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Revolutionizing Academia: How the PhD by Portfolio is Changing the Game for Seasoned Pros!

When Experience Meets Academia

Imagine a seasoned professional with decades of hands-on experience, groundbreaking research papers, and countless accolades. They possess knowledge equivalent to a PhD but have taken an unconventional route. Enter the PhD by portfolio—a unique blend of experience and scholarship.

“PhD by portfolio” is an avenue that acknowledges an individual’s significant body of work in a specific field. With the academic landscape evolving, let’s dive deep into what this method entails and why it’s garnering attention.

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Understanding the Historical Context

The journey towards achieving a PhD has always been seen as a rite of passage for scholars. Typically, it’s a long road marked by intensive research, leading to a meticulously crafted thesis that contributes something novel to the field. This journey, though immensely rewarding, often demands a singular focus and a deep dive into one specific area.

Enter the PhD by portfolio—an alternative yet equally rigorous route. Instead of a singular, focused thesis, this approach values a collection of works that, when combined, showcases a scholar’s comprehensive expertise. The seeds of this innovative approach were sown in European universities, aiming to offer mature students, often overlooked by the traditional system, an opportunity to gain the recognition they deserved. Over the years, this concept has spread its wings, with institutions around the world adopting and lauding its inclusivity and breadth.

Who’s in the Spotlight? The Ideal Candidate for a Portfolio PhD

The classical image of a PhD aspirant is often a fresh-faced individual eager to carve their niche in the academic realm. While this image holds true and is commendable, the PhD by portfolio introduces a new set of luminaries to the academic stage.

  • Professionals: Think of industry stalwarts who’ve spent years, if not decades, shaping the contours of their sectors. From tech pioneers and business leaders to artists and social activists, these professionals have rich legacies, marked by innovations, publications, and transformative projects.

  • Academic Researchers: Not all researchers walk the straight path of a traditional thesis. Some embark on diverse journeys, undertaking various projects, collaborating across disciplines, and contributing multiple papers to their field. Their broad spectrum of work, rather than a single focal point, becomes their strength.

For these mavericks, the portfolio route offers a golden opportunity. By collating their diverse works—be it research papers, projects, or key publications—they can craft a compelling portfolio that not just earns them a PhD, but also tells their unique academic story.

As the lines between academia and industry continue to blur, the PhD by portfolio stands as a beacon, inviting all those who’ve made significant contributions to step into the limelight and receive their well-deserved accolades.

The Process of Getting a PhD by Portfolio

Entry Requirements and Prerequisites

Before embarking on the journey to obtaining a PhD by portfolio, it’s essential to understand the foundational requirements. While specifics can vary across institutions, common prerequisites typically include:

  • A master’s degree or equivalent in a relevant field.

  • A demonstrated history of significant contributions to the field, either through professional work, research, or both.

  • Recommendations or endorsements from recognized professionals or academics, vouching for the applicant’s contributions and expertise.

Assembling the Portfolio: Crafting a Scholarly Tapestry

A successful portfolio is more than just a collection of works; it’s a curated representation of one’s academic and professional journey. Key components to consider include:

  • Research Papers: Peer-reviewed publications or works that have significantly contributed to the field.

  • Projects: Notable undertakings that showcase innovation, leadership, and depth of knowledge. This could range from industry projects to collaborative academic endeavors.

  • Publications: Books, articles, or other scholarly publications that highlight the applicant’s expertise and breadth of knowledge.

A strong portfolio seamlessly weaves these elements together, portraying a cohesive narrative that underscores the applicant’s qualifications for a PhD.

The Assessment Process: The Evaluator’s Lens

When it comes to assessment, evaluators are not just looking at the volume of work, but its quality, impact, and relevance:

  • Originality: The uniqueness and innovation demonstrated in the body of work.

  • Depth: How comprehensively the works delve into their topics, showcasing expertise and understanding.

  • Impact: The influence and difference these contributions have made in the respective domain.

  • Consistency: A linear progression or theme, weaving through the diverse works, displaying a coherent journey.

Viva Voce: The Culmination of the Journey

The viva voce, an integral component of the portfolio PhD, is where candidates:

  • Present and defend the significance of their body of work.

  • Engage in intellectual discussions with evaluators, demonstrating their mastery of the subject matter.

  • Address questions, offering clarity and further insights into their contributions.

It’s an opportunity to personify the portfolio, reinforcing its validity and importance.

Key Benefits of Choosing a PhD by Portfolio

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and Experience

The portfolio route uniquely acknowledges the wealth of knowledge garnered over years of experience, ensuring that professional achievements receive the academic laurels they deserve.

Flexibility: An Inclusive Approach

Traditional PhD pathways, while effective, may not resonate with everyone. The portfolio route offers an inclusive alternative, accommodating seasoned professionals and those with diverse academic trajectories.

Speed: Efficiency Meets Expertise

For individuals with a comprehensive body of work, the portfolio pathway can be a quicker voyage to the doctorate. It capitalizes on existing accomplishments, eliminating the need for years of new research.

Personal Brand Enhancement: Amplifying One’s Mark

A PhD by portfolio is not just an academic achievement; it’s a powerful testament to one’s professional journey. Possessing this credential can significantly bolster one’s professional stature, making them a recognized authority in their domain.

In conclusion, the PhD by portfolio is a testament to the evolving world of academia, ensuring that varied pathways, rich with experience and contribution, are celebrated and recognized.

Delving Deeper: Overcoming Challenges and Crafting an Outstanding Portfolio for PhD

The Perception of Portfolio PhDs versus Traditional PhDs

While the acceptance of portfolio PhDs is on the rise, there remains a certain bias favoring traditional research-based PhDs. Some academic purists might view the traditional route as more rigorous and the “true essence” of a doctoral degree. This perception, although changing, is a challenge that portfolio PhD candidates might need to navigate.

Ensuring the Cohesion and Quality of the Portfolio

Crafting a cohesive narrative from diverse works can be daunting. The portfolio must not only showcase individual excellence but should also weave together these achievements to present a holistic academic and professional journey. Ensuring this cohesion, while maintaining the quality of each entry, can be a complex balancing act.

Potential Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

  • Overloading the Portfolio: It’s tempting to include every piece of work, but an overstuffed portfolio can detract from its main narrative. The focus should be on quality and relevance, not just quantity.

  • Neglecting the Storyline: Each piece of work in the portfolio should contribute to a larger narrative or theme. Without this, the portfolio risks appearing disjointed.

  • Overlooking the Presentation: While content is king, presentation matters. A well-organized, professionally presented portfolio leaves a lasting impression.

Tips for Assembling a Winning Portfolio

Choosing the Right Pieces of Work to Include

It’s essential to be selective, focusing on works that have had the most significant impact or best represent your expertise. Consider factors like the reception of your work, its relevance to your field, and how it aligns with your broader narrative.

Demonstrating a Clear Narrative or Theme Throughout the Portfolio

Your portfolio should tell a story. Identify a theme or thread that runs through your professional and academic life, and ensure that each piece of work contributes to this storyline. This thematic approach not only showcases your depth but also your evolution in the domain.

Including Supplementary Materials: Adding Depth to Your Narrative

  • Letters of Recommendation: These can vouch for the quality and significance of your work, providing external validation.

  • Industry Accolades: Awards, honors, or any industry recognition can be powerful additions, underscoring the impact of your contributions.

  • Engagement Records: If you’ve given talks, workshops, or have engaged with the community in meaningful ways, these can further bolster your portfolio.

Addressing Potential Gaps or Weak Spots in the Portfolio

Every professional journey has its highs and lows. Instead of glossing over gaps or weaker spots:

  • Acknowledge Them: If there was a period of lesser productivity or a project that didn’t turn out as expected, address it. Offer insights into what you learned from these experiences.

  • Provide Context: Maybe the gap was due to a sabbatical, personal reasons, or a shift in focus. Providing context can turn potential weak spots into demonstrations of resilience and growth.

In summary, while the PhD by portfolio offers a unique pathway to academic recognition, it demands meticulousness, introspection, and a strategic approach. By understanding the challenges and arming oneself with effective strategies, aspirants can craft a compelling portfolio that stands as a testament to their rich journey.


In the ever-evolving landscape of academia, the PhD by portfolio emerges as a beacon for seasoned professionals and researchers, illuminating a path that values diverse experiences and substantial contributions. While it brings forth unique challenges, the rewards of this pathway are manifold, offering recognition, flexibility, and enhanced professional stature. As we navigate the broader horizons of educational milestones, it’s pivotal to embrace and champion such inclusive avenues. They not only validate the rich tapestry of individual journeys but also underscore the essence of education: recognizing, celebrating, and fostering genuine knowledge and expertise.

Swiss School of Business Research’s one year PhD by Portfolio programme.

The PhD by Portfolio offered by Swiss School of Business Research (SSBR) is an innovative method for attaining a doctorate degree. It can be completed within one year, does not require research and allows professionals with decades of experience to leverage their skills.  Candidates obtain academic recognition for pre-existing research, comprehensive research skills and professional subject knowledge that meets a doctoral level.

The programme is completed remotely, suitable for experienced hard-working executives who cannot afford to take time away from work. Candidates must be able to prove at least 5 to 10 years strategic management experience.

The PhD by Portfolio programme is a fast-track programme that takes place entirely ONLINE. Students can complete the programme within 1 academic year. The programme has 240 ECTS (European Transfer Credit System).

Our PhD candidates are guided throughout the entire programme by an experienced Professors and Business Mentors, working to complete 3 research-based projects.

For more details see: visit school's site

or call Whatsapp +41 77 422 73 73

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