Starting next year, students at universities of applied sciences will be able to conduct research for another three or four years after their master’s degree in order to obtain the title of PD, ‘Professional Doctor’. Initially, it relates to five new research projects in different universities of applied sciences.
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1 Why do colleges want this?
This is needed, says Maurice Lyman of the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences. From education and business – the two are related. “The job market is changing rapidly. By including research more in our education, we want to meet the changing demand from companies.”
“A concrete example: homes need to get rid of gas. How do you do that and what does that mean for students? How do we organize the study of architecture in such a way that we provide students with what practice takes? These are research questions with which we promote both professional practice and education.”
The main mission of universities of applied sciences remains: to train people to practice, says Lyman. With the research track in the so-called third cycle – after the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees – an “additional and in-depth layer” is added to this.
This additional tier may also ensure that the study program at the University of Applied Sciences becomes more attractive. The vast majority of VWO students choose a science education after their final exams, which means universities have been dealing with increasing student numbers for years, while universities of applied sciences have seen a decline in the number of students admitted. The universities of applied sciences are trying to turn the tide by granting themselves a greater scientific “status”. It is not without reason that more and more schools are using the international title “University of Applied Sciences”.
2 What do universities think?
A spokesperson for the VSNU said they are participating in this plan and are following it with “great interest”. At the same time, universities are suspicious of the research ambitions of universities of applied sciences. Universities of applied sciences should not want to play the “college” role and venture into their field. So there was a long and fierce debate about this plan, with scientific terminology being particularly discussed in detail. At the University of Applied Sciences, for example, a “doctoral research” will not be undertaken soon, but a “professional doctorate” will be pursued. This does not lead to the title of Doctor or Ph.D., but to PD.
Basic idea: universities of applied sciences exist to train people to practice, and universities in science. In fact, the distinction is not always that accurate: universities, for example, provide academic training for teachers and not every student at the university becomes a scientist.
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3 What is the difference between a PhD in universities?
A professional doctorate is “equivalent” to a doctoral track at a university, as the universities of applied sciences say, but it is “of a different nature.” Where academic research is often fundamental in nature, this will not be the case at universities of applied sciences. “Our studies should be of a scientific level, but they are not aimed at scientific publications or a thesis. The goal is for our researchers to add something to the practice,” says Lyman.
Where a university professor supervises doctoral students, lecturers assume this role in universities of applied sciences. These researchers and lecturers hold their doctoral degrees from a university, and often work part-time at a university of applied sciences and part-time at a university or in the business world.
4 How do universities of applied sciences guarantee scientific quality and independence of research?
Special supervisory committees will be formed, and in addition to the permanent supervisor (lecturer), there will be scholars from universities and specialists from the business community who will test and monitor the research. In addition, searches are “examined” every four years, as is the case within universities. “We also have a scientific code of conduct that we must adhere to,” says Yemen from the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences.
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5 Is it permissible and what is its cost?
It is allowed. Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven (Education, Science and Culture, D66), to whom the plan will be presented this Tuesday, wrote in a letter to the House of Representatives at the end of December in positive terms about the research ambitions of universities of applied sciences. “The third independent cycle in the framework of higher professional education can be a catalyst for further development of practice-oriented research and thus increase the added value to society.”
More than 55 million euros are needed to fund the first research projects. The universities of applied sciences wish to conclude agreements with the new cabinet regarding the distribution of this funding between the government, employers, and universities of applied sciences themselves.
A copy of this article also appeared on nrc.next on March 9, 2021