Presidents’ Viewpoint: Patricia Meservey and Barry Maloney

Making the Case for Clinical Doctorates

Massachusetts state universities are urging the Board of Higher Education to support their call for the authority to award professional practice doctorates.

By Presidents Patricia Meservey, Salem State University and Barry Maloney, Worcester State University

Today, Massachusetts’ nine state universities are preparing students to enter professions where employers are demanding greater levels of clinical expertise, and higher levels of learning than ever before. Since our beginnings more than 175 years ago as the first normal schools created to train teachers,  we have successfully adapted to changes in workforce needs, first in education and then in other professional arenas. From bachelor’s-degree-granting comprehensive colleges, which we became post WWII, we next joined the growing number of like institutions nationwide that became state universities, adding master’s level programs, again in response to the need for a highly educated workforce.  Yet our mission keeps us focused upon programs with professional and practical application.

“Our campuses serve a state with a knowledge-based economy, one that needs well-educated practitioners who require, in some fields, a professional practice doctorate.”

Today, our campuses serve a state with a knowledge-based economy, one that needs well-educated practitioners who require, in some fields, a professional practice doctorate, or PPD. We are seeking support from the Board of Higher Education to offer such degrees at our public institutions, building on well-established professional master’s degree programs.

Salem State and Worcester State University seek this degree-granting authority specifically for occupational therapy. Other state universities are seeking them for social work, nursing practice, speech language, audiology, and emergency management.

Doctorates are already offered by state university and college systems in neighboring states, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and New York.  Professional practice doctoral programs are distinct from and independent of doctorates offered by the state’s land-grant institutions, such as the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. We would seek to offer only doctoral level degrees that:

The state universities – and our faculty – put teaching first. By offering PPDs in professions we have long supported via bachelor's and master's-level programs, we can continue to serve workforce needs, providing clinically prepared and well-educated managers and leaders.

Editor’s Note: Following the State University presentation at the May 9th BHE meeting, the University of Massachusetts trustee, Henry Thomas, entered a statement into the official record. It noted, in part: “The University of Massachusetts is opposed to authorizing State Universities to award Clinical and Professional Doctorate Programs, as this effort unnecessarily duplicates our mission as the Commonwealth’s public doctoral research system… Over 1200 students pursue clinical and professional doctorates each year at UMass, meeting essential workforce development needs in the legal and health sciences. The University of Massachusetts welcomes the opportunity to work with the State University sector to collaborate on professional practice doctoral degrees to address future trends and developments as they arise.”