An investigation into the value of undertaking a higher qualification in clinical education: a social capital perspective

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Professionalisation of medical education has led to expectations that educators have appropriate professional development. Accordingly, there has been a global expansion in the number of institutions offering master’s degrees in clinical education. To date, the literature on understanding the value of these programmes has been limited and does not consider the important socio-cultural context of the educator.

To address this gap in the literature, the aim of this study is to understand the value of a master’s degree in clinical education in terms of the social capital of graduates as it relates to their work as a medical educator. Mapping of the participants’ educator support networks permits measurement and understanding of social capital. Lin’s network theory of social capital provides the theoretical foundations for a mixed methods social network analysis study of 12 medically qualified graduates from the Edge Hill University master’s programme in clinical education.

The study demonstrates that medical educators are reliant on social capital to carry out their educator roles and that a master’s degree in clinical education contributes towards this social capital. Medical educators make new relationships whilst undertaking their master’s programme and these relationships last and evolve for years after graduation. New contacts provide resources not available elsewhere in the networks of medical educators, including help with day-to-day teaching activities, career progression and academic activities in addition to providing collegial and personal support.

This is the first study to understand the value of these programmes from a socio-cultural perspective by identifying new network connections arising from educators' participation in a master’s programme in clinical education. These findings have informed the development of a new theoretical model, which can be used to inform future policy and practice for the development and evaluation of master’s degrees in clinical education.
Date of Award7 Oct 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorJOHN SANDARS (Director of Studies), JEREMY BROWN (Supervisor) & CATHERINE SHERRATT (Supervisor)


  • Social network analysis
  • social capital
  • evaluation
  • Medical Education
  • doctors

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