Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6172

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Vol cxl No 13

pp. 421–444

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor A. C. Minson was presiding, with the Registrary’s Deupty, the two Proctors, and ten other persons present.

The following Report was discussed:

Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 23 and 4 November 2009, on the introduction of a degree of Doctor of Education (the Ed.D.) (Reporter, p. 281).

Professor J. M. Rallison (read by Revd. L. A. Yates):

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this Report of the Council and the General Board proposes the introduction of a degree of Doctor of Education. The regulations for the degree are patterned on those for the part-time Ph.D. Degree, and the academic standards and requirements for admission are the same for both. The reason for introducing a new degree title is that the Ed.D. is widely recognized as a mark of academic distinction within the teaching profession; it is offered by most universities in the Russell Group.

The Faculty of Education anticipates that there will be a significant demand for this qualification from teachers. It is in accord with the Faculty’s strategic plans. In addition, maintaining strong relationships with schools is important for the University both in placing our P.G.C.E. students for their teaching practice and in relation to undergraduate recruitment more generally.

Mr M. R. Younger:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Faculty of Education has been offering Masters’ routes for teachers, through the part-time Master of Education Degree, for two decades now, and the degree has become recognized as a high-quality, outstanding qualification for educational professionals. Currently there are over 240 students following this route to a Master’s qualification. The Faculty also has a strong and vibrant network of state comprehensive partnership schools throughout the region, through its initial teacher training and education P.G.C.E. The primary interest in and demand for the Ed.D. has come from these constituencies, from senior educational leaders within these schools, many of whom are keen to support Doctoral study by their senior staff.

In line with other Russell Group universities, with the London Institute of Education, and with leading international institutions such as Harvard, the Faculty now wishes to introduce this part-time Ed.D. route, therefore, to enable teachers in the region and beyond to undertake a research-based degree with a professional focus. This proposal is for a Doctorate that develops the capability of individuals to work within a professional context, researching and theorizing their own professional practice, developing practice-based research in schools and other educational contexts.

In developing the Ed.D. proposal, the Faculty has explored the appropriateness of the part-time Ph.D. Degree as an alternative, but market research suggests that the part-time Ph.D. does not have the credibility within the profession which the Ed.D. offers. Career prospects are enhanced for those who have achieved a part-time Doctorate through a professionally orientated Ed.D. route, and if Cambridge is unable to offer such an opportunity, then the University will continue to lose students to other accessible institutions elsewhere in the south-east.

In essence, the majority of Ed.D. students will be practising professionals in the field of education who will be conducting research, leading to direct opportunities for innovative social, educational, economic, and policy-driven impact. This Ed.D. proposal argues the case for a rigorous, intellectually demanding professional route to a Doctorate. It meets the need of a constituency of influential professionals who are already working directly with the Faculty of Education, in practice-based research. It has the potential to contribute directly to the University’s outreach and widening participation agendas. It will contribute to the Faculty’s future research portfolio within the Research Excellence Framework.

Professor G. R. Evans:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this Report expresses the expectation that ‘the Regent House will be aware of the Eng.D. which was introduced in Cambridge in 2005’1. On that occasion the Regent House was given an assurance in connection with an even earlier Report:

The central bodies are well aware of their response to the remarks made at the Discussion of their Report on the establishment of the Vet.M.D. Degree (Reporter, 1999–2000, p. 166). At that Discussion one speaker expressed disquiet at the prospect of the University ‘embarking on a whole new family of degrees’.

In their response at that earlier moment the central bodies had given an assurance that there was no such intention but here they were, breaking it with scarcely an apology. Now a new baby is apparently to be born into this ‘family of degrees’. The reasons given for adding to the family are different in each Report, although the three are clearly linked by Reporter references backwards, so there can be no doubt that it is recognized that they will indeed be siblings.

It may be worth putting into the record the thrust of that Discussion on the earliest infant, the Vet.M.D. What Dr F. H. King actually said was:

It is possible that the University finds itself over a barrel but I wish to register particular disquiet about embarking on a whole new family of degrees which are Ph.D.s by other names.

He was concerned about the fundamental question when a Doctorate is a Doctorate:

Before long, I shall ask to be a Doctor of Electrical Engineering and others would quickly take up the theme. We would soon run out of different shades of red for the facings of the festal gowns.

(The newborn one is to have light blue bootees I see. Professional Doctorates in banking next with gold lapels?).

Dr King raised the question whether the Vet.M.D. was going to grow up into a proper Doctorate or would really be a Master’s Degree:

I am happy to have a new higher degree, in which case the regulations should parallel those for the M.D. I am equally happy to have another route to the Ph.D. Degree, in which case it should be called a Ph.D. I would also be happy to have a new Master’s Degree but only if it is called a Master’s Degree.2

The national debate on ‘the future of the UK Doctorate’ has advanced a long way since January 2005. The University is over a barrel more than ever. Should it go with the fashion and introduce taught and professional Doctorates, or should it continue to regard the Doctorate as strictly a research degree? With this growing family it appears to be trying to have it both ways. These non-Ph.D.s are being given separate titles in acknowledgement that they are not really research degrees although they include a research element along with taught courses.

That takes me to ‘standards’, a matter of great national interest at the moment. In the present Report we read ‘the Council and the General Board emphasize that the academic standards of the Ed.D. would be the same as the Ph.D.’ I am not clear how this can be guaranteed when ‘participants’ are to undertake ‘a five-year part-time programme of advanced study and research that, while satisfying the University’s criteria for the award of a Doctorate, is designed to meet the specific needs of a professional group’. Moreover these ‘participants’ will be working as ‘practising teachers, managers, or policy makers’ during the five years. So how is the equivalence of their assessed work with a Ph.D. thesis actually going to be measured? How much will be research, how much thesis?

Nor is this a proposal with a purely academic motivation. It is – quite frankly – also about aligning the University of Cambridge with certain current political policy strands (partnerships, outreach, widening access), which should not, perhaps, be advanced as a reason for setting up a new degree:

The Faculty of Education has a strong and successful tradition of working in research and teaching partnerships with schools in the East of England and nationally. The introduction of the Ed.D. will further strengthen partnerships and contribute to the University’s outreach focus and widening participation agenda.

There is a corner for the equally fashionable ‘prior accredited learning’ too. ‘Candidates with recent prior and appropriate research training could be credited accordingly by the Degree Committee.’ Lots of box-ticking to please Lord Mandelson.

I am not suggesting that any of this is necessarily undesirable but I do think that before the Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe finds she has so many children she doesn’t know what to do, there should be a Report to the University on the general questions of the desirability of moving to taught and professional Doctorates and the way in which equivalence of standards is going to be protected. Alas reporting to the University in a timely way about matters of huge future academic importance is not currently the General Board’s way, as was demonstrated by the recent dismissive Notice in response to the Topic of Concern Discussion on Teaching and Learning Support Services (alias the future of the University Library).3 I’m afraid the Wass Constitution was insufficiently robust in its design to protect Cambridge’s academic democracy against the New Managerialism. A professional Doctorate for senior academic managers cannot be far away (five years, ‘participation’ while in post).