I have just learned of the 'PhD by published works' which appears to be a fairly common program for schools in the UK. Is this similar to an honoris causa conferral or is it some separate program?

After reviewing materials on the Oxford Brooks & Warwick sites it appears that the entire program is just preparing a defense, which sounds a bit like Habilitation at first pass but it also seems that these programs are not restricted to current PhD holders.

Can anyone shed a little light on this for me?



2 Answers 2


While it may be common for universities in the UK to offer such a degree, I'm not sure it's at all common to obtain a PhD in this way (i.e. 'by published works'). I think it is mainly aimed at people who have been involved in research for some time (especially as university staff members) without a PhD, but who have published material equivalent to a PhD thesis. (As you will have read, for the Warwick program one must be either a member of staff at Warwick or have graduated with a Bachelor's degree or equivalent at least seven years ago.)
Generally someone applying for such a program would have already published the works they are planning to submit, and therefore as you say the program will consist primarily of preparing for the oral examination (often called 'viva' in the UK). Although you probably have to prepare some kind of extra document as well (in the Oxford Brookes program this is a 'critical appraisal' of the works being presented).

This is, as Pieter has already explained, very different from either a habilitation (which is at a higher level than PhD) or an honorary PhD (which in general can honour any kind of accomplishment and doesn't require the holder to have done research at PhD level or indeed to have a university education at all).

  • Thank you for the extra background on the 'published works' programs. I already knew about the others and your response helped to put them into context with each other.
    – grauwulf
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 14:59
  • I actually got most of the information from the Warwick and Oxford Brookes websites! But I suppose being more familiar with the UK education system helped me to digest it more easily.
    – Tara B
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 15:07
  • True, sometimes you just need to read it from a different perspective. Maybe my brain was just set to idle at the time :-)
    – grauwulf
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 15:23
  • Well, also you couldn't possibly tell from the information on the websites whether this was a commonly chosen option for getting a PhD. (Not that I know for sure it is not, but I don't believe I know anyone who has achieved their PhD that way.)
    – Tara B
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 15:24

A doctorate "honoris causa" is awarded by universities to recognize a person's outstanding contribution to science, or sometimes also society. It is a honorary degree (so you cannot apply for it), and not very common. Usually the people who receive such a degree already have a doctorate.

The Dr. habil. is a degree that only exists in some countries, such as Germany, Austria, France and Russia. Basically it gives you the right to teach courses at a university. You can only get it after getting a PhD, and usually requires writing another thesis and giving one or two lectures on topics in your field.

I do not know what a "PhD by published works" is, but it sounds to me like a PhD program where the thesis basically is a collection of published (presumably peer-reviewed) articles by the student.

  • 3
    PhD by published works is what we've called elsewhere on this site a sandwich thesis or a stapler thesis.
    – 410 gone
    Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 11:02
  • 2
    @EnergyNumbers: I'm not sure this is quite true. It seems to me that the sandwich or stapler thesis referred to elsewhere on this site arises from a program of the same length as a PhD by 'book' thesis, whereas the programs the OP is talking about can be much shorter (as little as 3 months in the Warwick case), since it's expected that the published work is already in existence before registration.
    – Tara B
    Commented Mar 11, 2013 at 13:08

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