PhD, to be or not to be

PhD, to be or not to be

PhD, to be or not to be

By Hassan Bouzidi*

September 3, 2016

When Dr Wahbi got his doctorat from a University in France, little did he know that the degree he has just earned would one day be the object of contention.

As he was about to pack his bags and head back to Morocco, he heard rumors about academic equivalences and wanted to make sure that his degree would in fact count as a doctorat d’état (the equivalent of the PhD).  When he called home, he was told that the Ministry of Higher Education did in fact not recognize the French doctorate as a PhD.

So he decided to try his luck across the channel and applied to London School of Economics to do a PhD.  At LSE, he was told that he could not do a PhD, for the simple reason that his French doctorat already counted as a PhD.  He was told he could do a post-doctoral instead, which he did. On completion of his post-doctoral he decided it was time to head back home.  On the application form he handed in at the local university in Morocco, Dr Wahbi indicated that he was a Doctor of Philosophy and that he spent three years as a post-doc at London University.  He also specified that he earned his doctorate from the Sorbonne, a respectable French University.  He was asked to provide a ‘degree-evaluation certificate’ which he needed to get from the Ministry of Higher Education.

At the Bureau d’Equivalences in the capital Rabat, the official he spoke to informed him that his was in fact not a PhD but a “mere” French doctorat.  When Dr Wahbi tried to explain that the British could not have gotten it wrong for recognizing his French degree as a PhD, the official then opened his office desk drawer and produced a document.  He put it down on his desk, and run his pencil down the list of universities whose degree certificates would be recognized as a PhD.  Dr Wahbi’s was not on the list.

Unlike the French doctorat, its Belgian counterpart is recognized as a PhD and its holder is systematically given the équivalence with a Moroccan doctorat d’état.  For this reason, more and more Moroccan nationals studying in France and who intend to go back home after the completion of their studies prefer to enroll in a neighboring country, at least at the level of the PhD.

The government is not giving any clear justification for its decision to recognize some doctorates as PhDs but not others.  Some in the opposition argue that it is due to the financial burden to be shouldered by the government were it to recognize the French doctorat as a PhD. A huge number of holders of the French degree are teaching at Moroccan universities and to recognize their degrees as PhDs would also mean that their salaries would be increased substantially.

Some holders of the “anglo-saxon” PhDs say that the quality of the French “francophone” doctorat leaves a lot to be desired and that to recognize them as PhDs would mean that universities would be filled with ‘false doctors’.  Holders of the French doctorate say this is sheer ‘academic discrimination’ and argue that they have spent as many years on their doctorates as would holders of the English or American PhDs. They claim that their French doctorat should be given the équivalence and be recognized as a PhD.  A Syndicat des Enseignants Chercheurs Porteurs d’un Doctorat Français has been created to allow holders of the French doctorat to voice their grievances.

This year, the University Teachers’ Union leadership have signed a deal with the government.  Holders of the French doctorate did not get full recognition as PhDs.  Instead, four years has been added on to their seniority.  This would mean that, in the Moroccan system, they would get some form of promotion based on their present status.  Some will even be promoted to the position of doctorat d’état or PhD, but only because of their ‘length of service’.  It would also mean that their salaries would be raised accordingly. Many academics have rejected the government’s offer which they said was below their expectations.   They are now collecting signatures for an appeal to the government.

In a campaigning leaflet distributed to academics this week, the spokesman for those who have rejected the government’s offer, spoke at a rally in the capital marking the Union’s decade of struggle and said that, after years of campaigning and sit-ins in front of the parliament building, the Union has let them down. They threaten to extend the period of the strike over perceived intransigence by the government.  They say that they are prepared to go all the way to secure full recognition as PhDs.  How will the government respond? That is the question!

*Academic,  Ibn Zohr University, Agadir 

By the author:

Research: the weak link in the Moroccan Higher Education system
[October 4, 2016]

Tougher Visa Restrictions in EU Present Opportunity for Morocco’s Private Institutions
[January 19, 2007]

Jobless Moroccan  Graduates Threaten Suicide
[ June 30, 2006]

 European Focus for Morocco Reforms
[January 16, 2004]

“Morocco Phases out International Programs’’
[October 18, 2002]

Beards are Back but no Che
[July 20, 2001]

 Moonlight Gets Blackout
[February 2, 2001]

 “The Challenges of Change
[May 5, 2000]

French is no Longer de rigueur
[April 24, 1998]

PhD, to be or not to be/