The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

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2005 Index 1 (Jan-Mar)


NZ Herald
March 23 2005

Author's degree the real deal says university

A letter attacking the doctor of literature degree awarded to writer Lynley Hood has been dismissed by the writer and Otago University.

A letter to the editor of the Otago Daily Times, written under a nom de plume, claimed the doctorate was not "earned", and had caused "considerable debate" in the university community.

But Charles Tustin, the university's director of research, higher degrees and scholarships, said the procedure for awarding it was stringent.

Dr Hood, who wrote A City Possessed, about the Christchurch Civic Creche sex abuse case, said she was "outraged" by the suggestion.

Last week, Dr Hood complained to Creative New Zealand about a CD-rom that incorrectly stated her degree was honorary.

The letter to the editor responded to that complaint. The writer, who claimed to have graduated with a doctorate, said Dr Hood was not required to submit her writing to "the academic review of national and international experts in her field".

"Nor was she required to 'defend' her thesis from the rigorous examination of those same experts, to account for discrepancies or idiosyncratic interpretations, or to justify her methodology.

"Those of us who do 'earn' their doctorates are required to do all of these things."

Dr Tustin said there were three types of degrees.

There were honorary degrees, which were not examined, and research-based degrees completed at a university, usually done by younger students under supervision.

The third type was a "higher degree", which Dr Hood received.

Higher degrees were given in science, medicine, literature, music and law.

They were awarded to people who had "quite substantial careers", and made "quite a contribution" in their field, Dr Tustin said.

Applicants had to have studied at the university or been a staff member.

Their work was submitted, and examined by three external examiners, at least one from outside New Zealand.

Another to earn the sort of doctorate Dr Hood received was Dr Gareth Jones, who had made a "tremendous contribution" to anatomy and structural biology.

It was normal to call yourself "doctor" with such a degree, Dr Tustin said.