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of a Doctor of Divinity at the University of Oxford, in the scarlet and black academic robes corresponding to his position. From Rudolph Ackermann's History of Oxford, 1814.]]

A doctorate is an academic degree that in most countries represents the highest level of formal study or research in a given field. In some countries it also refers to a class of degrees which qualify the holder to practice in a specific profession (such as law or medicine). The best-known example of the former is the Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), while examples of the latter include the U.S. degree of Doctor of Medicine and the Dutch Professional Doctorate in Engineering.

In some countries, the highest degree in a given field is referred to as a terminal degree, although this is by no means universal (the phrase is not in general use in the U.K., for example), practice varies from country to country, and a distinction is sometimes made between terminal professional degrees (such as the J.D.) and terminal research degrees (such as the LL.D. J.S.D., or S.J.D.).

The term doctorate comes from the Latin docere, meaning "to teach", shortened from the full Latin title licentia docendi, meaning "license to teach."[citation needed]



The origin of the doctorate dates back to the ijazat attadris wa 'l-ifta' Arabic: إجازة التّدريس والإفتاء ("license to teach and issue legal opinions") in the medieval madrasahs which taught Islamic law. It was equivalent to the Doctor of Laws qualification and was developed during the 9th century after the formation of the Madh'hab legal schools. To obtain a doctorate, a student "had to study in a guild school of law, usually four years for the basic undergraduate course" and at least ten years for a post-graduate course. The "doctorate was obtained after an oral examination to determine the originality of the candidate's theses," and to test the student's "ability to defend them against all objections, in disputations set up for the purpose" which were scholarly exercises practiced throughout the student's "career as a graduate student of law." After students completed their post-graduate education, they were awarded doctorates giving them the status of faqih (meaning "master of law"), mufti (meaning "professor of legal opinions") and mudarris (meaning "teacher"), which were later translated into Latin as magister, professor and doctor respectively.[1]

The concept of a doctorate was soon introduced into medieval Europe as a license to teach at a university.[1] In this sense, doctoral training was a form of apprenticeship to a guild. The traditional term of study before new teachers were admitted to the guild of "Masters of Arts", seven years, was the same as the term of apprenticeship for other occupations. Originally the terms "master" and "doctor" were synonymous, but over time the doctorate came to be regarded as a higher qualification than the master's degree.

The usage and meaning of the doctorate has changed over time, and it has also been subject to regional variations. For instance, until the early 20th century few academic staff or professors in English-speaking universities held doctorates, except for very senior scholars and those in holy orders. After that time the German practice of requiring prospective lecturers to have completed a "research doctorate" became widespread. Additionally, universities' shifts to "research oriented" education increased the importance of the doctorate. Today such a doctorate is generally a prerequisite for pursuing an academic career, although not everyone who receives a research doctorate becomes a member of a university. Many universities also award "honorary doctorates" to individuals who have been deemed worthy of special recognition, either for scholarly work or for other contributions to the university or to society.

Although the research doctorate is almost universally accepted as the standard qualification for an academic career, it is a relatively new invention. The older-style doctorates (now usually called "Higher Doctorates" in the United Kingdom) take much longer to complete, since candidates must show themselves to be leading experts in their subjects. These doctorates are now less common in some countries, and are often awarded honoris causa. The habilitation is still used for academic recruitment purposes in many countries within the EU and involves either a new long thesis (a second book) or a portfolio of research publications. The habilitation demonstrates independent and thorough research, experience in teaching and lecturing and, more recently, the ability to generate funding within the area of research. The "habilitation" is regarded as a senior post-doctoral qualification, many years after the research doctorate, and can be necessary for a Privatdozent (in Germany) or professor position.

A similar system traditionally holds in Russia. Already in the Russian Empire the academic degree doctor of science (doktor nauk) marked the highest academic degree which can be achieved by an examination. This system was generally adopted by the USSR/Russia and many post-Soviet countries.

Types of doctorate

See Doctor (title) for more information.

Since the Middle Ages, there has been considerable evolution and proliferation in the number and types of doctorates awarded by universities throughout the world, and practices vary from one country to another. While a doctorate usually entitles one to be addressed as "doctor", usage of the title varies widely, depending on the type of doctorate earned and the doctor's occupation.

Broadly speaking, doctorates may be loosely classified into the following categories: ]]

Research doctorates

Research doctorates are awarded in recognition of academic research that is (at least in principle) publishable in a peer-refereed academic journal. The best-known degree of this type is that of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, or sometimes DPhil) awarded in many countries throughout the world. Others include the degree of Doctor of Education, various doctorates in engineering (such as the US Doctor of Engineering,[2] the UK Engineering Doctorate[3] and the German Engineering Doctorate (Dr-Ing), and the German degree of Doctor rerum naturalium (Dr.rer.nat.).

Criteria for award of research doctorates vary somewhat throughout the world, but typically requires the submission of a substantial body of original research undertaken by the candidate. This may take the form of a single thesis or dissertation, or possibly a portfolio of shorter project reports, and will usually be assessed by a small committee of examiners appointed by the university, and often an oral examination of some kind. In some countries (such as the US) there may also be a formal taught component, typically consisting of graduate-level courses in the subject in question, as well as training in research methodology.

The minimum time required to complete a research doctorate varies by country, and may be as short as three years (excluding undergraduate study), although it is not unknown for a candidate to take up to ten years to complete.

Higher doctorates

In some countries, especially the United Kingdom, Ireland, and some Scandinavian, Commonwealth nations, or former USSR and other Socialist Bloc countries, there is a higher tier of research doctorates, awarded on the basis of a formally submitted portfolio of published research of a very high standard. Examples include the Doctor of Sciences (DSc/ScD) and Doctor of Letters (DLitt/LittD) degrees found in the UK, Ireland and some Commonwealth countries, and the traditional doctorates in Norway and Denmark, like dr. theol. (Theology), dr. jur. (Law), dr. med. (Medicine) and dr. philos./dr. phil. (after both countries introduced a doctorate at a lower level, the ph.d.).

The German habilitation (a formal professorial qualification with thesis and exam) is commonly regarded as belonging to this category. However, in some German states, the Habilitation is not an academic degree, but rather a professorial certification ("facultas docendi") that the regarding person holds all formal qualifications to teach independently at a German university. In other German states, the "Habilitand" is awarded a formal "Dr. habil." degree. In some cases where such degree is awarded, the regarding person may add "habil." to his or her research doctorate such as "Dr. phil. habil." or "Dr. rer. nat. habil."

Higher doctorates are often also awarded honoris causa when a university wishes to formally recognize an individual's achievements and contributions to a particular field.

Professional doctorates

candidates gather before commencement at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, May 2008]]

Professional doctorates are awarded in certain fields where most holders of the degree are not engaged primarily in scholarly research, but rather in a profession, such as law, medicine, pharmacy, music or ministry. Examples include the U.S. degrees of Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Juris Doctor (JD), and the Czech and Slovak degrees of Doctor of Medicine (MUDr. - Medicinae Universae Doctor) and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (MVDr. - Medicinae Vetenariae Doctor).

The term Professional Doctorate is also used to refer to research doctorates with a focus on applied research, or research as used for professional purposes.[4] Among others, these include the degrees of Doctor of Practical Theology (DPT),[5] and Doctor of Professional Studies (DPS in the U.S. or DProf in the U.K.), Doctor of the Built Environment (DBEnv)[6], Doctor of Science in Physical Therapy (DSc or DScPT), Doctor of International Relations (DIR) and some others in various specified professional fields.

Honorary doctorates

When a university wishes to formally recognize an individual's contributions to a particular field or philanthropic efforts, it may choose to grant a doctoral degree honoris causa (i.e., "for the sake of the honor"), the university waiving the usual formal requirements for bestowal of the degree.[7][8] Some universities (e.g., Cornell University[9], the University of Virginia[10]) do not award honorary degrees.

Country-specific practice


Similar to other countries, in Argentina the doctorate (doctorado)[11] is the highest. The intention is that candidates produce true and original contributions in a specific field of knowledge within a frame of academic excellence.[12] The doctoral candidate's work should be presented in a dissertation or thesis prepared under the supervision of a tutor or director, and reviewed by a Doctoral Committee. This Committee should be composed of examiners external to the program, and at least one of them should also be external to the institution. The academic degree of Doctor is received after a successful defense of the candidate’s dissertation.[13] Currently, there are approximately 2,151 postgraduate careers in the country, of which 14% were doctoral degrees.[12] Doctoral programs in Argentina are overseen by the National Commission for University Evaluation and Accreditation[14], which is a decentralized agency in Argentina’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.[15]


In the Finnish education system, the requirement for the entrance into the doctoral studies is a Master's degree or equivalent qualification. All universities have the right to award doctorates in their assigned fields.[16] Universities of applied sciences (ammattikorkeakoulu) do not award doctoral degrees. The aim of the studies for the doctoral degree is three-fold:

  1. The student must obtain sublime understanding of their field and its meaning to the society, while becoming prepared to use the methods of scientific or scholarly study in their field, creating new scientific or scholarly knowledge.
  2. The student must obtain a good understanding of development, basic problems and research methods of their field
  3. The student must obtain such understanding of the general theory of science and letters and such knowledge of the neighbouring research field that they are able to follow the development of these fields.

The way to show that these general requirements have been met is also three-fold:

  1. the graduate coursework required by the university
  2. a show of critical and independent thought in the research field
  3. preparation and a public defence of a dissertation, which may be a monograph or a collection of peer-reviewed articles with an extended summary

In Finland, the entrance into the graduate studies is not as controlled as in undergraduate studies, where a strict numerus clausus is applied. Usually, a prospective graduate student discusses his plans with a professor of his choice. If the professor wishes to accept the student, the student applies the faculty for a study place. Nonetheless, in some cases, the professor may recruit the student to his group after a successful completion of a master's thesis, for instance.[17] In any case, a formal graduate study place does not guarantee funding. The student must obtain funding either by working in a research unit or through scholarships handed out by private foundations. Typically, it is easier to obtain funding for graduate studies in natural and engineering sciences, while graduate studies in letters are more difficult to finance. Sometimes, it may be possible to combine normal work and research activity.[18]

The time for the completion of graduate studies varies, as there are no fixed time limits written into the law or to most university regulations. It is possible to graduate even in three years after the master's degree, while much longer periods are by no means uncommon. In any case, the study ends with the completion of a dissertation, which must make a substantial contribution to the field by presenting new scientific or scholarly knowledge. After the dissertation is ready, it is submitted to the faculty, which names two pre-examiners with doctoral degrees from the outside of the university. These pre-examiners must be noted experts of the field. Their acceptance of the work is necessary for the permission to defend the work. During the pre-examination process, the student may receive comments on the work and if necessary, requirements to modify it.[19] After the pre-examiners approve, the doctoral candidate applies the faculty for the permission to print the thesis. Simultaneously with the printing permission, the faculty names the opponent for the thesis defence, who must also be an outside expert of the field, with at least a doctoral degree. In all Finnish universities, an archaic tradition requires that the printed dissertation must hang on a chord by a public university noticeboard for at least ten days after the printing permission has been given in order for the defence of the dissertation to be possible.[20]

The doctoral dissertation takes place in public, usually in a university auditorium, with the opponent and the candidate conducting a very formal debate, usually wearing white tie, under the supervision of the thesis supervisor. It is customary for the family, friends, colleagues and the members of the research community to attend the defence proceedings. After a formal entrance, the candidate begins the proceeding by a circa 20-minute popular lecture (lectio praecursoria), which is meant to introduce the laymen present to the topic of the thesis. After this, the opponent gives a short talk on the topic of the defence, after which the pair critically discusses the dissertation. The proceedings take two, maybe three hours. At the end of the proceeding, the opponent presents his final statement on the work, and reveals whether he/she will recommend that the faculty accept it. After the opponent has finished, any member of the public has an opportunity to raise questions on the dissertation, although such opponents extraordinary are rare. Immediately after the defence, the supervisor, the opponent and the passed candidate drink coffee with the public. Usually, the attendees of the defence are handed out the printed dissertation and leave with it.[21] In the evening, the passed candidate is obligated to host a dinner (Finnish: karonkka) in the honour of the opponent. Usually, the candidate invites his family and colleagues and collaborators.[22]


In France, the doctorate (doctorat) is always a research-only degree. It is a national degree and its requirements are fixed by an official text of the minister of higher education and research. Except for a very small number of private institutions, only public institutions of higher education and research can award the doctorate. It can be awarded in any field of study. The master's degree in research (Master Recherche) or the former diplôme d'études approfondies (DEA) is a prerequisite for pursuing a doctoral program. The official normal duration of the doctoral work is three years. The redaction of a comprehensive thesis constitutes the bulk of the doctorate's work. While the length of the thesis varies according to the discipline, it is rarely less than 300 pages, and often substantially more (unlike in the US for example). There are ~15000 new matriculations for the doctoral program every year and ~10000 doctorates awarded[23].

Doctoral candidates can apply for a three-year fellowship, the most well known being the allocation de recherche du ministère de l'enseignement supérieur et de la recherche (4000 granted every years, gross salary of 18,369 euros in February 2007).

During the preparation of the doctorate, the candidate has had, since 2002, to follow a limited number of courses, but there is no written examination for the doctorate. The candidate has to write an extensive thesis which is read by two external reviewers designated by the head of the institution. According to the reports of the reviewer, the head of the institution decides whether the candidate can defend his thesis or not. The members of the jury are designated by the head of the institution and must be composed of external and internal academics. The supervisor of the candidate is generally member of the jury, as well as the reviewers of the thesis. The maximum number of members in the jury is 8. The defense lasts generally 45 minutes in scientific fields and are followed by 1h30 - 2h30 of questions from the jury. Defense and questions are public. At the end of the series of questions, the jury deliberates in private for 20-30 min and comes back to declare the candidate admitted or "postponed". "Postponement" is very rare. The admission of the candidate is generally followed by a distinction: "honourable", which is not highly considered, "very honourable", which is the usual distinction, and "very honourable with the congratulation of the jury" (Très honorable avec félicitations). Because there exist no national criteria for the award of this last distinction, many institutions have decided not to award it. New regulations concerning this distinction were set in 2006.

Confusingly the title of doctor (docteur) is used only by the medical and pharmaceutical practitioners who hold not a doctorate but a doctor's state diploma (diplôme d'État de docteur), which is a first-degree and professional doctorate obtained after at least 9 years of studies. As they do not pursue research studies, they are not awarded a doctorate.

Before 1984 three research doctorates existed : the state doctorate (doctorat d'État, the old doctorate introduced in 1808), the third cycle doctorate (doctorat de troisième cycle), created in 1954 and shorter that the state doctorate, and the diploma of doctor-engineer (diplôme de docteur-ingénieur), created in 1923, for technical research. Since 1984, there is only one type of doctoral degree, simply called "doctorate" (Doctorat). A special diploma has been created called the "habilitation to supervise research" (habilitation à diriger des recherches), which is a professional qualification to supervise doctoral work. (This diploma is similar in spirit to the older state doctorate, and the requirements for obtaining it are similar to those necessary to obtain tenure in other systems.) Before only professors or senior full researchers of similar rank were normally authorized to supervise a doctoral candidate's work[24].


A research doctorate usually takes three to five years to complete. In Germany, most doctorates are awarded with specific designations for the field of research instead of a general "PhD" for all fields. The degree is written in front of the first name for addresses (within texts, the abbreviation "Dr." is common) and accompanies the person's name (unlike in German-speaking Switzerland, where some doctoral programs issue a PhD as well [25]).

Upon the completion of the habilitation paper (Habilitationsschrift) a senior doctorate (habil.) is awarded. This senior doctorate is known as the Habilitation. It is not a degree, but an additional qualification. It authorizes the owner to teach at (German) universities ("facultas docendi"), plus qualifies the holder of the "habil." to teach a certain subject ("venia legendi"). This or an equivalent professional experience is - traditionally - the necessary prerequisite for a position of Privatdozent and Professor. Now, with the Bachelor/Master model and the Juniorprofessoren to be introduced, this has already changed partially.


In India doctorate level degrees are offered by the universities or institutions of national level importance deemed to be universities. Entry requirements for doctorate degrees by most of the universities include good academic background at masters level(post graduate degree). Some universities also consider undergraduate degrees in professional areas such as engineering, medicine or law for entrance to doctorate level degrees. Entrance examinations are held for almost all the universities for admission to doctoral level degrees. The duration of the coursework and thesis for award of the degree is about 5 years. The most commonly awarded doctoral level degree is Ph.D. There are some other doctoral level degrees such as DBA ( Doctorate of Business Administration), LLD (Doctorate in Laws) and D.Sc (Doctorate in Science). Some of the institutions of the national level importance such as Indian Institute of Management[26] call their doctoral level programmes as fellow programme. Recently Pharmacy Council of India has permitted few colleges for Pharm D course (Doctorate in Pharmacy).

The Netherlands

The traditional academic system of The Netherlands provides four basic academic diplomas and degrees: propaedeuse, candidate, doctorandus (drs.) and doctor (dr.). After successful completion of the first year of University, the student is awarded the propaedeutic diploma (not a degree). The candidate degree, which was all but abolished by 1989, used to be attained after three years of academic study, after which the student was allowed to begin work on his doctorandus' thesis. The successful completion of this thesis allows one to use the doctorandus title, attainment of which means one's initial studies are finished. In addition to these 'general' degrees, a number of specific titles for certain subjects are available, each of which is equivalent to the doctorandus degree: for law: meester ('master') (mr.), and for engineering: ingenieur ('engineer')(ir.).In the last few years, the Dutch have incorporated the Anglo-Saxon system of academic degrees into their own. The old candidate's degree has been revived as bachelor's degree, the doctorandus' by the master's degree.

Those who choose to can enroll in a doctorate system after achieving a masters degree (or equivalent) recognised by the Dutch government. The most common way is to be hired as promovendus (research assistant with additional courses and supervision), perform extensive research, and write a doctoral dissertation (this course is normally four years, although the average duration to completions is about 5.5 years). It is also possible to conduct research without the research assistant status, for example through a business sponsored research laboratory, or in spare time. Regardless of the way, every thesis has to be supported by a promotor (full university professor who has the role of principal advisor) before it can be submitted. The written thesis is subjected to review by a committee of experts in the relevant academic field; who either approve or do not approve the submitted thesis. Failures at this stage are rare as the supervisors will rather hold back submission (causing delay beyond the 4 years) than allowing a substandard thesis to be submitted. Especially the promoter loses face with her/his colleagues allowing a substandard thesis to be submitted. After approval by the reviewers, the doctor's degree is awarded in a formal, public, defense session (failure durng this session is in theory possible but in practice this never happens).

The doctor title is the highest academic degree one can attain in the Netherlands. There is only one title "doctor", which is equivalent to PhD. There have been some attempts to introduce a professional doctorate, e.g. at the three Universities of Technology in the Netherlands (Eindhoven University of Technology, Technical University Delft, and University of Twente) who award the "Professional Doctorate in Engineering" (PDEng) (which replaced an old post-master degree). However, this study is too short (only two years) to be a real doctorate and does lack the crucial elements to be recognized as such. Although the name and professional course is registered at the Royal Dutch Institute for Engineers (KIvI), the degree is not is acknowledged by the Dutch law as a doctoral degree and is not incorporated in the Dutch Higher Education Act. Holders of the title PDEng are not allowed to entitle it a doctorate and to use the title of "doctor" in the Netherlands and internationally.


Polish system is similar to the one adopted in Germany, with Ph.D. as a first level doctorate and habilitation (habilitacja) as second. The award of the title of doktor (Ph.D.) is usually preceded by 4–5 years of doctoral study (a post-graduate study offered at most universities, with or without an obligation to teach some classes), but can also be obtained without a formal participation in the doctoral studies. In order to become a doktor habilitowany (i.e. being awarded second level doctorate) a candidate has to publish a dissertation, preceded with several years of deep field studies and have recognized research record. While recently, according to Polish law, also candidates without habilitation are theoretically eligible to become professors, in practice it is extremely rare.

To become a doctor one needs to write a dissertation (varying in length), which then must be accepted by a panel of professors during a so-called defence of the dissertation (obrona pracy doktorskiej). There are several other requirements, like passing an exam in a foreign language and subject related to dissertation title.

A prospective doctor must have also published some works (articles, books) beforehand, otherwise s/he would not be allowed to start the doctoral proceedings (przewód doktorski).

The title of a doctor is abbreviated as dr (without a full stop) before the surname of a person, e.g. dr Kowalski.

Doktor is also a common form of addressing a physician, but that does not indicate that the person actually holds a doctoral degree. Doctors of medicine have the abbreviation dr n. med. (doctor of medical studies) before or after their surname.

The title of dr inż. (doctor of engineering) is another specific doctoral titles. Dr n.hum. means doctor of humanities (incl. psychology and sociology), but is rarely used to differentiate from doctors of other fields. All other doctorates have no indications of their field.


  • Doutor (Doctor)

In Portugal and in the African Countries of Portuguese Official Language it is common to use the title "Dr." (supposedly the abbreviation of "Doutor") in reference to people with "Licenciatura" degrees (a "Licenciatura" is something between a Bachelor and a Master Degree in most countries, and currently (Jan 2006) represents 4 or 5 years of graduate studies; except in the following Licenciaturas: Pharmaceutical Sciences, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Dental Medicine, which are six years long and the degree is equivalent to DPharm, DM/MD, etc. After the Bologna Process reform takes place in Portugal, it will have 3 to 4 years and be equivalent to any Bachelor degree in the E.U. countries that adopt this process). Some professionals have, however, different titles. For example: "Eng." (Engenheiro, Engineer), "Arq." (Arquitecto, Architect). The term "Doctor" in Portugal is used for those with a PhD and, instead of the title "Dr.", use "Doutor" (the extended form) or "Professor Doutor" (because, usually, PhD's are university professors).


Many post-Soviet countries, including Russian Federation, have a two-stage research degree obtaining path, generally similar to the doctorate system in Europe. The first stage is named "Kandidat of <...> Sciences" (for instance, Kandidat of Medical Sciences, of Chemical Sciences, of Philological Sciences, and so on). The Kandidat of Sciences degree is usually recognised as an equivalent of Philosophy Doctor (Ph.D.) degree and requires at least (and typically more than) three years of post-graduate research which is finished by defence of a thesis. Additionally, a seeker of the degree has to pass three examinations (a so-called "Kandidate's minimum"): in his/her special field, in a foreign language, and in the history and philosophy of science. After additional certification by the corresponding experts, the Kandidat degree may be recognized internationally as an equivalent of Ph.D. (An unconditional Ph.D. equivalence has been recognized before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the additional certification in many countries has become required after the steep increase flow of post-Soviet emigration.) The second stage, Doktor nauk, "Doctor of <...> Sciences". It requires many years of research experience and writing of a second dissertation. The degrees of Kandidat and Doktor of Sciences are only awarded by the special governmental agency (Higher Attestation Commission); a university or a scientific institute where the thesis was defended can only recommend to award a seeker the sought degree.


Doctor Degrees are regulated by Royal Decree (R.D. 778/1998)[27], Real Decreto (in Spanish). They are granted by the University on behalf of the King, and its Diploma has the force of a public document. The Ministry of Science keeps a National Registry of Theses called TESEO [28]. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INE), less than 5% of M.Sc. degree holders are admitted to Ph.D. programs, and less than 10% of 1st year Ph.D. students are finally granted a Doctor title[29].

All doctoral programs are of research nature. A minimum of 5 years of study are required, divided into 2 stages:

1) A 3-year long period of studies, which concludes with a public dissertation presented to a panel of 3 Professors. If the projects receives approval from the university, he/she will receive a "Diploma de Estudios Avanzados" (part qualified doctor).

2) A 2-year (or longer) period of research. Extensions may be requested for up to 10 years. The student must write his thesis presenting a new discovery or original contribution to Science. If approved by his "thesis director", the study will be presented to a panel of 5 distinguished scholars. Any Doctor attending the public presentations is allowed to challenge the candidate with questions on his research. If approved, he will receive the doctorate. Four marks can be granted (Unsatisfactory, Pass, "Cum laude", and "Summa cum laude"). Those Doctors granted their degree "Summa Cum Laude" are allowed to apply for an "Extraordinary Award".

A Doctor Degree is required in order to apply to a teaching position at the University.

The social standing of Doctors in Spain is evidenced by the fact that only Ph.D. holders, Grandees and Dukes can take seat and cover their heads in the presence of the King[30]. All Doctorate Degree holders are reciprocally recognized as equivalent in Germany and Spain ("Bonn Agreement of November 14 1994")[31].

United Kingdom

All doctorates (except for those awarded honoris causa) granted by British universities are research doctorates in the sense described above, in that their main (and in many cases only) component is the submission of a thesis or portfolio of original research, examined by an expert panel appointed by the university. The Quality Assurance Agency (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not Scotland) states:

Doctorates are awarded to students who have demonstrated:
  1. the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, extend the forefront of the discipline, and merit publication;
  2. a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the forefront of an academic discipline or area of professional practice;
  3. the general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems;
  4. a detailed understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry.

Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland[32], Annex 1

Even the relatively new 'vocational doctorates' such as the EngD, EdD, DSocSci and DClinPsych require the submission of a body of original research of a similar length to a PhD thesis.[4] In the case of the EngD, however, this might be in the form of a portfolio of technical reports on different research projects undertaken by the candidate as opposed to a single, long monographical thesis. Another important difference is that traditional PhD programs are mostly academic-oriented and normally require full-time study at the university, whereas, in an EngD program, the candidate typically works full-time for an industrial sponsor on application-oriented topics of direct interest to the partner company and is jointly supervised by university faculty members and company employees.

The PhD itself is a comparatively recent introduction to the UK, dating from 1917. It was originally introduced in order to provide a similar level of graduate research training as was available in several other countries, notably Germany and the USA. Previously, the only doctorates available were the higher doctorates, awarded in recognition of an illustrious research career.

The universities of Oxford, Sussex and Buckingham denote the degree of Doctor of Philosophy with the postnominal initials DPhil. The University of York also did this for some years, switching to the more conventional PhD quite recently.

Higher doctorates in the United Kingdom

Higher doctorates are awarded in recognition of a substantial body of original research undertaken over the course of many years. Typically the candidate will submit a collection of work which has been previously published in a peer-refereed context and pay an examination fee. The university then assembles a commitee of academics both internal and external who review the work submitted and decide on whether the the candidate deserves the doctorate based on the submission.

Most universities restrict candidacy to graduates or academic staff of several years' standing. The most common doctorates of this type are those in Divinity (DD), Laws (LLD), Civil Law (DCL), Music (DMus or MusD), Letters (DLitt or LittD) and Science (DSc or ScD). Note, however that the doctorate in medicine (MD or DMed) in most British universities is a research doctorate by thesis, roughly equivalent to a PhD, but awarded by a Faculty of Medicine. In the University of London, the consequent gap in higher doctorates is filled with the degree of DSc(Med), which ranks with the LLD, DMus, etc.

Of these, the DD historically ranked highest, theology being the senior faculty in the mediaeval universities. The degree of Doctor of Canon Law was next in the order of precedence, but (except for a brief revival during the reign of Mary Tudor) did not survive the Protestant reformation[33], a consequence of the fact that the teaching of canon law at Cambridge and Oxford was forbidden by Henry VIII, founder of the Church of England. The DMus was, historically, in an anomalous situation, since a candidate was not required to be a member of Convocation (that is, to be a Master of Arts). The DLitt and DSc are relatively recent innovations, dating from the latter part of the 19th century.

Higher doctorates awarded through examination are getting rare; most being awarded honorarily.[citation needed] Academics who do have a substantial portfolio of work tend to be Professors and some see it as unnecessary to go through an examination for a higher doctorate given their position.[citation needed]

Honorary doctorates in the United Kingdom

Most British universities award degrees honoris causa in order to recognise individuals who have made a substantial contribution to a particular field. Usually an appropriate higher doctorate is used in these circumstances, depending on the achievements of the candidate. However, some universities, in order to differentiate between honorary and substantive doctorates, have introduced the degree of Doctor of the University (DUniv) for these purposes, and reserve the higher doctorates for formal academic research.

United States

Research doctorates in the United States

awarded the first doctorate in the U.S.]] 

The most common research doctorate is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). This degree was first awarded in the U.S. at the 1861 Yale University commencement. The University of Pennsylvania followed shortly thereafter in 1870, while Harvard (1872) and Princeton (1879) also followed suit.[34]

The requirements for obtaining Ph.D.s and other research doctorates in the U.S. typically entail successful completion of pertinent classes, passing of a comprehensive examination, and defense of a dissertation.[35]

The mean number of years to completion of doctoral degrees for all fields in the US is seven years.[2] Students are discouraged from taking unnecessarily long to graduate by having their financial support (stipends, research funds, etc.) relinquished and/or by being required to re-take comprehensive exams. Furthermore, doctoral applicants were previously required to have a master's degree, but a few programs will now accept students immediately following their undergraduate studies.[36][37] When so admitted, the student is expected to have mastered the material covered in the masters degree even though the student does not officially hold a masters degree.

Some fields of study have their own research doctorates, including the Doctor of Education, the Doctor of Theology, the Doctor of Juridical Science, among many others. The International Affairs Office of the U.S. Department of Education lists over 20 frequently awarded research doctorate degree titles accepted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as representing degrees equivalent in content and level to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree.[38]

Professional doctorates in the United States

In the United States numerous fields of study have professional doctorates, such as law, medicine, dentistry, optometry, chiropractic, naturopathy, pharmacy, physical therapy, psychology, and many others that usually require such degrees for licensure. Some of these degrees are also termed "first professional degrees," since they are also the first degree in their field.

Professional doctorates were developed in the United States in the 19th century during a movement to improve the training of professionals by raising the requirements for entry and completion of the degree necessary to enter the profession.[39] These first professional degrees were created to help strengthen professional training programs. The first professional doctorate to be offered in the United States was the M.D. in 1807,[40] which was nearly sixty years before the first Ph.D. was awarded in the U.S. in 1861.[41] The Juris Doctor (J.D.) was subsequently established by Harvard University for the same reasons that the M.D. was established.[42] There are also religious-exempt doctorates.


Professional Doctorate

The only professional doctorate in Japan is the Juris Doctor. In Japan the J.D. is known as Homu Hakushi (法務博士) and has replaced the bachelor of law as the first entry law degree.[43] The program generally lasts three years. This curriculum is professionally oriented,[44] but unlike in the United States the program does not provide the education sufficient for a license, as all candidates for a license must attend the Legal Training and Research Institute.[45]

See also


  1. ^ a b Makdisi, George (April-June 1989), "Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West", Journal of the American Oriental Society 109 (2): 175–182 [175–77], doi:10.2307/604423 
  2. ^ a b Research Doctorate Programs
  3. ^ EPSRC: Engineering Doctorates
  4. ^ a b Stuart Powell, Elizabeth Long, Professional Doctorate Awards in the UK, UK Council for Graduate Education (2005)
  5. ^ Elaine Graham, The Professional Doctorate in Practical Theology: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?, International Journal of Practical Theology. 10:2 (2007) 298–311
  6. ^ Paul Chynoweth (2006) 'Professional doctorates in the built environment: how Higher Education is responding to the changing needs of industry and the professions', Proceedings of the Built Environment Education Conference (BEECON 2006), 12-13 September 2006, Bonnington Hotel, London, UK.
  7. ^ University of Berkley. Doctoral, Masters, Bachelors and Associate Degrees Online
  8. ^ Three to Receive Honorary Degrees for Contributions to Science and Technology, and Public Policy
  9. ^ Dear Uncle Ezra - Questions for Thursday, May 15, 2003 - Cornell University
  10. ^ University Regulations: Academic Regulations: Graduate Record 2005-2006
  11. ^ CONEAU
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ CONEAU
  14. ^ Argentine Educational Portal: Quality Assurance
  15. ^ CONEAU
  16. ^ Government decree on university degrees (794/2004). Retrieved 14-1-2008. (Finnish)
  17. ^ Peura, A (2004) Tohtoriksi tulemisen tarina. Kasvatustieteen laitoksen tutkimuksia 219. Page 27. University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-10-4386-4. Retrieved 1-14-2009. (Finnish).
  18. ^ Peura, A (2004) Tohtoriksi tulemisen tarina. Kasvatustieteen laitoksen tutkimuksia 219. Page 108. University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-10-4386-4. Retrieved 1-14-2009. (Finnish).
  19. ^ Peura, A (2004) Tohtoriksi tulemisen tarina. Kasvatustieteen laitoksen tutkimuksia 219. Pages 29 and 125-126. University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-10-4386-4. Retrieved 1-14-2009. (Finnish).
  20. ^ Peura, A (2004) Tohtoriksi tulemisen tarina. Kasvatustieteen laitoksen tutkimuksia 219. Pages 29 and 129. University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-10-4386-4. Retrieved 1-14-2009. (Finnish).
  21. ^ Peura, A (2004) Tohtoriksi tulemisen tarina. Kasvatustieteen laitoksen tutkimuksia 219. Pages 130-160. University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-10-4386-4. Retrieved 1-14-2009. (Finnish).
  22. ^ Peura, A (2004) Tohtoriksi tulemisen tarina. Kasvatustieteen laitoksen tutkimuksia 219. Pages 160-180. University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-10-4386-4. Retrieved 1-14-2009. (Finnish).
  23. ^ Doctorate on Superior Education Ministry web(in French)[1]
  24. ^ The French Education System, H. D. Lewis, Routledge, 1985, ISBN 0709916833, 9780709916833
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ (in Spanish)
  28. ^ Base de Datos TESEO
  29. ^
  30. ^ Raíces de las normas y tradiciones del protocolo y ceremonial universitario actual: las universidades del Antiguo Régimen y los actos de colación. Protocolo y Etiqueta
  31. ^ Boletín Oficial del Estado. Texto del Documento
  32. ^ QAA: The framework for higher education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - January 2001
  33. ^ W N Hargreaves-Mawdsley, A History of Academical Dress in Europe Until the End of the Eighteenth Century, Oxford (1963) pages 103 and 115
  34. ^
  35. ^ Grad Program | Handbook | Ph.D. Requirements
  36. ^ Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management : PhD Admissions
  37. ^ Krannert School of Management - Admissions
  38. ^ Structure of the U.S. Education System:Research Doctorate Degrees
  39. ^ Reed, A. (1921). ‘’Training for the Public Profession of the Law, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Bulletin 15.’’ Boston: Merrymount Press.
  40. ^ Reed, A. (1921). The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery opened in Baltimore, Maryland in 1840, and in 1867, Harvard Dental School became the second dental school affiliated with a university to offer the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). ‘’Training for the Public Profession of the Law, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Bulletin 15.’’ Boston: Merrymount Press, page 162.
  41. ^ Landmarks in Yale’s history
  42. ^ Harno, A. (2004) Legal Education in the United States, New Jersey: Lawbook Exchange, page 50.
  43. ^ The Justice System Reform Council (2001). For a Justice System to Support Japan in the 21st Century.
  44. ^ Yokohama National University Law School.Program Introduction and Dean's Message. Accessed April 7, 2008.
  45. ^ Foote, D. (2005). Justice System Reform in Japan. Annual meeting of the Research Committee of Sociology of Law, Paris. European Network on Law and Society.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



  • enPR: dŏkʹtər-ĭt
  • Hyphenation: doc‧tor‧ate




doctorate (plural doctorates)

  1. The highest degree awarded by a university faculty.

Derived terms

  • post-doctorate


Simple English

A doctorate is a degree earned by passing a doctoral disseration. Usually, it refers to a Ph.D., but it can also be an Doctor of Medicine or an Juris Doctor. Colleges often give honorary doctorates to famous people who speak there.

Simple English Wiktionary has the word meaning for:

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 20, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Doctorate, which are similar to those in the above article.

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