Who needs a PhD?

August 20, 1999

Recent correspondence on the PhD as preparation for an academic career (Letters, THES, August 6 and 13) has rather assumed a necessary link.

The PhD is, and should be, a preparation primarily for research. Research is highly desirable, and we need more of it. But for the large majority of academic staff it is not - and never will be - their main activity. This is all the more certain as higher education expands.

What I dream of is a professional doctorate in higher education. This would systematically train graduates in the theory and practice of all the tasks they will have to carry out in greater or lesser degree: teaching, assessment, administration (including clerical skills), counselling, public relations, history and philosophy of higher education, internal politics (I am not joking) and, yes, a significant research element. It would be exactly analogous to professional doctorates in other fields such as my own of psychology.

Perhaps such a thing is in train somewhere. However, I doubt it, given the overwhelming prestige of research alone in career achievement and the straitjacket of the present assessment systems.

John Radford Department of psychology University of East London

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