Call to clarify degrees

September 19, 1997

A proliferating new breed of applied doctorate qualifications is creating "total confusion" in the postgraduate qualifications market and must be brought swiftly into the proposed national qualifications framework, the Association of Business Schools warned this week.

The ABS pushed the Dearing inquiry's call for a national framework of higher education qualifications up the agenda with the launch of new guidelines to "clarify" the position of the fledgling doctor of business administration in the postgraduate qualifications market.

The ABS said the initiative should act as a spur for other subject associations to get their house in order, especially in the light of a confusing growth of "professional doctorates", which are often seen as inferior to Phd awards, with more teaching and less research.

"We have seen a proliferation of awards without seeing any clear statement about how we slot them into different levels of a qualifications framework," said Jonathan Slack, ABS chief executive. "These guidelines are an attempt to give the DBA a clear position."

The Dearing report followed the lead set by the Harris report into postgraduate education, warning that the diversity of qualifications and their titles had become, at best, unhelpful and, at worst, "misleading".

Dearing proposed an eight-point structure, from the Higher National Certificate at the bottom (H1), to the doctorate at the top (H8).

He said that the Government should endorse the framework immediately.

There will be no Government reaction until at least October, after the Dearing consultation, but the ABS has been pressing ahead independently.

Mr Slack said the ABS had been working closely with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which assumes responsibility for Dearing's quality regime in October.

Peter Woolliams, professor of systems management at the East London Business School, founded the ABS's working group on the DBA. This week he said that an "explosion" of more applied, "professional doctorates", like the DBA, will make greater clarity paramount.

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