Doctoral Degrees

The PhD, or doctor of philosophy, is the highest qualification that universities offer. It is awarded for the production of original research which expert examiners judge to meet defensible disciplinary standards. This entry explores the origins and development of the doctoral degree (PhD), provides an overview of the PhD in the 21st century, and then highlights the global variations that exist across doctoral degree programmes.

Origins and Development

The PhD was, for centuries, an undertaking confined to a small elite of largely male scholars. They engaged in the ecclesiastical pursuit of advanced knowledge through an apprenticeship to an accomplished scholar. After many years, they produced a lengthy monograph which was usually defended at an oral examination.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the PhD had become more ...

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