Can Doctorate be Unaccredited?

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by Bill Huffman, Jul 11, 2003.

  1. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    I can't help it; this is an important question

    and it deserves our attention.

    When this thread began, I mentioned that I located a useful J.S.D. dissertation from a Canadian school on an issue that I was researching and I wondered whether I'd have been able to find it if it had come from, say, NWCULaw. Since UMI doesn't accept dissertations from unaccredited schools, I assumed that the writer's lamp would be forever hidden under a cast-iron bushel.

    But after perusing the less inflammatory posts in this thread, I am again beset by doubt.

    What do you all think? Has the unprecedented ease of internet publication supplanted the UMI system? If so, does this new factor "knock one of the props out" from under the accredited-only doctorate argument?
  2. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Yes, the web certainly makes it possible to publish research in the form of a scholarly website, so it does undermine the argument that unaccredited scholars are ostensibly laboring in eternal night. I regulary find very interesting research on scholarly websites that doesn't appear in the top journals. Of course, the quality must be examined carefully without the pedigree of peer review.

  3. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    In the earlier portion of this thread, Bill Dayson posted a number examples of what I felt were very convincing examples of unaccredited institutions with doctorate programs that appeared to be part of the greater academic research community (based on a Google search). They were specialized institutions with a narrow focus. In my mind being part of the greater academic research community is a better measurement for validity/respect than getting the dissertation published somehow. On the other hand, IIRC, some of these examples of institutions with strong unaccredited programs have since applied for RA also none of the examples offered degrees via distance learning.
  4. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    The point about validity/respect is certainly valid and really may be conclusive.

    I see now that the problem with research results that are not subjected to R/A defense or peer review is that they do not bear sufficient "idicia of reliability". You'd have to verify them independently; that defeats a major part of the purpose of scholarly publication.

    Similarly, the doctoral system creates the "peers" doing the review. Their credentials must be recognized by the scholarly community or the review process itself will becopme unreliable.

    An unaccredited dissertation doctorate is therefore no doctorate at all.
  5. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    I agree. (with there always being the few exceptions to the rule, which always seems to be the case in academia)
  6. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Perhaps or perhaps not... The unaccredited status means that scholarly qualities of the work are not known. However, the quality may be present. Consider that most journal manuscripts are rejected; does that mean that they are patently inferior? I doubt it.

  7. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Most journal submissions are REJECTED? Boy, that must be depressing. Is it a matter of space or do the reviewers decide that the work isn't reliable or of interest? Or what?

    My understanding of the dissertation doctorate is relational; it represents a scholar's recognition by all other scholars in the field as being a competent and reliable researcher. The value, to me, of this system is that it allows scholars to rely on each other's work without having to duplicate all the research for themselves.

    If my understanding is correct, the doctorate is different in quality from other degrees. It signifies that the holder is a trustworthy researcher in whatever field, not merely that he knows a lot about that field.

    Without that recognition, of what possible value is the degree?
  8. Alan Contreras

    Alan Contreras New Member

    I have grazed this thread rather briefly and did not see much discussion of the fact that there are really two kinds of doctorates, the PhD kind and the professional kind.

    Expectations for the two are somewhat different, since someone working toward a professional doctorate (for example in pharmacy or veterinary science) does not have the same expectation of making a contribution to knowledge but does have the expectation of being able to pass a professional licensing examiantion and perform professional practice in a competent way.

    That is one reason why ODA, in its reviews of unaccredited programs in professional fields, considers whether the program's graduates are allowed to sit for professional licensure and can succeed in obtaining that licensure. If so, a certain portion of our due diligence in protecting the public is appropriately transferred to the licensing authority.

    That said, the commission for which I work has a formal rule prohibiting ODA from approving any unaccredited entity from issuing doctorates in or from Oregon. Because that rule creates a chicken-and-egg situation for proposed startup professional schools (including the best ones), there will soon be a proposal to amend that rule in the case of licensed professions.
  9. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    The problem with that argument is that there are any number of non-degree-granting (and unaccredited) institutions that conduct research, sometimes producing very important work.

    Just one example from thousands:

    Genentech isn't RA. It isn't NA. It isn't even CA-approved. It's nothin'. But it has a huge research facility and employs some 600 scientists.

    (OK, ok, it sucks. But humor me.)

    My point is that only a small amount of the world's annual research product comes out in the form of university doctoral dissertations.

    So, if a research effort can work without any degree programs at all, if it can make substantial contributions to its discipline without the blessing of UMI, then is it realistic to assume that it will crash and burn if it dares to roll out a new doctoral program?

    Bottom line: If a degree program works, if it is the kind of program that deserves to move right along to full accreditation, then in some very real sense it was already working before it received its accreditation.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 8, 2004
  10. Jack Tracey

    Jack Tracey New Member

    Bill - I'm sorry. I guess I'm just a little confused. Are you, in effect, saying "Because there are private non-degree granting AND NON-ACCREDTED industries that do valid research, therefore, accreditation of degree-granting
    universities is unnecessary."
    Help me to understand this. Industries, which are frequently regulated according to strict standards (let's use the Federal Food and Drug Administration regulation of the pharmaceutical industry) are somehow more lax than RA accredited Doctoral programs?
    Who do you think works for these research organizations? SRU grads?
    Help me understand your point.
  11. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member


    Yes, I see.

    Then the dissertation doctorate is largely irrelevant, not only as to accreditation but even as to its existence?

    Mr. Contreras,

    INTERESTING! So ODA would not accept a California D/L J.D. because the holder can't take the Oregon Bar?

    BTW, my wife fell in love with Portland during a visit last spring. Easy to do. We visited the Rose Gardens, saw Mt. Hood and the Columbia Gorge, and went into Powell's. She's originally from Denver and the scenery overwhelmed her. I am from Olympia and therefore know what a Northwest winter is really like!

    ALAS! The Oregon Bar offers reciprocity only to Washington State and Idaho lawyers.

    Plus, you have double digit unemployment up there these days, I think.
  12. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Just like me!

    Of course not.

    I was responding to this:

    I see now that the problem with research results that are not subjected to R/A defense or peer review is that they do not bear sufficient "idicia of reliability". You'd have to verify them independently; that defeats a major part of the purpose of scholarly publication....

    An unaccredited dissertation doctorate is therefore no doctorate at all.

    90% or more of research output doesn't appear in the form of dissertations. A lot of it doesn't even originate in universities.

    There are all kinds of ways that the relevant communities, whether these are scientific, professional, religious or scholarly, assess all this research output and separate wheat from chaff.

    Non-dissertation research finds its place. So if the fact that non-accredited dissertations don't end up in UMI is a big problem, or even if a non-accredited university's internal dissertation standards are opaque and mysterious, then write the work up as scholarly papers or something. Present it at conferences. Patent it and make millions off it. Fly it into space. Do whatever all those non-dissertation researchers are busy doing.

    My point is that just because a university is non-accredited doesn't necessarily mean that it needs to be forever sealed off from the judgement of the rest of its relevant community. Peer review is necessary, but there are multiple channels and not all of them are dependent on accreditation.

    My point is that if a non-degree-granting research institution is fully plugged-in to the intellectual life of its discipline, if it is a research leader, then it's cool. If one day it decides to roll out a Ph.D. program that isn't immediately accredited, that doesn't mean that the whole thing melts into crap overnight. It's still cool. It's still just as plugged in as it ever was.

    The City of Hope's Beckman Institute only became RA in 2001, but it was a widely known research leader in biotechnology for many years before that, long before their doctoral program ever appeared.

    I don't know... Maybe part of our problem is being exposed to the SRU's of the world so often that we eventually start to think that's the only way that things can possibly be.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 9, 2004
  13. Jack Tracey

    Jack Tracey New Member

    OK, thanks. Now I understand your point. It turns out that I agree with you. An unaccreditted university could, for example, publish a yearly or quarterly journal that contained abstracts of the dissertations coming out of the school for that year. This journal could be sent to all the local or even national university libraries. Or, they could put it online. This might be less expensive and might ultimately result in better access to the information. If they did this it would be essentially, like creating their own UMI. It's such a common sense idea. I wonder why they never thought of it?
  14. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Researchers need not be affiliated with any institution, academic or otherwise, and they can still get in -- if they're willing to work hard at getting read.

    Especially with the Internet being what it is.

    Even a web page can be cited in a dissertation or thesis, if it presents relevant information.

    I had a pleasant surprise a few days back. I was browsing the web, and came across some research in my area of interest, and noted that the researcher had recently submitted his PhD dissertation for approval. Since I'd followed his other work, I asked to see his dissertation, and he sent me a copy.

    Lo and behold, the fellow had cited a recent paper of mine that had appeared in ACM SIGPLAN Notices, an ACM newsletter read by those interested programming langauge technologies.

    Another recent doctoral dissertation spends roughly 5 pages of its content summarizing my work in the §-Calculus, and cites no fewer than 6 works of mine.

    (Not bad for someone who doesn't appear to have even a junior college education, eh? :D)

    I know a fellow with an undergraduate degree who wrote a few papers in the early 90's whose work is a "standard citation" in the adaptive grammar field -- no work on adaptive grammars would overlook his relevant work. He wasn't attached to a university at the time he wrote the said papers.

    And so on.

    I think some people get a real pickle up their hind ends about all of this. There's no such thing as an "accredited" research paper, thesis, or doctorate. At least in computer science, res ipsa loquitor still rules the roost.

    In the past, I've challenged people to challenge my work, instead of my person, but to date -- nobody's taken me up on that offer. It's much easier to point at ACU and balk than it is to try to topple my research results.

    Disclaimer: I'm not trying to defend my unaccredited doctorate ... I'm simply rambling.

    Happy Thanksgiving (to fellow Canadian posters).
  15. Fred Wilkinson

    Fred Wilkinson New Member

    Bush backs letting unaccredited schools receive vouchers

    Gov. Bush backs letting unaccredited schools receive vouchers

    By S.V. Date
    Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
    Thursday, May 27, 2004

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Jeb Bush said Wednesday that his Opportunity Scholarship voucher program will continue to accept unaccredited private schools next school year despite a law that appears to say the opposite.

    Bush denied that a provision in the 1999 law requires accreditation and defended the program that this year gave vouchers to 635 students from repeatedly failing public schools.

    "It's a good program," he said. "Students are learning."

    Fla. Voucher Programs
    Continuing coverage
    from The Palm Beach Post
    • Archive of past stories

    The state law that created the program states that private schools taking vouchers must, in addition to other requirements, "be subject to the instruction, curriculum, and attendance criteria adopted by an appropriate nonpublic school accrediting body." Another part of that same bill described that language as an "accreditation requirement."

    Ten of the 34 schools participating in the failing-school voucher program this year are unaccredited, according to a state Department of Education database. Last year, six of the 24 schools taking Opportunity vouchers were unaccredited.

    Two of the 10 unaccredited schools are in Palm Beach County: R.B. Johnson Lakeside Academy in Riviera Beach and Redemptive Life Academy in West Palm Beach.

    Bush's office argues the wording means participating schools must use criteria that are used by accrediting groups, but that the law does not require accreditation.

    Senate Democratic Leader Ron Klein of Delray Beach called Bush's reading an absurd interpretation and his decision to continue allowing unaccredited schools a slap in the face to the legislature.

    "Clearly, it's a violation of the law," he said.

    According to Department of Education records, at least one program official there similarly interpreted the law as requiring accreditation. In a Dec. 10, 2002, letter to Wood Montessori Academy in Palm Beach Gardens, Robert Metty asked school officials to prove it was accredited or the department would "suspend all payments that would otherwise be issued under the Opportunity Scholarship Program."

    The school provided a letter showing it had provisional accreditation with the Association of Independent Schools of Florida, which kept it in the program.

    Metty's letter in that case was based on a complaint. When he tried in late 2002 and early 2003 to institute a database to make sure all participating schools and students actually were eligible for the various voucher programs, he was repeatedly stopped by department General Counsel Daniel Woodring, department documents show.

    Metty was transferred from his job as director of scholarship programs after he filed a complaint against a co-worker accusing the co-worker of altering documents in response to a public records request. The department's inspector general said Metty's complaint was unfounded. He was later fired, and he now is pursuing legal action under the whistle-blower's law.

    The Opportunity Scholarship Program was the first of the state's three voucher programs. Created in 1999 to make private schools an option for students from public schools that repeatedly fail under Bush's "A-Plus" education plan, the Opportunity vouchers have the most restrictions and are used by the fewest students.

    Corporate vouchers, in which firms are given a tax credit for donations to a voucher-distributing group, are used by 11,552 lower-income students, and McKay vouchers, which are for disabled students, are used by 12,396 students.
  16. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Fred didn't make it clear that this issue regards secondary schools, not degree-granting institutions. This makes his post off-topic in two ways (that it doesn't involve distance degrees is the other).
  17. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    Fred, it's an interesting post but should have been placed in a new thread since it has nothing to do with doctorate degrees.
  18. Fred Wilkinson

    Fred Wilkinson New Member

    True, it was off-topic

    My mistake. We usually end up straying from the original argument here anyway, so I guess it's not too bad.
  19. Jack Tracey

    Jack Tracey New Member

    Re: True, it was off-topic

    Who are you talking about when you say "We," newbie?

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