The Abracadabra Doctorate

There is nothing wrong with graduating as doctoral degree within 1.5 years. I, myself, personally congratulate General Wiranto for his achievement in finishing his doctoral degree within 1.5 years.

Daniel Kahneman, a nobel winner for economy field in 2002, finished his doctoral study within 3 years from University of California. There are also nobel winners who need more than 3 years in finishing the doctoral degree (for example is Robert Laughlin who won physics noble). The length of study taken to finish a doctoral degree does not associate to the level of intellectual.

Doctoral degree is so far the most prestigious degree of formal education. Those who earn this doctoral title are perceived as “a genius”. Academician aims it for further promotion (being a professor). Non-academician, for instance politician, uses it for self-branding.  Thus, what doctorate really means?, what is abracadrabra doctorate?, and what is the value of doctorate?

The term doctorate comes from the latin docere, meaning “to teach”. The usage and the meaning of doctorate have changed over time. During early church era, a doctorate referred to apostles or church father that taught and interpreted bible. Before 21th century, doctorate referred to senior teacher, then, doctorate is perceived a researcher. Interestingly, nowadays, doctorate seems to refer a politician, especially in Indonesia.

So, how to value a doctoral holder? Some might argue that the thickness of the thesis is one of the measurements, which is actually wrong. John Nash, an economy nobel laureate, wrote his doctoral thesis within 27 pages. We cannot judge a doctorate by its number of pages.

One of easiest ways to value a doctoral holder is by his/her understanding in research philosophy and methodology. If a doctorate cannot explain about epistemology, positivism, quantitative approach, snowball sampling, or endogeneity, it implies his/her limited ability in research; an indication of “abracadabra” doctorate.

The well and widely accepted measurement is number of publications. Doctorate should publish part of his/her thesis in a reputable journal during or at least 2 years after his/her study. A doctorate without any publication is just equal to undergraduate degree. You can always cross-check your relatives or friends who have doctoral degree in google scholar, and check whether they have publication in good international journal. If they do not have any good publication at least 2 years after conferring his/her doctorate, it shows his/her “abracadabra” doctorate.

What is the cost of doctorate? There are two type of cost of doctorate. First, there is doctoral degree with a painful journey where the candidates suffer with the sleep-deprived stupor, fleeting social lives and the tragic realization that advisers don’t really care.  The best illustration about this type of doctoral degree is online comic strips by Jorge Cham called PhD Comic. Another type of cost of being doctorate is money. There are lot of online institutions that ready to confer you a doctoral degree if you can pay around USD40 thousands. Another form of this type of cost is by pursuing doctoral degree in a university that famous with easily conferring a doctorate degree as long as there is money. Note that by doing this (buying online or going to easy-going university) make you an abracadabra doctorate.

The cheesy behaviour of those abracadabra doctorates can be identified in several ways. First, they proudly put their doctoral designation (Dr) in their social media account (twitter or facebook or others). If you have twitter account, just check @R_Thaler or @CassSunstein a reputable professor who does not put “Dr” in front of his name. Compare it to several Indonesian politicians who put “Dr” in front of their twitter account.

Another cheesy behaviour of those abracadabra doctorates is the arrogance. The way of abracadabra doctorates in replying or treating others is usually very rude, and showing the inferior-superior interaction. They also tend to be defensive when others start asking regarding their thesis or publication.

Abracadabra doctorate behaviour also contaminates the honorary doctoral. Honorary doctoral or known also as honoris causa doctor is a doctoral degree awarded by a university because of individual’s contribution to a particular field or philanthropic effort. The example of abracadabra doctorate behaviour in honorary doctorate is that many of honorary doctoral put his/her honorary doctoral in the business/name card. Some put it on the political banner as a campaign, even though he/she achieved it from non-reputable university.  The worst case is several honorary doctoral holders mention his/her doctoral degree when he/she introduce his/herself to others; a pathetic way to get attention.

Abracadabra doctorate is a leak in formal education system. Government should impose a strict policy regarding this matter. For instance, government should review the procedure of university conferring doctoral degree or make policy that imposing a doctoral student has to publish in a good international journal before graduating. Public also can be the social control. For instance, public should monitor the premium quality of a doctorate though its contribution to society and being sceptical to a doctorate by cross-checking the background.    Additionally, academician especially university should maintain, if not increase, the quality of a doctorate. Giving easily a doctoral degree to anyone will harm the reputation of the university.

In time, it is possible that many abracadabra doctorates out there. You cannot simply condemn or underestimate a doctorate who graduated in 1.5years, even though it is most probably the fastest ever doctorate in the world. In fact, you or your relatives or your families can be one of those abracadabra doctorates.

Published by:

Rayenda Brahmana

About research: google scholar: Others: twitter: @raye_brahm instagram: kolom.riset email: kolom.riset(at) raye_brahm(at)

Categories Current Issues3 Comments

3 thoughts on “The Abracadabra Doctorate”

  1. while this is embarrassing and laughable, this is really saddening, so what i’m getting at is that they don’t take educational matter very seriously here, especially doctoral degree, and it’s a big evidence of politician abusing their power here,
    doctoral degree need so much year not because it’s just so damn hard, the need for collaboration with another researcher is the thing that make it so long
    I don’t care how much of a genius is general wiranto is, but if you graduated 1,5 years, either he have a genie that can grant any wishes, or our system is just that bad.

    1. So true, But I don’t want to judge that the uni conferred Wiranto with a Doctorate degree is a cheap uni as I don’t know the system over there. But at least, It downgrades their reputation by giving a doctorate degree with a 1.5 years.

      Indeed, it is both embarrassing and a joke. In Malaysia, they criticized a uni that conferred the first lady with a honaris clausa, and asked the higher education takes action (even though it was an epic failed). In Indonesia, we take it as business as usual. My colleagues here posted it on their FB and made it (Wiranto Case) as a joke. *sigh*

  2. Salam kenal Raye…. nama saya Ersa, salah satu dosen akuntansi UNPAD (tapi bukan alumni seperti Raye). Interesting posting. Especially with the case of Prof. dangdut recently he he he

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