For some years an American qualification known as the Doctorate in Ministry (DMin) has gained a foothold in UK. This is a good professionally based qualification but has suffered from a perception that it is significantly below the academic level of a PhD, a perception that I share. Consequently, the DMin was not considered an academically robust direction to explore for Cliff College. It had a further problem in that it normally defined ‘Ministry’ as located within employed and ordained (or equivalent) practice. It was a qualification for the ordained rather than ordained and lay people, consequently it perpetuated a divide within the Christian community that some traditions find problematic, and does not reflect current developments with many denominations where lay people, in an employed or voluntary role, are increasingly senior voices and practitioners.
What was introduced at Cliff College?
The Cliff College PhD in Missiology is a PhD that follows a professional doctorate format and has four outcomes that are all accessed by two Examiners at the completion of the project. In year 1 a 12,000 word literature review is produced, followed by an up to 12,000 word peer review journal article in year 2, with a 12,000 word introduction to a research project in the third year, and then a 40,000 word thesis in years 4-6.
The subject focus is missiology and so students are required to be involved in Christian mission. While many are clergy, mission partners or para church staff, there was quite a bit of debate with the university to ensure that the definition of professional included lay people engaged in Christian mission as a normal part of their faith and not connected to full or part-time employment. The interpretation was professional meant working at a professional standard . Winning this debate was crucial in creating a programme that was inclusive and for the people of God rather than just religious professionals.
How was it introduced?
Without covering the labyrinth process of university approval for a new programme there are two points of note:
- Without support of key people, this programme would not have been approved. At one point a key figure was unsupportive and there was no progress. This was, in part, because a similar type of programme existed within the university. Staff changes made development possible.
- The 2009/10 five year university validation review for Cliff College resulted in an unconditional revalidation. The university panel was somewhat impressed with the College and one of the review outcomes was the appointment by the university of Prof Helen Rees Leahy, Professor of Museology, to work with myself to create the programme. As a validated College it is unusual to be invited to attend a university Faculty committee. I was asked to attend the committee that would decide on approval f the programme, and gratified for the positive outcome whereas an internal professional doctorate was rejected. I have a suspicion I was asked to attend and answer questions before this committee to shame the internal programme leader. I will readily confess that the Cliff PhD in Missiology bears an uncanny resemblance to the university’s PhD in Museology.