Emerald & HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards

International recognition for doctoral research in education.

Award status: Closed
Submission deadline: We are no longer accepting submissions

Rewarding doctoral research that addresses the grand challenges

We’re proud to support the global research community through an award programme that recognises exceptional doctoral research that addresses the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are an urgent call for action by all countries to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face including poverty, inequality, climate change, peace and justice.

HETL logoWe believe in quality education for everyone, everywhere.

Our goal is to help find solutions to the disparities across the world by supporting researchers working in this area.

This is why we’re pleased to partner with the HETL to reward the work of doctoral students whose research can create a positive impact in education.

How does it work?

We champion the work of those who share our goal for quality education for all.

We’re offering a prize and two runners up prizes for the best doctoral research from the last three years that demonstrates research excellence in any of the following areas:

  • The future of learning 
  • Educational leadership
  • Sustainability in higher education
  • Remote teaching, learning and collaboration
  • Lifelong learning
  • Reducing inequality in education

You don’t need to submit your full thesis to enter, but you need to succinctly summarise the most important parts of your research. Entries will be judged by leading scholars working in the field of education.

If you’ve completed your doctorate within the last three years, apply now!

The prize

The winner will receive:

  • A cash prize of £500.00
  • A certificate
  • A published interview on the Emerald website
  • An opportunity to work directly with our partners Editage to create a bespoke and engaging research summary.

Runners-up will receive: a certificate and a published interview on the Emerald website.

Submit your research

To submit your work, you will need to apply online using this application form

The following documents are required electronically:

  • Research Summary: A paper that summarises your doctoral research in no more than 2,000 words. Please state whether or not your doctoral research has been published and/or will be published in any form (conference paper, article, peer reviewed journal, etc). Please use the Research Summary template.
  • Letter of recommendation/reference from a supervisor/senior faculty member: the letter should state why your supervisor feels that your work is outstanding and what impact it will have. For shortlisted applicants, further contact may be made with the referee.

Submission deadline: Closed for submissions.


To be eligible for the awards, the research must address an issue that is of importance to one of the subject areas listed.

The awards are open to those who have been awarded PhD following completion of viva (thesis defence) and received formal results from your institution’s awards registry between 15 January 2020 and 28 February 2023 and have not applied previously for one of these awards.

Judging criteria

Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

  1. Originality and innovation
  2. Appropriateness and application of the methodology
  3. Quality of data/research
  4. Significance/implications for theory and practice.

Please note that the decision of the judges is final. Unfortunately, due to the large number of submissions, we are unable to provide individual feedback to unsuccessful applicants.

Meet our award winners & judging panel

On behalf of the global higher education community, I would like to congratulate the winners of the Emerald and HETL 2023 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award in education. These awards recognise outstanding scholarly work in doctoral research from institutions around the world. With a focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, these awards demonstrate research that will have a real impact on important issues affecting the world.    

Dr Patrick Blessinger, President, HETL Assocation


  • Dr Anand Agrawal, BlueCrest University College, Ghana
  • Dr Madasu Bhaskara Rao, Icfai Foundation for Higher Education (IFHE), India
  • Dr Barbara Cozza, St. John's University, USA
  • Professor Beena Giridharan, Curtin University, Malaysia
  • Dr Martina Jordaan,  University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Dr Fareeda Khodabocus, University of Mauritius, Mauritius
  • Dr Corinne Laverty, Queen's University, Canada
  • Dr Serpil Meri-Yilan, AICU, Turkey
  • Dr Michael Miller, University of Arkansas, USA
  • Dr Eugenie A Panitsides,  Hellenic Open University, Greece
  • Dr Sweta Patnaik, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa
  • Dr Krassie Petrova, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
  • Professor Jayson W. Richardson, University of Denver, USA
  • Dr. Enakshi Sengupta,  Center for Advanced Research in Education (HETL), USA
  • Dr Mahruf Shohel, Institute of Development Studies, Bangladesh
  • Dr Abhilasha Singh, American University in the Emirates, UAE
  • Dr Scott Foster, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
  • Dr Rakel Kavena Shalyefu, University of Namibia, Namibia
  • Dr Eglantina Hysa, Epoka University, Albania
  • Dr Diana Al Jahromi, Higher Education Council, Bahrain
  • Dr Lukman Raimi, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei
  • Dr Iza Gigauri, St. Andrew the First-Called Georgian University of the Patriarchate of Georgia
  • Dr Saba Mansoor Qadhi, Qatar University, Qatar
  • Dr Hari C. Kamali, Far Western University, Nepal
  • Dr Marita Cronqvist, University Of Borås, Sweden
  • Dr Angelica Pazurek, University of Minnesota, USA
  • Professor Priscilla Cristina Cabral Ribeiro, Fluminense Federal University, Brazil

Our 2023 winners


Martha Elena Núñez López

Dissertation title: Supporting the sustainable development of Mexico: an investigation into the reorientation of an undergraduate industrial design curriculum
Institution: Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico
PhD obtained at: Birmingham City University

"I began my higher education study in Architecture as an undergraduate student at TEC in August 1994. I received a 90% scholarship to study at the University's high school and undergraduate programme in Architecture. Subsequently I gained a 100% scholarship for a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering and Construction Management. In 2008 I was appointed as a full-time professor and Director of the Industrial Design Undergraduate's programme at TEC"

"The collaborative methods of the interventions, combined with the online learning space, inspired a creative and collaborative approach to educational change, resulting in the reorientation of the Industrial Design curriculum"

"The outcomes of the study exemplify the ability of practitioner-led action research to address complex problems across national and global sustainability agendas, involving the motivation and commitment of others in contributing to improving education for sustainable development in Mexico"

Read more about Martha Elena Núñez López's research, and download the infographic


Highly commended

Hiea Mizyed

Dissertation title: Fostering Problem-Solving Skills Development: An Arabian Gulf Study
Institution: Higher Colleges of Technology, Early Childhood Education Program, United Arab Emirates
EdD obtained at: Johns Hopkins University

Hiea Mizyed has been Highly Commended for the 2023 Emerald and HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards for her research, which explores understanding Emirati teachers’ challenges in fostering problem-solving skills development in early childhood education. Her research contributes to the development of a social cognitive-oriented professional development model grounded in the cognitive sciences to support the aspirations of the UAE education reform policy.

Emirati teachers, particularly those teaching in early years classrooms, encounter significant obstacles with 21st century pedagogy in support of the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) goal of moving towards a more knowledge-based economy.  As improving students' problem solving-skills development takes precedence, policy makers need to understand how ‘best to support teachers’ becomes a priority.  In her highly commended dissertation, Dr. Hiea Mizyed’s research explores understanding Emirati teachers’ challenges in fostering problem-solving skills development in early childhood education and contributes to the development of a socio-cognitive professional development model grounded in the cognitive sciences.

The challenges faced in fostering problem-solving skills development in early years are multifaceted and originate from various factors. Dr. Mizyed's research attempts to provide a comprehensive understanding of these challenges. "In applying Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological systems theory, several factors emerged in contributing to the challenges faced by early years teachers. These factors included low teacher self-efficacy, insufficient exposure to pre-service training, mis-aligned in-service professional training, as well as socio-cultural complexities. The results from the exploratory needs assessment which included a mixed method design of surveys, interviews, and document reports, confirmed these factors and revealed the necessity to further investigate potential solutions," Dr. Mizyed explains.

Through collegial peer coaching grounded in reflection, Dr. Mizyed developed a multi-faceted professional development program rooted in socio-culturally relevant practices. The professional development model, based on the ‘brain-targeted teaching pedagogical framework,’ aimed at increasing teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge with the goal of increasing teachers’ self-efficacy.

Dr. Mizyed's contemporary professional development model was designed to enhance teachers' understanding of fundamental cognitive and learning science principles, pedagogical content knowledge, and child-centered teaching approaches. The overarching objective was to increase teachers' self-efficacy in their ability to effectively foster problem-solving skills development among early years students. "Promoting child-centered instruction can help achieve goals related to the development of problem-solving skills from the very beginning of a child's educational journey," Dr. Mizyed notes.

While Dr. Mizyed's professional development model holds the greatest potential for changing Emirati teaching efficacy in fostering problem-solving skills in the early years, it can also provide support for teachers across grade levels. "By integrating collegial peer-coaching, observation, and self-reflection within a socio-culturally relevant context, the model has the potential to change Emirati teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge and self-efficacy across grade levels even beyond the early years," Dr. Mizyed concludes.

We are hopeful that the research to which she has dedicated her energy and time will have a meaningful impact within the academic community.



Highly commended

Juhar Yasin Abamosa

Dissertation title: Pathways to Social Inclusion: The Role of Institutions in the Social Inclusion of Refugees into Higher Education in Norway - Policies and Practices in Focus
Institution: Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Lillehammer, Norway
PhD obtained at: University of Bergen, Norway

Juhar Yasin Abamosa has been Highly Commended for the 2023 Emerald and HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Award for his research uncovering the role of various institutions in hindering or facilitating the social inclusion of refugees into higher education  

Refugees resettling in high-income countries often need access, participation, and empowerment through quality education to thrive and integrate fully into their new community. There is a common, albeit baseless, assumption that refugees automatically benefit from specialised pathways to higher education. Additionally, they are even accused of exploiting welfare benefits and educational opportunities in their new homeland. In his highly commended dissertation, Dr. Juhar Yasin Abamosa challenges widely held notions relating to the educational access of refugees in high-income countries.

"My research deals with the roles of various institutions and policies that facilitate or hinder the social inclusion of refugees into higher education in Norway. A few years ago, I was advised by someone in a position of authority within an institution to be a janitor when I mentioned that my goal was to pursue higher education. This and other discouraging practices that I have experienced as a refugee motivated me to pursue this line of research," explains Dr. Abamosa.

Refugees who arrive in high-income countries face layers of challenges in accessing and succeeding in higher education. Instead of alleviating these challenges to help refugees pursue higher education, national and institutional policies and practices force refugees to take on low-skilled jobs. "Refugees are assumed to fill low-skilled positions not wanted by others, and this assumption is embedded in national policies," Dr. Abamosa observes. His research suggests that integration and educational policies in Norway limit refugees' ability to acquire employable skills, constraining them to pursue low-paying jobs. Refugee higher education is a peripheral concern for many public institutions that aim at integrating refugees into Norway. Higher education institutions in the country approach refugee higher education, particularly that of non-European refugees, in a superficial and unorganised manner.

Refugees who encounter unfair barriers to accessing higher education in their new country may struggle to assimilate with the local population, ultimately leading to marginalisation. Dr. Abamosa's research advocates for policy changes aimed at enhancing refugees' social inclusion in higher education and to equip refugees with the skills needed to contribute positively to society. "There must be a conscious effort to reduce marginalisation and prioritise refugee higher education. Refugees, if given genuine rather than falsely generous opportunities, can become knowledge producers, not just knowledge consumers," explains Dr. Abamosa.

The assumption that refugees have privileged access to higher education can have widespread harmful effects, particularly when embraced by funding institutions. Dr. Abamosa's research underscores the urgent need for funding institutions in Norway and beyond to critically examine unfounded assumptions that contribute to policy design. This can help ensure that refugees are not subjected to discrimination. Project funding institutions should not assume that refugees (re)settled in high-income countries are by default better off in accessing and succeeding in higher education. Any diversity, inclusion, and equity educational policy at institutional, national, supranational, and international levels must take into account the needs of refugees to prevent marginalisation.

When asked how he feels about receiving this award, Dr. Abamosa says, "This recognition is a reassurance for me, and perhaps for other refugees, to continue challenging taken-for-granted and ostensibly benevolent systems, which in practice reinforce refugees' marginalisation from knowledge production."

Dr. Abamosa thanks his supervisors Professor Kariane Therese Gärtner Westrheim and Professor Line Torbjørnsen Hilt.


Previous winners


Matthew Aruch

Dissertation title: The Pinkaiti Partnership: A Case Study of Transnational Research and Education in the Brazilian Amazon
Institution: International Conservation Fund of Canada/ University of Maryland College Park
PhD obtained at: University of Maryland College Park

"My research explored how research and education might anchor ongoing transnational, multi-sectoral collaboration amongst Indigenous communities, nongovernmental organisations, universities, and government partners.

It is great to see the important work of the A’Ukre Kayapó and their allies recognised by Emerald Publishing. This award celebrates the incredible work to which many wonderful people and organisations have committed their mission and purpose.

I am excited to share this award with them and use the award as a launching point to continue the work in my new role supporting the Kayapó Project more broadly as the Director of Indigenous Programs with the International Conservation Fund of Canada."

The Indigenous communities of Brazil's Amazon Forest face several threats to their livelihoods.

Agricultural expansion, large infrastructure projects, and resource extraction from mining and logging have led to the invasion of their land, impacting the communities' livelihood and existence. The resilience and actions of one community, the Mebêngôkre-Kayapó of A'Ukre, in the face of such threats, is the focus of Dr. Matthew Aruch's much-heralded doctoral thesis.

"This research illustrates the historical structures, processes, and outcomes of one important case where Indigenous people translated their territorial, political, and cultural sovereignty into ongoing and expanding collaborative partnerships with a diverse set of local, national, and transnational actors", explains Dr. Aruch. In 1992, the A'Ukre community created the Pinkaiti Ecological Research Station with Conservation International to check widespread mahogany logging in the area. Over time, collaboration at Pinkaiti saw several organizations and individuals unite, transcending knowledge barriers and national boundaries to support the Mebêngôkre-Kayapó in protecting their land.

How did a complicated collaboration between A'Ukre community, university partners at the University of Maryland College Park, Purdue University, the National University of Brasilia, the Federal University of Uberlandia, the Federal University of Pará in Belem, NGOs including the Protected Forest Association, the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC), and the Brazilian government form and how is it maintained? Dr. Aruch's thesis offers an insightful account.

Remembering the conception of his research objective, Dr. Aruch remarks, "One day in 2015, I was travelling upriver on a small boat with Kayapó of all ages and a diverse set of students, scholars, and practitioners from around the world. I wondered to myself – how did all these people get onto this boat in the middle of the Amazon Forest? What motivated them to be here, and how do they work together?".

Over the next few years, Dr. Aruch explored several aspects of the Pinkaiti Partnership and studied them from each stakeholder's perspective. He identified several key reasons for the success and continued existence of research and education-based collaboration in Pinkaiti:

  • Collaboration of diverse partners toward a shared mission without consensus
  • Responsible champions continue to drive partnership work with legitimacy and credibility across institutions
  • Close attention is paid to effective, multilingual, and intercultural communication
  • Participation and inclusion start with the community but are promoted at all levels
  • Diverse knowledge systems are integrated and celebrated within partnership work
  • Ethics are at the forefront of community-centred partnership work
  • Individual and institutional goals are and continue to be a balancing act
  • Opportunities for shared reunions and celebration despite the importance of geographic and institutional separation
  • Acknowledgement of the invisible work of partners
  • Failure is shared, and success is celebrated

The lessons learned from Pinkaiti can guide future collaborative efforts with Indigenous peoples and local communities.

Dr. Aruch concludes, "While not perfect, the work of the A'Ukre community and the Pinkaiti Partnership offers potential strategies and entry points over a 30-year time horizon for Indigenous communities, universities, NGOs, and government partners seeking to collaborate with one another to engage and support Indigenous people"

Download the infographic: What makes for successful collaboration with Indigenous people?



Highly commended

Chen Chen

Dissertation title: The social impacts created by the development of transnational university campuses
Institution: Ocean University of China, China
PhD obtained at: University of Groningen, the Netherlands

"The rapid development and globalisation of higher education and transnational education deserve reflection, especially for affected individuals because they are vulnerable groups and have weak voices. My work contributes to an integrated understanding of sustainability in higher education.

I am super proud to be part of the 2022 Emerald and HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Award. Frankly speaking, Emerald has illuminated my career in recent years, and given me strong motivation to keep digging in academia. I really appreciate the support of my supervisors, Prof. Frank Vanclay and Dr. Terry van Dijk."


Highly commended

Luana Ferreira-Lopes

Dissertation title: Integrating intercultural competence development into university curriculum through intercultural virtual collaboration: a task sequence proposal and implementation
Institution: University of Deusto
PhD obtained at: University of Deusto

"From the moment I decided to start my Ph.D. journey, I knew that I did not want it to be that thesis that ends up sitting on the library shelf gathering dust.

Receiving recognition from Emerald Publishing for the impact of this doctoral research confirms that I have taken the correct steps in this direction. I feel honoured and motivated to continue.

I would like to thank every person who was involved in this project for their contributions (students, teachers, partner universities, program coordinators, and international offices) with special appreciation for my research supervisors Maria José Bezanilla and Itziar Elexpuru."


Gabriel Brito Amorim

Dissertation title: The internationalization of higher education in Brazil: A proposal for a multidimensional (self)assessment matrix
Institution: Federal University of Goiás, Brazil
PhD obtained at: Federal University of Espírito Santo

"I am very humbled and honoured to be the 2021 Emerald and HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Award recipient. 

Worldwide, the internationalization of higher education has been at the core of discussions, and, in Brazil, the subject gained special attention over the past decade due to the launch of government-funded mobility programs and other funding opportunities. 

The ultimate goal of my doctoral research was to, after thoroughly delving into the literature and documents already in place, design an instrument, which we refer to as the internationalization (self)assessment matrix to hopefully help higher education institutions to assess and plan their internationalization actions/policies. The multidimensional matrix encompasses 3 dimensions (Teaching, Research and Outreach), 3 categories of analysis (Language Policy, Academic Mobility and Internationalization at Home) and 3 suggested classifications (Internationalized, Engaged and Emerging). The instrument was designed for the Brazilian setting, but it can be adapted to other contexts, which is why this award is so important to give visibility to the research/matrix so that we can start collaborating with institutions and organizations worldwide. 

A big thanks to my advisor, Dr. Kyria Finardi (UFES, Brazil) and to my dissertation committee: Dr. Daniel de Mello Ferraz (USP, Brazil), Dr. Cláudia Kawachi-Furlan (UFES, Brazil), Dr. Telma Gimenez (UEL, Brazil) and Dr. Renata Archanjo (UFRN, Brazil)."


Highly commended

Femi Oladele

Dissertation title: Professional Accountants’ Training Framework and Use of Social Media, Mobile and Cloud (SoMoClo) Technologies in Nigeria
Institution: Bowen University, Nigeria
PhD obtained at: Bowen University, Nigeria

"I am so very delighted to be part of the 2021 Emerald and HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Award. This recognition brings with it some forms of pleasant validation by an outstanding partnership between Emerald and HETL. This is indeed delightful, and it gives me both a nudge and boost to do more and better.

Sincere appreciation to my thesis supervisors, thesis committee and everyone who aided and supported the production of the work that has now been graciously rewarded.

I am grateful for the recognition as I commit to more excellent scholarly reconnaissance and contributions."


Highly commended

Linda du Plessis

Dissertation title: Sense-making and Legitimacy During Institutional Radical Change: The Case of South Africa's Free Higher Education
Institution: North-West University, South Africa
PhD obtained at: University of Bath

"I am humbled by this recognition from Emerald Publishing. Appreciation and respect for research that contributes to the sustainable development goals is necessary and I hope recognition like this inspires others to continue with their research!"

Frequently asked questions

No. You do not need to submit your full thesis. The judges’ decision will be based on your ability to succinctly summarise the most important parts of your research in relation to the judging criteria.

No. However, this is an annual award and you can apply next year.

Using the Research Summary template, complete the following details

  • Why your research contributes to a more responsible world and any applications in practice if applicable
  • What is original and innovative about your work
  • The methodology you applied
  • Your data and how they led to your findings
  • Details of any papers published or presented based on your thesis research.

NB. This should be from your doctoral supervisor, or any member of the committee/judging panel deciding on your thesis, depending on how your doctorate is conferred in your country or university.

It should answer the following three questions:

  1. What is outstanding about the thesis?
  2. What is the substantive contribution to the field?
  3. Is the data of good quality and how difficult was it to obtain?

Yes. You can apply provided that your application, research summary and reference letter are all in English.

Yes. You can apply whether or not you have published a paper from your doctoral research. If you have published, please provide details in your Research Summary.

No. Unfortunately, we can only accept one application per person.

No. You can only apply for an Outstanding Doctoral Research Award once.

We also have awards for...

Real Impact Awards

Celebrating the commitment to impact by the research community across the globe.

View awards

Interdisciplinary Research Fund Award

Supporting researchers with IDR that makes an impact.

View award

Emerald Literati Awards

Celebrating high quality scholarly research.

View awards

Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards

Supporting the global research community through our awards programme.

View awards

Regional Research Fund Awards

Proud to sponsor many research funding initiatives throughout the world.

View awards

Get in touch

If you would like more information about this award please fill out the form and one of our team will be in touch.


You can read the full information about how we use personal data in our Privacy Notice. You can simply click the ‘unsubscribe’ link in any marketing email you receive from us if you don't want to receive them.