Lecturers encouraged to gain PhDs in Bournemouth's 'pedigree' drive

February 21, 2008

A four-year plan to raise the number of doctorate-level staff is under way. Melanie Newman reports.

A scheme to encourage academic staff to acquire doctorates has been launched at Bournemouth University as part of a drive to "enhance its academic pedigree".

Bournemouth wants 60 per cent of its academics to hold a doctoral qualification by 2012 - up from 34 per cent at present, and just 20 per cent last year - to ensure that its students are taught by lecturers who are engaged with the latest research.

It expects to achieve this through a recruitment drive and a new "doctoral track" scheme, created jointly by the graduate school and the human resources department.

Under the scheme, senior academics will advise colleagues about PhD options. Mentors will help individuals develop a research plan and coach them as they study. A website and series of campus events have been organised to encourage academics to upgrade qualifications.

Paul Curran, the vice-chancellor, said: "We want our students to learn from academics who are themselves learning. This means that the majority of our academic staff need to be engaged with research, enterprise and professional practice and bring their enthusiasm and up-to-date subject knowledge back to our students."

Sean Beer, senior lecturer in agriculture, has applied to do a PhD under the scheme. "I would like to consolidate my position as an academic. The nature of doctorates has changed and developed with time, which has allowed me to study for a doctorate part time while still having a significant teaching load," he said.

Keith Parry, a programme leader in sports coaching and development, is also combining a PhD with a full-time academic career.

"Without a structured support programme, it would be all too easy to lose focus and direction. I believe that having a formal programme for all staff to follow will ensure that the desire by staff such as me to develop as researchers and gain a PhD - not to mention the effort that is required to achieve this goal - will be recognised and appreciated by the university," Mr Parry said.

Richard Berger, senior lecturer in film and broadcasting, received his doctorate last year. He said: "It's now more important than ever for academics to achieve doctorate-level qualifications. This was, perhaps, not so much the case ten years ago, but as we engage in more externally facing activities - research, professional practice, enterprise - as well as continuing to teach our students, a doctorate certainly helps to reflect our professional capabilities more clearly."

A spokesman for the Bournemouth branch of the University and College Union said it welcomed the scheme in principle. He said: "We will wait to see how it pans out in operation (and) how it fits in with other developmental routes.

"Staff have a choice to study for a doctorate, but the drift of policy is to favour those with it. The university is refashioning the old adage: staff earn their bread from teaching but their prospects from research and knowledge transfer."

The union was on the lookout for any signs of discrimination against teaching-only academics, he added.

melanie.newman@tlseducation.com.

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