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What is the Actual meaning of the word PhD?


By Isaac Akugizibwe

KIU, Main Campus - A Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D. is the highest academic degree awarded at Kampala International University and elsewhere in the world across the whole breadth of academic fields. The word Ph.D. comes from a Latin Word, Philosophiae doctor. Many of our readers wonder why it is called a Ph.D.

The overall consensus is that much of the global academic tradition comes from ancient Greece, a time when areas of study were not categorized like they are today. Before there were physicists, medical doctors, botanists, mathematicians, astrologists, lawyers, or historians and there were Philosophers. Philosophers would go beyond what can be learned through direct experience and waxed knowledge abstractly for its own sake. They refined the tools that allow us to infer and synthesize more complex knowledge by using facts and data remotely, without direct experience.

Most great minds in ancient Greece were polymaths according to Britannica. They considered political science to be political philosophy and science, natural philosophy. It took longer for mathematics and logic to be separated from philosophy since mathematicians still considered themselves philosophers until recent history. It is upon this that a doctorate of philosophy or Ph.D. is awarded to an individual with broader knowledge in a particular discipline

The Ph.D. was derived from the formalism licentia docendi (license to teach). The license to teach was originally provided by the catholic church which required the applicant to pass a test, take an oath of allegiance, and to pay a fee until 1213 when the right was granted by the Pope to the University of Paris, where it became a universal license to teach.

According to Keith Allan Noble 1994, the first Ph.D. was awarded in medieval Paris around1150. It then developed in Germany as the terminal teachers credential in the 17th century. There were no Ph.Ds. in Germany before 1650 when they gradually started replacing Masters as the highest academic degree. One of the earliest Ph.D. holders in Germany was Erhard Weigel.

The Ph.D. spread across Europe in the 19thand early 20th centuries. It first appeared in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century in the shape of Doctor of science. In Africa, the first Research degrees are said to have been awarded in the 1970s with Uganda’s Makerere university also advancing from a college to a university hence earning the right to start awarding higher degrees.

The current Ph.D. was introduced along the lines of the American and German model. Requirements for the award of this degree vary from country to country or from one university to another though it is usually required for the student to hold a master's or an honors degree of high academic standing.

For KIU, a Ph.D. student is required to submit a project, thesis or dissertation often consisting of a body of original academic research that is in principle worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed context. He or she must defend this work before a panel of expert examiners appointed by the University.