"What light do professional doctorates
throw on the question of what counts as knowledge in the academy
at the start of the twenty-first century?" (Bourner et
al. 2001: 81)
Unmasking the ‘gold
The aim of the traditional Ph.D. is to promote ‘the capacity
to make an original contribution to knowledge in a particular discipline
through research’ (Bourner
et al. 2001: 72). The traditional Ph.D. is seen as the appropriate
vehicle to provide an ‘apprenticeship’ for practising
researchers, i.e. academics. However, as indicated earlier in this
article Rhodes (2001) and Baez
(2002) dispute the effectiveness
of the Ph.D. to produce practising researchers. It has been argued
earlier that the Ph.D. has become valued as a prerequisite for academic
progression. If this is the case it could be further argued that
the aim of the Ph.D. as outlined by Bourner et al. (2001:
72) has lost its connection to its intended function of making
a ‘significant original contribution to knowledge in a particular
discipline’ and is instead serving academic career progression.
A doctoral programme, the ‘new route Ph.D.’ specifically
developed to prepare students for careers as academics has emerged
(Hoddell et al. 2002: 66).
The ‘new route Ph.D.’ is similar to a professional doctorate
in that it is a taught programme delivered over four years. It would
appear that students of the ‘new route’ Ph.D. may also
be attracted to the more flexible and supportive nature of this
award and share the same needs as students undertaking professional
doctorates. Frame and Allen (2002)
in their review of the training of Ph.D. students who are sponsored
by the Wellcome Trust note there was some agreement among Ph.D.
supervisors that it was ‘neither realistic nor necessarily
appropriate to train students solely for a career in academic research’
(Frame and Allen 2002: 99).
To participate in lifelong learning is possibly less attractive
and feasible when learning is delivered via the traditional Ph.D.
Perhaps when promoting post-doctoral studies among both researching
professionals and professional researchers, this should be borne
I have argued in this article that value-free knowledge production
is not possible as there are always interests involved whether these
emanate from the academy, academics, industry, etc. I think terms
such as ‘disinterested inquiry’, ‘academic autonomy’
and ‘academic freedom’ have become inappropriately connected
to each other. ‘Disinterested inquiry’ I do not think
is possible. However, freedom to challenge and contest knowledge
needs to be separated and guarded in a new ‘ivory tower’.
While the academy might maintain this new ‘ivory tower’
it must be situated in society. The introduction of professional
doctorates aimed at the development of researching professionals
is not a reduction in the influence of the academy in the production
of knowledge. Rather it is a recognising and sharing of knowledge
gained through research, experience, and application produced by
and with members of society located outside the academy. It may
also be the academy’s admission that the ‘gold standard’
Ph.D. is not the sole or perfect expression of high standards of
knowledge creation in society in the twenty-first century.
knowledge and professional doctorates
An aspect of professional doctorates that appears to be neglected
in the literature I have reviewed for this article is whether an
institution can move to delivering professional doctorates without
providing for the professional development of academic staff. Professional
doctorates have become recognised as a form of work-based learning
(Bourner et al. 2001: 75).
However, work-based learning challenges ‘academic identity’
and academics may be concerned that their academic knowledge may
not stand up to testing and review by the world of work (Boud
and Symes 2000: 25).
The development of professional doctorates requires a more radical
overhaul of institutional doctoral and post-doctoral policies lest
these awards become subjected to the same criticism that undergraduate
awards are receiving from industry (which sometimes maintains these
do not prepare students for employment). Also, will professional
doctorates result in more practising researchers beyond a student’s
completion of assignments/thesis while on the programme?