The Distinction Between Doctorates—The Expertise of University of Fairfax’s Faculty

The University of Fairfax is proud to have skilled faculty to educate our students. As such, three of our faculty, Dr. Shardul Pandya, Dr. Umesh Varma, and Dr. Azad Ali collaborated to submit two papers to the InSITE (Informing Science and Information Technology Education) 2022 conference—presented on July 6 and 7. Both papers focus on preparation for the doctoral dissertation. “It has been great working with my esteemed colleagues here at ANU. A team effort, led by the inimitable Dr. Azad,” remarks Dr. Pandya.

The first paper builds upon a previous paper by Drs. Ali and Pandya in 2021 that provided the framework “for the development of a research problem statement,” as explained by Dr. Ali. It uses analytical thought processes to complete the preparation and writing of a doctoral dissertation through encouraged critical thinking and writing the research problem statement. The second paper they developed focuses on writing a literature review. This paper focuses on the lengthy, daunting process of writing such a review and how much time is wasted on unfocused and unrelated tasks. This process can be streamlined by “clarifying the prerequisites, co-requisites and the repetition and iteration process from writing the literature review,” said Dr. Ali. The paper suggests strategies to overcome the challenges that are faced in writing the literature review portion of doctoral dissertations.

With all this information, there is one question that persists: is there a difference between a doctoral degree and a Ph.D.? Yes, there is! And Dr. Varma provided key insight to the two distinctions.

A doctoral degree, also known as a professional doctorate, is an advanced post-graduate degree that allows the professional to develop research that they can then analyze, synthesize, and apply their knowledge to their field. For example, University of Fairfax’s Doctor of Information Assurance or Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) can lead to professional careers, and where those professionals in these terminal degree programs can utilize their research to apply to their field. The professional doctorate actually came from the traditional Ph.D. but was incorporated into UK higher education as a direct response that Ph.Ds. aren’t well suited for careers outside of academic or research.

On the other hand, a Ph.D., a Doctor of Philosophy, is a university degree where you develop research skills to share new findings with others. “The primary goal of a Ph.D. is to provide individuals with the ability to solve new and emerging problems within the industry,” explains Dr. Varma. The Doctor of Philosophy research with the means to build upon the knowledge within their field and to share that knowledge with their academic colleagues—whereas the professional doctorate research is meant to build knowledge upon a specific career field.

In short, the professional doctorate is intended for the researcher who plans to expand upon their career field, while a Ph.D. is intended for the researcher to expand upon their academic field. Dr. Varma shows this distinction in, “if the traditional PhD is intended to develop professional researchers, then the professional doctorate leads to developing researching professionals.” And while they have these differences, they also both require an original research thesis with the guidance of an academic adviser or dissertation supervisor.

University of Fairfax offers several professional doctorate programs in multiple disciplines. And at our institution, you will have quality education in these terminal degree programs because of our faculty; Dr. Ali and Dr. Pandya both teach at University of Fairfax, and Dr. Varma serves on several dissertation committees. Their research will help you earn your doctoral degree. To learn more about what professional doctorate programs we have, visit

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