First candidates start their PD path at NHL Stenden

Professional doctorate, PD, Huibert-Jan Lekkerkerk

In May this year, the 'professional doctorate' (PD) programme was launched in the Netherlands. For many years, PD at hbo was only possible at bachelor (level 6) and master (level 7) level, but now also at PD (level 8) level. Two PD candidates have started at NHL Stenden, in the fields of Maritime and Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality.

The national kick-off of the PD pathways took place in The Hague at the beginning of this month. With this meeting, the Vereniging Hogescholen and Regieorgaan SIA, together with outgoing Minister of OCW Robbert Dijkgraaf, marked the official start of the pilot. Among other things, a conversation took place on stage between Dijkgraaf and a number of PD candidates from across the country, including Huibert-Jan Lekkerkerk.

MIWB and Hotel Management School

Lekkerkerk is a PD candidate at NHL Stenden within the MIWB. His research focuses on coastal defence and specifically on improving the definition and verification of design specifications. In doing so, it aims to reduce potential claims and the amount of contractual discussions, increase safety and strengthen the competitive position of hydraulic engineering.

Professional doctorate, PD, Huibert-Jan Lekkerkerk

Besides Lekkerkerk, Judith Ogink is also a PD candidate at NHL Stenden, within Hotel Management School. She focuses on tackling the plastics soup: using plastic from the sea to create circular solutions within the hospitality industry and using these solutions as behavioural interventions to raise awareness about the plastics soup and change behaviour.

Hands-on research professionals

The PD enables a continuous learning line from bachelor through master to doctorate in the professional column and is therefore well in line with current developments within the hbo, explains Jeroen van Deel, strategic advisor at NHL Stenden. "The hbo has been offering master's programmes for years and the research function has also matured by now. In practice-based research, however, training opportunities stopped at master's level until recently, while it is precisely in professional practice that there is an increasing need for highly qualified practice-oriented research professionals. That is when the idea of enabling a continuous learning line in the professional column was born."

In 2019, a number of universities of applied sciences, including NHL Stenden, therefore wrote a position paper to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). "In some domains, such as maritime, the Netherlands now lacks an academic counterpart to the PD programme," Van Deel explains. "People from such domains now often divert abroad. It is therefore a great added value to offer this programme for precisely these domains as well."

Great opportunity

Welmoed van der Velde, lecturer of the Maritime Law lectureship, is happy with the steps that are now being taken and has been advocating for PD law within the HBO for some time. "The Dutch maritime sector requires innovative and practice-oriented research to make shipping more sustainable. We do offer a master's within this sector, but need more. We are ready to also offer research opportunities at level 8 to further strengthen the international competitiveness of the Dutch maritime sector. Our MIWB is unique and then we also offer PD. We should be proud of that."

Demand from the sector

Falco de Klerk Wolters has been involved in PD development for over a year and is also a member of the national PD programme committee. He welcomes the official start of the seven-year PD pilot. "Hopefully, we will also soon be able to demonstrate that the pilot should be followed up permanently. After all, PD is in high demand. The individual undergraduate and graduate programmes in the Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality domain will get a huge boost with PD to strengthen their knowledge base and raise their profile at home and abroad. The huge challenges in areas such as sustainability will be examined in practice through short-cycle interventions and made applicable for professional practice and training."

Elena Cavagnaro, lecturer in Sustainability in Hospitality & Tourism and chair of the graduate committee of PD in Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality, underlines the need for sustainability in the sector. "In particular, the social aspects in the sector, such as working conditions, need more attention. The PD research is very important for the development of conscious destinations, a theme embraced by CELTH, which brings together the economic, socio-cultural and environmental aspects of sustainability. It is this complexity that justifies PD research in the domain."

Sustainable Development Goals

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