THE DOCTORATE AS A DISTINCT HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATION

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CHAPTER 3 THE DOCTORATE: A CONTEXTUAL OVERVIEW

“As core function of universities, doctoral studies provide invaluable education and training in research aimed at producing highly skilled knowledge workers …” (Teffera 2015:9)

INTRODUCTION

In Chapter 1 I have explained my reasons for embarking on this research journey by arguing that the quality of research in Public Administration may be directly related to the methodological preparedness of especially doctoral candidates. While Public Administration doctoral candidates are a group of participants that experience the state of being (see Section 1.7.3), the ultimate understanding of their methodological preparedness is directly related to the immediate context of this collective, the doctorate being a degree qualification on level ten of the qualification framework (Council on Higher Education 2013). With this statement, I assume that the methodological preparedness for a master’s qualification (level nine of the qualification framework) will most probably have different characteristics than methodological preparedness for a doctorate. The doctorate thus serves as an immediate context for understanding the methodological preparedness of doctoral candidates. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the characteristics of the doctorate as a degree qualification for which these candidates are, or have been enrolled.
This chapter consequently reports on the analysis of this context by reviewing the literature (see Table 2.2) as well as some official documents on the doctorate as offered in South Africa, the UK, Australia, and the USA. Australia and the UK was selected because, like South Africa, they are part of the British Commonwealth. The USA was selected for diversity purposes. This analysis distinguishes the doctorate in Public Administration as a degree qualification with specific admission requirements, diverse purposes and characteristics, offered within various generic fields. The chapter is concluded by identifying the implications of this contextual analysis for understanding the methodological preparedness of doctoral candidates.

THE DOCTORATE AS A DISTINCT HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATION

This section aims to describe the doctorate as a distinct higher education qualification offered by Unisa and other universities. Within the South African context, the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-framework “provides the basis for integrating all higher education qualifications into the National Qualifications Framework (NQF)” (Council of Higher Education 2013). The doctorate is the highest qualification amongst the eleven higher education qualifications in this South African sub-framework. This qualification “requires a candidate to undertake research at the most advanced academic levels culminating in the submission, assessment and acceptance of a thesis” (Council on Higher Education 2013:40). In comparison to the doctorate, a master’s degree aims at educating and training graduates “who can contribute to the development of knowledge at an advanced level” (Council on Higher Education 2013:38). The master’s degree thus serves to prepare doctoral candidates to undertake research at the advanced level of the doctoral degree. The Council on Higher Education (South Africa) (2013) thus recognises the doctoral qualification as a distinct degree qualification within the sub-framework with attributes that differ from the other qualifications such as the master’s and the honours degree.
The expected level of independency of doctoral candidates resonates with Finn’s (2005:8) definition of the doctorate as a process of transitioning from dependency to independency, ultimately conducting original research in a field of study. This definition by Finn emphasises the importance of originality at doctoral level and is confirmed by the Higher Education Qualification Sub-Framework (HEQSF) as a defining characteristic of the doctoral degree that makes a “significant and original academic contribution at the frontiers of a discipline or field” (Council on Higher Education 2013:40). It is thus an implied expectation that doctoral candidates are independent and competent researchers, able to apply the necessary research competencies.
The literature review consisting of scholarly sources and official documents revealed various views on what constitutes the research competencies required for a doctorate. Petre and Rugg (2010:2) for example, identify the following key competencies that need to be demonstrated by doctoral candidates: (1) mastery of a subject, (2) research insight,
(3) respect for the discipline, (4) capacity for independent research and (5) ability to communicate results and relate them to the broader discourse. Similarly, Denicolo and Park (2013:194) outline the following expectations from the scholarly component of a doctorate: “contribution to knowledge, stated gap in knowledge, explicit research questions, conceptual framework, explicit research design, appropriate methodology, correct field work, clear/concise presentation, engagement with theory, coherent argument, research questions answered and conceptual conclusions”. The doctorate is thus noticeably distinct from the other qualifications in the sub-framework due to the high-level competencies of doctoral candidates necessary for them to make significant and original academic contributions to their respective fields. The literature has also shown that there are various categories of doctorates meeting these defining characteristics as discussed above. The following section briefly outlines these doctorates as offered in South Africa, the UK, Australia, and the USA.

CATEGORIES OF DOCTORATES

The literature review revealed the existence of various categories of doctorates, namely the traditional doctorate, the PhD by publication, the professional doctorate, and the higher doctorate. This section outlines these categories as offered in countries such as South Africa, the UK, Australia, and the USA. For this purpose, the qualification frameworks of the selected countries were consulted (see Table 3.1 for a comparison).

Traditional doctorate

The traditional doctorate is probably the most widely offered variation of doctorate. In South Africa, the Council on Higher Education (2013:40), although not using the term “traditional doctorate”, describes the doctorate (distinct from the Higher Doctorate and Professional Doctorate) as a qualification that trains individuals for an academic career. This is a similar purpose to the purpose of the traditional doctorate in the US (PhDPortal 2017 online). In line with the nature of an academic career, the United Kingdom Quality Assurance Agency (2008:23) describes the traditional doctorate as a qualification awarded to candidates who have shown “the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, extend the forefront of the discipline and merit publication”. The scholarly nature of the traditional doctorate is also shared in Australia, where their traditional doctoral degree (referred to as Doctor of Philosophy) aims to “make a significant and original contribution to knowledge” (Australian Qualifications Framework Council 2013:63). The common purpose of the traditional doctorates is thus to train doctoral candidates for academic careers, independent research and for making original contributions to a selected discipline or field of study.
Interpretation: Irrespective of the country where the doctorate is offered, this qualification aims at making an original contribution to knowledge. Since it aims at developing academics, seemingly the methodological preparedness of the candidates enrolled for this qualification might be deemed to be of high standard. Moreover, the key competencies identified by the literature seem to relate to methodological preparedness because doctoral candidates are expected to work independently, apply appropriate research designs and demonstrate theoretical knowledge.

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PhD by publication

The PhD by publications is offered in Australia and several other countries. It was first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1966 (Peacock 2017:125). Peacock (2017:125) further argues that this type of PhD attracts practitioners entering academia. In Australia a PhD by publication, is described by Jackson (2013:359) as a category of doctorate that consists of “a series of published works, as opposed to the traditional dissertation”. Jackson (2013:3) sees the PhD by publication as an opportunity for academics to obtain their PhDs while increasing their publications. Jackson identifies three types of PhDs by publication, which are PhD by prior publications, PhD by publications and the Hybrid PhD by publication (Jackson 2013:7). Powell (2004:17) maintains that the candidates has to demonstrate the ability to conduct independent and original research. While it is not the intention of this chapter to compare the various types of PhD by publication with one another, the above review revealed that, similar to the traditional doctorate, the main characteristic of this qualification is also the making of an original contribution to the field of knowledge.

Professional doctorates

The professional doctorate is offered in several countries, such as the UK, Australia, and the USA. In South Africa, the professional doctorate was introduced for the first time in 2013 through the Revised HEQSF (Council of Higher Education 2013:41). The purpose of this doctorate is to “provide education and training for a career in the professions and/or industry and are designed around the development of high level performance and innovation in a professional context” (Council on Higher Education 2013:41). At the time of conducting this research the professional doctorate was not offered in any of the South African Higher Education Institutions.
In a nearly similar formulation, the professional doctorate is described in the UK and Australia as aiming at developing “an individual’s professional practice and to support them in producing a contribution to (professional) knowledge” (United Kingdom Quality Assurance Agency 2008:25) and aiming at “making a significant and original contribution to knowledge in the context of professional practice” (Australian Qualifications Framework Council 2013:3). It is evident that the professional doctorate is concerned with professional knowledge, professional practice and the professional context of candidates who are already part of a profession when they enrol for their doctorate.

Higher Doctorate

In South Africa, the Council on Higher Education (2013:40) indicates that the higher doctorate can be awarded “on the basis of a distinguished record of research in the form of published works, creative works and/or other scholarly contributions that are judged by leading international experts to make an exceptional and independent contribution to one or more disciplines or fields of study”. Similarly the South African provision, the higher doctorate may also be awarded in the UK and Australia, based on published work (Green & Powell 2005:60; Australian Qualifications Framework Council 2013: 64). The higher doctorate is distinguishable from the other variants of doctorates discussed above in the sense that it is not obtained through a process of a doctoral programme under supervision, but it is awarded based on the candidate’s “internationally recognised original contribution to knowledge” (Australian Qualifications Framework Council 2013:64). The higher doctorate is thus not an applicable context for understanding methodological preparedness.
This section focused on the various categories of doctorates. As already alluded to in Table 3.2 the methodological preparedness of candidates enrolled for the traditional doctorate might differ from the professional doctorate because of the focus namely scholarship or professional. The following section focuses on the traditional doctorate as an immediate context in which the doctoral candidates in Public Administration are/were enrolled for.

CHARACTERISTICS OF TRADITIONAL DOCTORAL PROGRAMMES IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION OFFERED BY SOUTH AFRICAN UNIVERSITIES

To identify the characteristics of doctoral degrees in Public Administration, I had to first identify the generic fields and focus on the qualifiers and admission requirements as captured in Table 2.2.

Generic fields (designators) of Public Administration

The Council on Higher Education (2013:19) defines a designator as “the second name given to a qualification, to indicate its broad area of study, discipline or profession”. Furthermore, it is regarded as an indication of “the desired educational training and outcomes and their associated assessment criteria” (Council on Higher Education 2013:9). Within the South African higher education context, doctorates in Public Administration are offered in several generic fields such as literature and philosophy (DLitt et Phil), administration (DAdmin), philosophy (DPhil, PhD), literature (DLitt), commerce (DCom), and technologiae (DTech).

Doctor in Literature and Philosophy (DLitt et Phil)

The Doctor in Literature and Philosophy (DLitt et Phil) in Public Management and Governance, is offered by the University of Johannesburg and Unisa (until 2014). The University of Johannesburg (2016:19) expects this doctoral degree to “make an original contribution to the field of Public Management and Governance on a topic selected in consultation with the head of the Department of Public Governance”. Making an original contribution will require the doctoral candidates to demonstrate the high-level research capability. For them to demonstrate the high-level research capability, the research competence is a necessity. In addition to this the University of Johannesburg expects the doctoral candidates to defend their thesis (University of Johannesburg 2016:76). Similarly, at the University of South Africa (2018 online) the doctoral candidates are expected to “demonstrate high-level research capability and make a significant and original academic contribution at the frontiers of the discipline or field”. The main similarity between these two institutions is that the doctoral candidates need to demonstrate high-level research capability. Focusing on these institutions, it is clear that the documents reflect on the outcomes of the doctoral degree which is to produce a quality thesis and make an original contribution.

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Doctor of Administration (DAdmin)

The Doctor of Administration (DAdmin) in Public Administration is offered by the University of Venda, University of Fort Hare, University of KwaZulu-Natal and University of South Africa (until 2014). The University of Venda offers the DAdmin in Public Administration or Development Administration. Candidates are expected to write a thesis and it should make a new contribution in the field (University of Venda 2017 online). While the University of Fort Hare (2017 online) expects the doctoral candidates to prove “capability of conducting research”. At the University of KwaZulu-Natal doctoral candidates are expected to “demonstrate comprehensive and high level of thinking, enquiry and insight by exploring untapped scientific territories in pursuit of universal knowledge within a changing local, provincial, national, regional, continental and international environment through African scholarship and critical engagement with communities”. The thesis written by doctoral candidates need to create new knowledge and merit publication in an accredited journal (University of KwaZulu-Natal 2017 online). The University of KwaZulu-Natal provides detailed information on the DAdmin, for example candidates are also expected to attend research and writing workshops to improve their research skills (University of KwaZulu-Natal 2017 online).
At the University of Pretoria candidates can specialise in Public Administration, Public Management or Municipal Administration. Before candidates are admitted to the DAdmin programme they need to prove their research expertise/competence by submitting published articles or reports. Candidates are also expected to “engage in research, analysis and application”. It is also expected from candidates to choose topics that deal with democratic changes in South Africa (University of Pretoria 2017 online). To improve their research skills candidates are expected to engage in professional conferences and colloquia (University of Pretoria 2017 online), while at the University of Zululand, candidates are expected to write a thesis that is based on original research (University of Zululand 2017 online). At the University of Fort Hare the DAdmin aims at equipping students “with both theoretical and methodological grasp, towards building conceptual and empirical oversight” (University of Fort Hare 2017:169). The intended outcome is the ability to work at the paradigmatic level of development. A DAdmin at the University of South Africa expects doctoral candidates to prove a certain “level of research capability and make an original contribution in the field of study”. The produced thesis should satisfy peer review and be suitable for publication (University of South Africa 2017 online). The University of Pretoria and the University of South Africa have discontinued offering the DAdmin. Various expected outcomes are evident in this doctoral programme: new contributions, new knowledge, original research, research capability and original contributions. These outcomes relate to the research competence that needs to be demonstrated by the doctoral candidates.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
DECLARATION
DEDICATION
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
SUMMARIES
CHAPTER 1 ORIENTATION TO THE STUDY
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 BACKGROUND AND RATIONALE
1.3 RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.5 RESEARCH PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES
1.6 TURNING TO THE POSITION OF THE RESEARCHER
1.7 CONCEPTS CLARIFICATION
1.8 ORIGINAl CONTRIBUTION OF THIS STUDY
1.9 METHODOLOGICAL DESIGN
1.10 LAYOUT OF CHAPTERS
1.11 SUMMARY OF THE CHAPTER
CHAPTER 2 RESEARCH DESIGN, APPROACH AND METHODS
2.1 INTRODUCTION
2.2 RESEARCH DESIGN AND APPROACH
2.3 RESEARCH METHODology
2.4 MEASURES TO ENSURE TRuSTWORTHINESS IN QUALITATIVE INTERPRETIVE RESEARCH
2.5 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
2.6 SUMMARY OF THE CHAPTER
CHAPTER 3 THE DOCTORATE: A CONTEXTUAL OVERVIEW
3.1 INTRODUCTION
3.2 THE DOCTORATE AS A DISTINCT HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATION
3.3 CATEGORIES OF DOCTORATES
3.4 CHARACTERISTICS OF TRADITIONAL DOCTORAL PROGRAMMES IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION OFFERED BY SOUTH AFRICAN UNIVERSITIES
3.5 Deductions on the outcomes of doctoral programmes
3.6 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 4 A PRELIMINARY CONCEPT ANALYSIS OF THE METHODOLOGICAL PREPAREDNESS OF DOCTORAL CANDIDATES
4.1 INTRODUCTION
4.2 CONCEPT ANALYSIS
4.3 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS OF THE LIVED EXPERIENCES OF CANDIDATES WHO TERMINATED THEIR STUDIES BEFORE COMPLETION
5.1 INTRODUCTION
5.2 BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE PARTICIPANTS
5.3 DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS
5.4 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 6 DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS OF THE LIVED EXPERIENCES OF CANDIDATES WHO WERE CURRENTLY REGISTERED
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.2 BRIEF BACKGROUND INFORMATION OF THE PARTICIPANTS
6.3 DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS
6.4 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 7 DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS OF THE LIVED EXPERIENCES OF DOCTORAL CANDIDATES WHO SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED THEIR DOCTORAL DEGREES
7.1 INTRODUCTION
7.2 BRIEF BACKGROUND INFORMATION OF THE PARTICIPANTS
7.3 DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS
7.4 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 8 DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS OF THE LIVED EXPERIENCES OF THE SUPERVISORS ON THE METHODOLOGICAL PREPAREDNESS OF THE DOCTORAL CANDIDATES
8.1 INTRODUCTION
8.2 BRIEF BACKGROUND INFORMATION OF THE PARTICIPANTS
8.3 DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS
8.4 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 9 THE MAIN FINDINGS AND A PROPOSED CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING THE METHODOLOGICAL PREPAREDNESS OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION DOCTORAL CANDIDATES AT UNISA
9.1 INTRODUCTION
9.2 CONSOLIDAted FINDINGS
9.3 A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR UNDERSTANDING THE METHODOLOGICAL PREPAREDNESS OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION DOCTORAL CANDIDATES AT UNISA
9.4 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 10 SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
10.1 INTRODUCTION
10.2 AN OVERVIEW OF THE THESIS
10.3 MAIN FINDINGS IN RESPONSE TO EACH OF THE FIVE RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
10.4 A REFLECTION ON THE LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
10.5 THE SIGNIFICANT AND ORIGINAL CONTRIBUTION OF THIS RESEARCH IN THE FIELD OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
10.6 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
10.7 REFLECTION
LIST OF SOURCES
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT

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