11.3.4 The text should be justified, expect for tables, diagrams, graphs etc.

11.3.5 The following page-margins should be set:

4cm left-hand binding margin (1.5”)
2cm head margin (0.75”)
2.5cm right-hand fore-edge margin (1”)
4cm tail margin (1.5”)

11.3.6 Pages must be numbered consecutively (using Arabic numerals) throughout the text, references and appendices. Preliminary pages should be numbered in roman numerals.

11.3.7 Alternative formats to the above (larger print, coloured paper, etc.) may be requested by the Examiners. This should be discussed in advance of submission.


11.4 Structure

11.4.1 Title page

The title page must give the following information, all centred and in 20 point:

  • the full title of the thesis (in capitals)
  • the forename and surname of the author (in capitals)
  • the degree for which the thesis is submitted in partial fulfilment (in Sentence case)
  • the year of submission (for examination copy) or of award (for final version)

A model of the standard title page to be followed is given in Appendix 2 of these regulations.

11.4.2 Abstract

A one-page, single-spaced abstract of no more than 300 words must be bound into the thesis. The abstract should provide a synopsis of the thesis, describing the nature and scope of the work undertaken and of the contribution made to the discipline.

Students must provide a list of keywords for cataloguing purposes.

11.4.3 Acknowledgements

Any assistance received shall be acknowledged in a single-spaced acknowledgement section. It is customary for the candidate’s Supervisors and School to be mentioned. Also included here should be a statement of any internal or external collaboration or advisory links. Any Collaborating Establishment that has been involved in the research must be duly acknowledged.

Where the research was part of a collaborative group project, this must be recorded in the acknowledgements. The candidate’s individual contribution to the collaboration should be explicitly identified in the body of the thesis.

11.4.4 Contents

A contents list, and lists of any tables, diagrams, graphs and illustrations, should be provided, with page numbers identified and aligned right. The contents page(s) should be printed with 1.5 line-spacing.

11.4.5 Diagrams, tables, illustrations etc.

These should be numbered, labelled with a legend, and placed as near to the relevant text as feasible. Good quality colour photocopies of diagrams, illustrations and photographs may be used rather than the originals.

11.4.6 Footnotes

Where footnotes are used, these should be single-spaced in 10 point, and preferably placed at the foot of the relevant page.

11.4.7 Quotation and referencing in the text

Short quotations in the running text should be enclosed in inverted commas. Longer quotations should be separated from the running text, and indented, with single line-spacing. Any material consulted, especially including quotations, must be clearly and adequately referenced in the text.

11.4.8 References section

The thesis must include a full and adequate references section immediately after the main body of text, and before any appendices. Referencing must be done consistently, with adherence to a recognised style such as APA or Harvard. References should be printed with single line-spacing.

11.4.9 Appendices (see also Regulation 11.2.4)

The text of any appendices may be single-spaced.


11.5 Copies of published material

The candidate shall be permitted to publish material in advance of the thesis in discussion with the Supervisory Team. Reference shall be made in the thesis to any such work. Where material is jointly authored the student must clarify the extent of his or her role. Copies of published material should be provided and either bound in with the thesis or placed in an adequately secured pocket at the end of the thesis.

11.5.1 Final version

One electronic copy of the thesis must be submitted for lodging in the Library’s open access electronic repository. This must be submitted as a single file and not split by chapter, section or similar. The electronic copy must be submitted before the student can graduate.

Additional supporting material (such as maps or images) should be provided separately. If any non-digital material accompanies the thesis, this should be discussed with LRC staff, who will advise on the best format for submission.

11.5.2 Students may wish to order hard bound versions of the final thesis for their own records. Students order such copies at their own discretion and own expense.

12. Appeals

12.1 The general precepts of the University Appeals Procedure apply to appeals against Professional Doctorate decisions and these regulations should be read in conjunction with the Academic Appeals Procedure. Under these regulations, a University officer may act through his or her properly appointed nominee. The regulations herein relating to appeals shall have precedence over the Academic Appeals Procedure.

12.2 A candidate has the right to appeal against any decision that affects their progress. Appeals must be in writing (or in another permanent form) and should be submitted to the University Secretary within 21 days of receipt of the decision against which the student is appealing. An extension to this time limit will be permitted only in exceptional circumstances, e.g. when, for reasons outside their control, a student did not receive timely notification of his or her result.

12.3 An unsatisfactory result does not in itself constitute a valid basis for an appeal. Those hearing the appeal will not attempt to re-assess the candidate, nor to appraise the professional judgement of those involved in making the decision.

12.4 The permissible grounds for appeal are as follows:

  1. additional information is available that was not, and could not, reasonably have been made available at the time of the original decision and which had it been available could have led a different decision being made;
  2. there was a material irregularity in procedures.

12.5 If the basis of the candidate’s appeal is information which could have been made known prior to the decision being made, the candidate must give a satisfactory reason for the information not being made available at that time.

12.6 A candidate’s disagreement with the academic judgement of an assessor does not provide a valid ground for appeal.

12.7 Any candidate considering an appeal is encouraged to contact the Students’ Union for advice and assistance.

12.8 Appeals must be in writing. The candidate’s written statement should provide the following information in support of their appeal:

  • name
  • up-to-date contact address for correspondence, including email address
  • decision or result being appealed
  • the grounds for appeal
  • supporting evidence
  • the remedy being sought

12.9 The University Secretary will acknowledge receipt of the Appeal within three working days of receipt, and pass the appeal to the Deputy Principal who will hear the appeal within 30 days of receipt of the appeal. This timescale may be extended where the Deputy Principal is absent from the University through leave or illness. The Deputy Principal will provide a copy of the response to the University Secretary.

12.10 Where a reconsideration of the case gives rise to a change in decision this must be ratified by the original decision making body, e.g. Graduate School Academic Board, or Research Strategy Committee.

12.11 The decision of the Deputy Principal is final and concludes the University’s internal procedures.

Independent review

12.12 The University’s internal procedures having been exhausted, a student may seek review of his/her complaint by an independent person, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman [SPSO].

12.13 The Ombudsman is independent and their staff will advise whether or not the complaint is one that they can investigate. Normally the student will have to tell the Ombudsman about their complaint within 12 months of first knowing about the problem about which they are complaining, although the Ombudsman may look at complaints outside this limit if he thinks there is good reason to do so.

12.14 There are some restrictions on what the Ombudsman can investigate. For example, they cannot consider the subject matter of complaints about personnel matters or matters of academic judgement. However, they may be able to investigate the manner in which the complaint was handled. If the complaint is appropriate to their office and is investigated, the Ombudsman’s staff will send details of how this will be done.

12.15 The complaint should be submitted in writing to the Ombudsman, and should include any relevant documents including correspondence with the University and the University’s response to the complaint. This can be sent to the Ombudsman without cost at the freepost address given below. A student may discuss the complaint with an Investigator at the SPSO before deciding to submit.

12.16 The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman has an online complaint form accessible through the website, although papers in support of the complaint would still have to be supplied to the Ombudsman by post or other means. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman can also supply paper complaint forms direct to complainants.

12.17 Further information may be accessed through the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman website or by calling their office for advice. Contact details are:


In Person

By Post

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

4 Melville Street, Edinburgh EH3 7NS

Freepost SPSO

(this is all you need to write on the envelope, and you do not need to use a stamp)

Freephone: 0800 377 7330

Phone: 0131 225 5300

Fax: 0800 377 7331



Appendix 1: Graduate School Academic Board


The purpose of the Graduate School Academic Board is to provide an institution level forum for consistent decision making on matters relating to the doctoral candidate journey. The Board may make recommendations for enhancement of the quality framework governing the doctoral candidate journey, based on evaluation of reports and individual candidate cases.

Terms of reference

The Graduate School Academic Board has delegated authority from the Research Strategy Committee as set out below:

PhD, MPhil and Professional Doctorate candidates

  • To receive summary information on applications from the School’s Doctoral Research Co-ordinators.
  • To approve the appointment of Supervisory Teams for new candidates and any subsequent changes to the composition of the Supervisory Team.
  • To approve applications for prior credit
  • To approve requests to suspend studies.
  •  To approve examination arrangements, including any exceptional arrangements, for example permission to hold the viva at a location other than QMU and permission to exceed the word limit.
  • To approve requests to submit early and requests to extend the submission deadline, either for the viva or amendments thereafter.
  • To consider Examiners’ reports and make recommendations for award to Senate through the Research Strategy Committee.
  • To approve requests to restrict publication on theses.
  • To consider recommendations for de-registration and make recommendations to the Research Strategy Committee.
  • To approve requests for change from part-time to full-time study, or vice versa.
  • To approve requests for change from campus based to non-resident status, or vice versa.
  • To respond to operational issues and make recommendations regarding the provision of appropriate resources and facilities.

Professional Doctorate Candidates

  • To agree the assessment schedule.
  • To approve changes to modules.
  • To monitor quality and approve the annual programme report, including module evaluations.

PhD and MPhil candidates

  • To approve outline proposals including confirmation that adequate resources are in place.
  • To approve assessment panel recommendations on probationary viva outcomes.
  • To approve assessment panel recommendations on assessment seminar outcomes.
  • To approve requests for extension to the submission deadline for outline proposals, probationary viva and assessment seminars.
  • To consider recommendations for a transfer to MPhil and make recommendations to the Research Strategy Committee.

Reports and reporting lines

  • To consider an annual summary of all doctoral candidate activity, monitoring provision against internal and external indicators in line with Chapter B11 of the QAA Quality Code.
  • To consider periodic reports on the status of all doctoral candidates to maintain oversight of progress and identify any trends.
  •  To review a summary of candidate and Supervisor progress reports and make recommendations for addressing issues of concern, factors to aid candidate progress or issues pertaining to Supervisor/candidate relationships.
  • To remit particular issues for discussion and/or review by standing Committees of Senate or of Court as appropriate.
  • To submit relevant minutes to the Health Sciences and Arts, Social Sciences and Management School Academic Boards.
  • To act and advise on issues remitted to it by other Committees of Senate and Court, and
  •  To submit minutes of its face to face meetings, and other key papers, including all award and de-registration recommendations to the Research Strategy Committee.





Head of Graduate School

Deputy Convener

To be appointed from the membership of the Board

Ex Officio

School Doctoral Research Co-ordinators


Six nominated research active staff with experience of doctoral supervision and/or examination from each School


Graduate School Officer

Method of Working

Business is processed virtually on a fortnightly basis. Summary reports of all decisions are presented to the full membership at the face-to-face meetings (see below for details).

The Graduate School Academic Board meets at least four times a year. Additional meetings may exceptionally be called at the discretion of the Convener.

Appendix 2: Front Page Example

Queen Margaret University crest






A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of

Professional Doctorate






Appendix 3: Conflict of interest examples to be considered during the process of selecting and nominating examiners for final Professional Doctorate thesis examination

Conflict of interest to be avoided at all costs: Conflict of interest to be avoided if possible:
  • personal/professional/commercial association with the candidate and or/ research work (e.g. co-funding, co-authorship )
  • personal/professional/commercial association with the candidate’s research supervisors (e.g. substantial co-funding, co-authorship)
  • personal/professional/commercial association of examiners
  • have acted previously as the candidate’s supervisor
  • have been a member of a department or school of the University during the previous five years (external)
  • have acted as an internal assessor on interim progression PhD assessments for the candidate
  • the Examiners are members of a funding committee that relates to the research project
  • The examiners have acted as a personal tutor, or dissertation supervisor to
  • the candidate as part of a previous taught programme (this may be at a previous institution)
  • where two external examiners are appointed, they should not be from the same institution.
  • an academic relationship exists, such as co-authorship or collaboration or sitting on the same funding committee, to the supervisor or internal examiner, but which does not involve the candidate’s research work
  • an academic relationship exists to the Department, but which does not involve the candidate as a researcher in any way (eg lapsed or purely honorary Honorary Visiting Professor or regular visits to give lectures)
  • re-appointment of the same examiners, internal or external, on multiple occasions
  • regular pairings of the same internal and external examiner.