The California State University system announced Wednesday that it wants to begin offering doctoral degrees, a move that could set off a turf war within higher education.
Doctoral programs at Cal State campuses would signal a departure from the state's 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which called for the University of California to offer graduate and professional degrees, and for the Cal State system to focus on undergraduate education.
In higher education circles, the California plan was much admired because it limited the competition among state universities, all of which would otherwise tend to seek expansion of their programs. The plan was issued during a period of great expansion of higher education throughout the nation in which many normal schools and teachers colleges were being transformed to full-fledged universities offering an array of graduate and professional schools.
Over the years, however, the Cal State universities have chafed a bit at their second-tier status. Recently, university officials have contended that they should begin offering doctorates in certain applied and technical fields.
In a statement approved Wednesday, the Cal State Board of Trustees said its "intent is to proceed on professional doctoral education only in limited instances . . . where the public need is great."
The board also ratified the higher admission standards for the freshmen class of 1988. These students--who are 10th-graders now--will have to take 15 college preparatory classes in high school as a prerequisite to admission to the 19-campus Cal State system.
Officials hope that better-prepared students will fare better in the university, but they also say that they will monitor the new requirements to make sure that they do not screen out black and Latino students.
The surfacing of the issue of doctoral programs at Cal State coincides with a review by the state of the 1960 Master Plan. So far, the review commission, established by the Legislature, has focused entirely on the community colleges.
But next year the commission is to consider changes in the state universities, and Cal State has staked out a position in favor of an expanded mission for itself.
"There is a glut of doctorally prepared individuals" in fields such as history and political science, Cal State Chancellor W. Ann Reynolds told the board Wednesday. "There is certainly not a mandate or a need to move into offering doctorates in those areas."
"But for the doctorate in education, there is a need. The demand is clearly there," she said.
The Cal State universities already train most of the state's teachers. If the plan is finally approved by the Legislature, Cal State would expand its programs to include doctoral studies.
The Cal State faculty had favored a broader endorsement of doctoral programs, but the trustees had balked because of what were labeled Wednesday as "practical political considerations."
The plan approved by the board speaks only of education doctorates while leaving open the possibility of moving into other fields.
"We left a little wiggle room," said Trustees Chairman Roy Brophy, "so that if things change, we could move into other areas as needed."
Patrick Callan, director of the California Postsecondary Education Commission, questioned the need for new doctoral programs.
"This is the most significant departure from the master plan that has been proposed by any segment in the past 25 years," he said, "and I think the burden of proof will lie heavily with the state university system."
Sees No 'Enormous Need'
New doctoral programs "are very expensive, and I don't see any evidence of an enormous need that is not being met by existing programs."
Officials of private universities and the University of California also doubt whether any new doctoral programs in education are needed.
"We don't know of a need that's not being filled," said Joyce Justus, an assistant to UC Vice President William Frazer, noting that UC already offers educational doctorates at Berkeley, Riverside, Santa Barbara and UCLA. "We're certainly not turning away applicants, so we don't see a real demand out there."
UC President David Gardner is expected to discuss the issue with the Board of Regents at UCLA today.
William Moore, president of the Assn. of Independent California Colleges and Universities, said education doctorates are offered through private universities such as USC, Claremont Graduate School, Pepperdine and Stanford.
"They seem to be talking about the demand only in terms of public universities," Moore said. "It would also be costly for the state," since doctoral programs are expensive and heavily subsidized.
Moore said his organization has yet to take a position on the Cal State move, but probably will oppose it.
As part of its review, the master plan commission will be asked to approve or reject the Cal State proposal. But because any expansion would add to the state's education cost, the final decision will lie with the Legislature.