What's in a name?: Professional and academic degrees

Year: 1994

Author: Jeans, Bruce

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There has long been tension between academic and professional schools in most universities. Academic schools tend to see professional schools as skill-based and lacking in intellectual rigour. Not unnaturally the professional schools are somewhat critical of the academic schools because of their apparent focus on pure knowledge and lack of concern for the everyday lives of their students. There is not a lot of merit in either position.

However, in the particular case of higher degrees there are some differences in philosophy, form and function of higher degrees that have practical consequences. Higher degrees are usually predominantly generic or specific-the Master of Arts versus the Master of Education and the Master of Distance Education, for example. The former is often research-based and is seen as a preparation for a research-based higher degree. The latter, it is argued, are equal to but different from the Master of Arts, and are a means of credentialling people in the professions. Whilst the two forms of degree meet the credentialling function, they differ in the way that they prepare students for educational research.

This paper examines some parameters of educational research and the ways in which the two university functions are balanced in higher degrees. The author concludes that the Master of Education certainly meets the credentialling function but that it is an inadequate preparation for educational research. The more recent Doctor of Education is examined from the same perspective. The role of research training in higher degrees in Education is considered.