Improving doctoral education in Australian universities: Learning from conversations in the field

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


School of International, Cultural and Community Studies




Wildy, H., & Holland, S. (2002). Improving doctoral education in Australian universities: Learning from conversations in the field. In Quality conversations: Research and Development in Higher Education.


The purpose of this paper is to explore through case histories the expectations, processes and outcomes of contemporary doctoral study, including the relationship between researchers as professionals and their employers. The paper is grounded in the theoretical distinction between two modes of knowledge development: discipline based knowledge typically generated by researchers in universities; and socially distributed knowledge typically generated in the workplace. A secondary theme of the paper is the distinction between the outcome of doctoral education (new knowledge) and the process (training in research). It reports a study of the experiences of three professionals in their workplace. The perspective of the practitioner is adopted in three narrative accounts, or cases, that illustrate the challenges faced in developing careers that are stimulating in a changing work environment. Each practitioner had completed a doctoral program with the intention of enhancing his/her contribution to the workplace. For each, we outline the extent to which the respective doctoral programs delivered the knowledge and understanding expected for professional enrichment and career achievement in the current context. Finally, we highlight another dimension which surfaces in the stories, the level of engagement by employers in the doctoral research undertaken by these mid-career professionals.

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