This paper addresses the debate on the third cycle of European higher education. Currently, much attention is paid to improving the structure and quality of doctorate education in the European context of the Bologna process and the Lisbon objectives. However, alternatives to the traditional doctorate are hardly addressed in the policy documents of governments and other agencies. The promise of one of these alternatives – the professional doctorate – is discussed. Without suggesting this alternative to be the ultimate solution to problems in the third cycle, the paper argues that a dual policy strategy seems appropriate: improving the traditional doctorate and allowing alternatives to flourish.