Edev_501 Response wk8_4

You wrote; “To sum up, I would not only have rejected the claims, but also the article.” This was the position I took late last week. As some cohort members have reasonably shown, the H&N article has a number of flaws that make it difficult to take the paper seriously. Yet, it was presumably thought to have enough merit to be published by the OECD. I’d like to present a short case for the article and see if this makes you think differently.

The question that formed my response was: who were the intended readership? This may indicate what power the article held, that is, if the readership were able to influence policy based on the claims in the article.

The first part of the question was answered straightforwardly. The article as downloadable in the resource section was 14 pages, starting from page 1. The full journal, which is available on the OECD website, has the intended readership on page 3 and is “addressed to leaders, managers, researchers and policy makers in the field of higher education institutional management and policy.” I wonder what ‘leaders’ here might mean? But the readership is not assumed to be academics in the narrow sense of the term. As such, the writers were able to phrase their propositions in broader sweeps. Also the culture of the journal (from skim reading some of the other articles) is less academic and more policy maker level in tone. Without wishing to make a pejorative summation, is it probably fair to say that target readers will not be investigating every propositional claim and will be taking claims at face value more directly?

One of the members in the editorial advisory group was Altbach, whom we encountered a lot of earlier on in this module (Oh! that feels so long ago now!). His style is very direct, he rarely uses references his claims and his claims are phrased at a very wide level of generalisation. As Poulson and Wallace (2003) make clear, there is a pay off between generalisability and degree of certainty (p. 16). The OECD position themselves “to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world” (OECD, n.d.). They need to be generalists.

The second part of the question remains moot. The Journal of Higher Education Management and Policy became defunct in 2012. None of their articles from H&N to that date dealt directly with the EdD/ PhD third cycle debate (judging by the article titles only). And the OECD’s latest policy document ignores the issue altogether in favour of another. The earlier UNESCO Education Position Paper (2004) likewise sees issues in higher education a quality control problem, but not between different types of doctorate, but between accredited and policy-compliant institutions and diploma mills (p. 9). This is the thread taken up in 2012 by the OECD who state; “The purposes of the Guidelines are to protect students and other stakeholders from low-quality provision and disreputable providers (that is, degree and accreditation mills)” as one of their main concerns (Vincent-Lancrin & Pfotenhauer, 2012, p. 5). Even the recent work by Nerad and Heggelund that address (as per the title) “Forces and forms in doctoral education worldwide” (2011) bypass any discussion of the EdD beyond the purely descriptive level.

Given the intended readership, the broad nature of the topic and the changing of the focus away from the debate over the status of the doctorate, I would characterise the H&N article as a storm in a teacup, that is, the generation of energy within a very small and essentially meaningless community. Actual policy agreements continue to be made by different groups (i.e. junior ministers and other inter-governmental and advisory panels). How influential articles in the OECD’s publications were, however, remains unclear.

So, I ask again, Wolfgang, does this reading of the reading make you think differently about the validity of the article?

Nerad, M. & Heggelund, M. (2011). Toward a global PhD?: Forces and forms in doctoral education worldwide. Washington: University of Washington Press.
OECD. (n.d.). Higher education management and policy: All about the journal. Retrieved from: http://www.oecd.org/edu/imhe
/highereducationmanagementandpolicyallaboutthejournal.htm
Poulson, L., & Wallace, M. (Eds.). (2003). Learning to read critically in educational leadership and management. London: Sage.
UNESCO. (2004). Higher education in a globalised society. UNESCO Education Position Paper. Paris: UNESCO.
UNESCO. (2015). Education Publications. Retrieved from: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/strengthening-education-systems/higher-education/publications/
Vincent-Lancrin, S. & Pfotenhauer, S. (2012). Guidelines for quality provision in cross-border higher education: where do we stand? OECD Directorate for Education. Paris: OECD.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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