Athabasca University has approved in principle a plan to launch its first Doctoral program.
On September 17, with a nod from AU’s Academic Council, the proposed Doctor of Distance Education (DDE) program passed Step 1 of the approval process, paving the way for further development of the plan.
According to Dr. Bob Spencer, director of AU’s Centre for Distance Education, the move bodes well for the realization of the DDE. If all goes according to schedule, the program should be ready for its first intake of students by fall of 2005. However, Spencer warns there is still a long way to go and much work to be done.
“There are many steps left,” Spencer said. “We need to develop a strategic plan and a business plan to bring forward to the University that would outline exactly how this program is going to be financed and supported. Then there are more levels of approval.”
Spencer notes that the implementation of the DDE would advance Athabasca University’s reputation as a world leader in research and distance education. As well, he added, the program would cater to “an important niche,” and meet an increasing demand.
“Lots of MDE students are graduating and would like to go on and get a doctorate,” he explained. “There are beginning to be more options, but not many. Just in the last week we had a number of students call back and say, “What’s going on with the doctoral program?”
He recalls a recent letter he wrote, recommending one of his brightest and most published former students to the PhD program at Deakin. He would have rather been writing a letter recommending her for acceptance at AU.
“I know of at least somewhere between a half-dozen and a dozen of our grads have been admitted to PhD programs in Canada as well as abroad,” Spencer said. “Many have said they would prefer to get a doctorate degree from us.
“I think this is the next natural step in the evolution of the program offering of the University,” he added.