Level doctoral field

December 10, 2009

Aldwyn Cooper intones the familiar - and boring - jeremiad that to suppose that "a first-class degree from one (institution) has the same value as from another ... is absurd" ("It's time to set fees free", 19 November). As usual, no evidence is supplied for the truth of the claim, nor is it explained how value is to be gauged.

While awaiting enlightenment on these points, I'd like to offer a personal testimony. What I've learnt from externally examining PhDs and senior doctorates is that at those levels, the strength or otherwise of a thesis or a body of published work bears no necessary relation to the antiquity or modernity of the university in which the work is submitted.

I strongly suspect that readers of the works concerned would be hard put to determine their institutional provenance if authors' and universities' names were removed. My experience suggests that, however it may be with first degrees, higher degrees are great institutional levellers.

Alan P.F. Sell, Milton Keynes.

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