Dear Editors of The Varsity,
I write in response to the article “From ThD to PhD: Students question novelty of PhD in theology program, petition university to permit degree change after graduation” (Feb 8, 2016). There are many errors in the article, the main one being that the article confuses the newly introduced conjoint PhD with two previously offered doctoral degrees: the ThD (offered conjointly with UofT) and the PhD (offered through St. Michael’s). The conjoint PhD has a separate handbook, so that there should be no confusion as to admission and degree requirements.
The conjoint PhD in Theological Studies is a new degree program created after broad and transparent consultative processes and approved by TST’s member colleges, the UofT, the Quality Assurance Council, and the province. The conjoint PhD degree has two new required cohort courses, new thesis prospectus and general exam formats, and learning outcomes in pedagogy and interdisciplinarity. In contrast, the ThD was divided into four diverse concentrations, each with its own distinct sets of course and module requirements, and each with four differing comprehensive exam formats.
TST colleges heard student concerns, and recently (again) extensively discussed the issue of ThD and PhD (USMC) student admissions into the conjoint PhD program. The conclusion reached was that the only pathway into any degree program is through established admission processes. The degrees are substantially different, and to affirm otherwise would introduce an inequity into the treatment of students fulfilling the new degree requirements, and set two different standards for fulfilling program and admission requirements for the same degree.
TST’s member colleges remain steadfast in their commitment to seeing students through to graduation in the degree into which they were admitted, whether that be the conjoint ThD, PhD (USMC) or conjoint PhD. The quality of any TST doctoral degree is reflected in the fact that TST is ranked as one of the top suppliers of faculty for tenure and tenure-stream positions in colleges and universities in North America.
Prof. Jaroslav Skira
Director, Graduate Centre for Theological Studies (Toronto School of Theology)