Emerald and HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards

International recognition for doctoral research in education.

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.

We 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 announce the launch of an award in partnership with the HETL that supports the work of doctoral students whose research can create 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.

How to submit

  1. You will need to apply online using this application form
  2. 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

The deadline for submission is 10 September 2021. Entries submitted after this deadline will not be considered for the award.


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 completed and satisfied examination requirements for a doctoral award, between 15 Jan 2018 and 28 February 2021, 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.

Shortlisted applicants may be required to answer further questions as appropriate from the judging panel. If suitable, winners will be invited to submit a paper, sole or co-authored, from their research within six months of winning.

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.

The judging panel for 2021

Chair of the judging panel: Patrick Blessinger, founder, executive director, and chief research scientist of the International HETL Association

  • Dr Anand Agrawal, BlueCrest University College – Ghana
  • Dr Arlinda Beka, University of Pristina – Kosovo
  • Dr Madasu Bhaskara Rao, Icfai Foundation for Higher Education (IFHE) – India
  • Dr Tina Bass, University of Derby – UK
  • Dr Barbara Cozza, St. John's University – USA
  • Professor Nour el houda Chaoui, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abedellah University – Morocco
  • Dr Elena García Ansani – USA
  • Professor Beena Giridharan, Curtin University – Malaysia
  • Professor Glenn Hardaker, Universiti Brunei Darussalam – Brunei Darussalam
  • Dr Pedro Isaias, UNSW, Sydney – Australia
  • Dr Martina Jordaan, University of Pretoria – South Africa
  • Dr Fareeda Khodabocus, University of Mauritius – Mauritius
  • Dr Corinne Laverty, Queen's University – Canada
  • Professor Walter Leal, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences – Germany
  • Dr Martin McCracken, Ulster University – UK
  • Dr Serpil Meri-Yilan, AICU – Turkey
  • Dr Michael Miller, University of Arkansas – USA
  • Dr Nandita Mishra, Amity University – India
  • 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
  • Dr Amudha Poobalan, University of Aberdeen – UK
  • Professor Jayson W. Richardson, University of Denver – USA
  • Ms Inge Rozendal, University of Applied Sciences – The Netherlands
  • Dr Damini Saini, Indian Institute of Management – India
  • Dr Enakshi Sengupta, Center for Advanced Research in Education (HETL) – USA
  • Dr Mahruf Shohel, Institute of Development Studies – Bangladesh
  • Professor Abhilasha Singh, American University in the Emirates – UAE
  • Dr Taisir Subhi Yamin, International Center for Innovation in Education – Germany
  • Professor Tony Wall, Founder and Head of the International Centre for Thriving Institutional lead for the Inter-University Research Programme for Sustainable Development & The European School of Sustainability Science and Research – UK
  • Dr Rana Zeine, Saint James School of Medicine – Caribbean Netherlands


Frequently asked questions

Do I need to submit my full thesis?
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.

Am I eligible to apply if my thesis is not in English?
Yes. You can apply provided that your application, research summary and reference letter are all in English.

Am I eligible to apply if my viva date is scheduled for after 28th February 2021?
No. However, this is an annual award and you can apply next year.

I have already published a paper based on my research. Am I still eligible to apply?
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.

What should be included in my ‘Research Summary’?

Using the Research Summary template, complete the following details

  • Why your research contributes to quality education for everyone, everywhere 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.

What should be included in the 'Letter of recommendation/reference from a supervisor/senior faculty member'?
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?


Xin Xu

Dissertation title: Incentives for International Publications in the Humanities and Social Sciences: An Exploratory Study of Chinese Universities
Institution: University of Oxford
Doctoral mentors: Professor Alis Oancea, Dr Heath Rose and Professor Hubert Ertl

Xin Xu

Highly commended

Wai Yee (Amy) Wong

Dissertation title: Consistency of examiner judgments in higher education – a case study of competency-based assessment in medical education
Institution: The University of Queensland
Doctoral mentors: Associate Professor Karen Moni, Associate Professor Chris Roberts, Associate Professor Lata Vadlamudi and Professor Jill Thistlethwaite

Amy Wong

Nompilo Tshuma

Dissertation title: A critical realist exploration of the culture of resistance in educational technology integration practices at a South African University
Institution: Rhodes University
Doctoral mentor: Prof Kirstin Krauss

Nompilo Tshuma

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