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Quality and equality in British PhD assessment

Louise Morley (Reader in Higher Education Studies at the University of London Institute of Education and also Director of the Centre for Higher Education Studies (CHES), London, UK)
Diana Leonard (Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Research on Education and Gender at the University of London Institute of Education, London, UK)
Miriam David (Direector of the Graduate School of Social Sciences and Professor of Policy Studies in Education at Keele University, Staffordshire, UK)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 1 June 2003



This paper asks whether doctoral assessment has escaped the regulation of quality assurance procedures. Raising questions about the affective and micropolitical dimensions of an oral examination conducted in private, it explores how current concerns about quality assurance, standards, benchmarks and performance indicators in higher education apply to the assessment of doctoral/research degrees in Britain, and in particular to the viva voce examination. Successful PhD completion is a key performance indicator for universities and an important basis for the accreditation of their staff. Despite the rise of new managerialism, a general preoccupation with calculable standards and outcomes and an emphasis on student entitlements, transparency of decision making and information for “consumers”, there still seems to be considerable variation, and some mystification, in how doctoral assessment is conducted and experienced. The massification of doctoral studies and the doubling in number of institutions awarding their own doctorates, post‐1992, are both likely to increase product variety still further.



Morley, L., Leonard, D. and David, M. (2003), "Quality and equality in British PhD assessment", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 64-72.




Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited

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