Is a PhD really necessary?

PhD Ceremony
PhD Ceremony by Venet_

I saw a job advertised recently as a Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Teaching and Learning at Deakin University. The role revolves around working with academic staff to improve their teaching and learning practice, provide staff development, evaluation of teaching, dissemination of good practice, provide educational technology leadership and lots of the standard stuff about networking, planning, contributing to the web site etc. So, you might say, a fairly standard central academic development role. Now I haven’t looked at roles like these for a long time but I looked at this one becuase a Twitter friend asked me for my opinion. What surprised me was the selection criteria, the first one of which is a PhD in ‘any discipline’. This was deemed ‘essential’. Whilst a postgraduate/graduate certificate in education or higher education was only ranked as ‘desirable’. Now maybe, just maybe, you could be serious about this for the Senior Lecturer position but for the Lecturer position, you have to be kidding. And why ‘any discipline’? What is this saying about the relevance of the qualification to the position and are you really saying that essentially a research based qualification is required for essentially a teaching and learning based role?

What this means is that I (if I was interested) wouldn’t be able to apply for this position despite having over twenty two years experience in multiple universities inclduing ten years as an academic heavily involved in curriculum and staff development and sixteen years in educational technology. My Twitter friend is very well known regionally in educational technology and academic staff development but, like me, lacks a PhD.

Now I don’t want to knock PhDs. Many of my friends have them and they have worked damn hard for them but I am asking that universities don’t restrict themselves unneccessarily and behave realistically when it comes to roles like this. I do believe that doctorates will need to change in future but I’ll leave that for another post. What concerns me is this is another example of the lack of sophistication that universities often display when it comes to staff recruitment and promotion. I don’t believe that universities have the luxury of arbitrarily reducing their applicant pool so radically.

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