Emerald & HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards

International recognition for doctoral research in education.

Award status: Open
Submission deadline: 10 October 2023
Submit: Online application form

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: 10 October 2023. Entries submitted after this deadline will not be considered for the award.

Submit your research


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
  • Professor Walter Leal, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany
  • 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 Angel Pazurek, University of Minnesota, USA

Our 2022 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."

Read more about Matthew Aruch's research, and download the infographic


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.

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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.


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