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University of Calgary introduces ‘Doctor of Design’ degree

Warren Frey
University of Calgary introduces ‘Doctor of Design’ degree

CALGARY, ALTA. – A new degree at the University of Calgary eschews academia for professional development.

The University of Calgary’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (SAPL) is launching a Doctor of Design program which focuses not on academics but experienced working professionals.

“A PhD is there to train academics and researchers to work in academic settings. A professional PhD is for people planning to advance their career and practice,” SAPL dean John Brown said.

“What it’s designed for is opportunities for mid-career professionals with the experience necessary to observe a problem or solution in their profession,” Brown said. “People in practice come up with these observations all the time, but when in a full-time practice it’s difficult to find the emotional space and time to carry through with that.”

 “A professional doctorate like the Doctor of Design allows them to continue working and explore the problem they’ve identified. They’re coming into this as an expert in the field already,” he added.

Applicants need to have been out of the educational system for five to ten years, and most applicants have been working professionally for more than ten years, Brown said.

“Most applicants are senior people. They could be a partner or principal. They have the experience and understand where there are opportunities for study and are in a place in their discipline where they can act on those ideas,” he said.

“They’re embedded in their practice, and the research evolves during their practice and they’ll just naturally apply it in the work they’re doing, so they’ll get direct and somewhat immediate feedback,” he added.

The three-year program will have eight candidates a year and 24 candidates overall, Brown said.

“We’re admitting the first five in fall, and we have strong interest from practitioners across the country,” he said.

While the participants engage in the degree program they will continue to work in their professional capacities and attend symposia at the University of Calgary on long weekends in the spring and fall.

The program is the first of its kind in Canada, modeled after a similar degree from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Brown graduated from the program in 2016.

“I was so impressed with the programs I wanted to bring it to Canada,” Brown said. “That program has been in place since the 1990s and has been very successful, with co-op programs in Asia as well as Australia.”

Applications for the Fall 2020 program are open now with a deadline for application of Feb 1, 2020.

Applicants are encouraged to apply early and significant professional experience will be considered in lieu of a graduate academic degree, the program description on the University of Calgary’s website stated.

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