Degree programmes of the Western Orthodox University (Commonwealth of Dominica)
This page, which is divided into sections, explains the different programmes available that lead to degrees and related awards of the Western Orthodox University under its incorporation in the Commonwealth of Dominica. Further details of the status of the Western Orthodox University are provided on the recognition and legal status pages of this website. The Western Orthodox University is not government-accredited and is not a United Kingdom, European Union or United States university.
The Western Orthodox University prepares students for degrees at Associate, Bachelor, Master and Doctor levels in most areas, but restricts candidacy in some areas such as laboratory-based science subjects and licensable disciplines to individuals who are already graduates or hold a professional licence/qualification in those areas. The University does not grant degrees in allopathic medicine. Some programmes in alternative medicine and related disciplines may be available to established practitioners who are already professionally licensed by a recognized body and seek a further credential for the purposes of professional and personal development.
The University’s degree certificate is accompanied by a Higher Education Achievement Report that acts in place of a transcript and puts the award into context.
All academic programmes offered by the University involve instruction, which may be provided by distance (for example by email) and assessment of academic work, and the fees for these programmes include the provision of academic guidance. However, the University also awards some degrees other than by assessment and these are discussed in the final section on this page.
The University’s degree programmes are designed to be fully external: that is to say no formal classroom attendance is required. However, in some cases, programmes leading to a credential awarded by the University may be offered by one of the University’s affiliated campuses and these may differ in some details from those described below.
The degrees awarded by the University under its incorporation in the Commonwealth of Dominica include the following:
- Associate of Arts, Associate of Science
- Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Letters, Bachelor of Philosophy, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Divinity, Bachelor of Theology for Ministry
- Master of Studies, Master of Science, Master of Business Administration, Master of Letters, Master of Education, Master of Philosophy, Master of Music, Master of Divinity, Master of Theology
- Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Business Administration, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Professional Studies, Doctor of Music, Doctor of Theology, Doctor of Ministry. A number of these awards are classified as professional doctorates. For more information on this concept see this monograph.
- Doctor of Letters, Doctor of Arts, Doctor of Science, Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Laws
Degrees awarded other than by assessment:
- Master of Arts, Doctor of the University, Degrees awarded honoris causa (see below).
There are no formal entrance criteria for the Associate’s Degree. For the bachelor’s degree, candidates should possess a minimum of three years of postsecondary professional experience and have graduated high school or its equivalent. For the master’s degree, candidates should hold a bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification, whether awarded by the University or another institution. Candidates for doctoral programmes should hold at least a bachelor’s degree and will usually also have an earned master’s degree and/or significant high-level professional experience related to the field they intend to research.
All applications are assessed on an individual basis. There are significant exemptions available for previous documented formal study as well as for APEL (see below).
Individualized, mentored study
The University is designed to meet the needs of mature, working adults for whom a fully residential educational experience is not possible or desirable. The use of mentored learning in a one-to-one setting is the preserve of the oldest and most exclusive universities today, and is at the heart of the University’s learning provision. The University approaches this traditional way to learn in a flexible and student-centered manner so as to maximize the opportunities available. These opportunities include the possibility of fully non-residential routes to the PhD and other doctoral awards.
Most students at the University meet in-person with their mentors, but when this is not possible, telephone and email or Skype communication can substitute. However, the University does not offer any courses online or in a full distance learning environment. During mentored sessions, usually weekly, the mentor will assess and discuss the student’s reading and written work, direct their further reading, suggest any outside resources that might be beneficially brought into the programme, and generally guide the student so that they understand and can meet the University’s requirements for their chosen programme. Although most mentoring is one-to-one, in some cases a number of the University’s mentors also undertake part of their work in small tutorial groups where possible. On campus, a full class programme may be in place that can be supplemented by mentoring.
Effectively, students can design their own programme subject to University approval. This is a highly rewarding but undeniably demanding way to study and is suitable only for students with considerable motivation and organizational skills. Although the mentor system offers plenty of support and guidance, it is not in any sense a “spoon-feeding” experience and prospective students should satisfy themselves before enrolling that they are prepared for the challenges involved.
The learning contract
The University’s programme structure is deliberately flexible so as to allow the student a high degree of autonomy and the means to create a largely bespoke programme structured around specific interests and needs. The heart of the student’s programme at the University is the learning contract. When making application, the student will be asked to outline clearly the route that they intend to take towards the goal of their chosen degree; the studies they intend to undertake and the means by which they intend to demonstrate their learning. This may be a programme of systematic enquiry or research leading to the completion of a dissertation, or a series of essays and extended written assignments that explore a number of related areas within a given field or in an interdisciplinary way (interdisciplinary study being a particular strength of the University). In some cases, such as programmes in applied music or other practical areas, the assessment may take a form other than written work.
It is usual for the learning contract to take some time to prepare and this is often the subject of lengthy discussion between the student, the mentor and the University, which must approve all learning contracts as well as any changes to a learning contract that may become necessary while the student is mid-course. The question of the availability of learning resources is often of importance, and the student is encouraged to explore widely to find the best materials to bring to their studies. The University can supply students with letters of credence to allow them to access reference collections where needed, and mentors are also a key resource in this aspect.
Although mentors are usually able to guide students as to what amount and level of work is necessary to reach a given set of assessment criteria to earn the degree that is sought, the University has model frameworks available in the most common subjects which can be used as templates for programme structure where needed. It is also possible to map a programme to frameworks provided by other educational institutions and thus effectively for the student to “challenge” each component of the framework by demonstrating equivalent learning in their own chosen way.
Beginning and ending a course
There are no formal start or end dates and it is possible to begin a programme at any time of the year. There is a recurring liability for fees each calendar year on the anniversary of enrolment, so students are advised to plan their workload to reflect this. As a very general guideline, many bachelor’s and master’s programmes can be completed within eighteen months to two years of part-time study, while a doctorate can be expected to occupy a minimum of three years of part-time study. Obviously if students have more time to devote to their studies, or have significant prior credit that reduces the programme requirements, then they may complete in a shorter time.
The assessment of all programmes is effectively continuous, and the student graduates at any time of the year when they are notified by the Western Orthodox Academy that the Western Orthodox University is satisfied that they have completed the requirements of their programme to at least a passing level and have paid all fees due. The degree diploma and other graduation documents are sent by postal mail. However, the University does hold regular convocation ceremonies at which graduates may opt to receive their degrees formally from the officers of the University wearing the traditional academic dress of cap and gown. Recent ceremonies have been held in Togo, Australia and the United Kingdom. Attendance at a graduation ceremony is not included in the University’s programme fees and will be subject to additional costs which are to be borne by the graduate.
Mode of assessment
It is not usual for a course to include formal examinations and thus the assessment of written work or other scholarly material is the sole basis for the award. However, it is common for a course module to end with a summative exercise that seeks to draw together the knowledge and skills previously gained. At the doctoral level there is no requirement for an oral defense of the dissertation.
Candidates who have a disability that makes it difficult for them to produce written work may submit assignments in an agreed audio format. They may also dictate a dissertation to a typist or use voice-to-type software.
External learning resources and prior learning (APL, APEL)
It is possible to bring multiple external resources into the programme for credit. The most obvious way that this is done is through the assessment of prior certificated learning (APL) and the assessment of prior experiential learning (APEL) which considers previous formal and informal learning respectively that has a bearing on the degree that is desired. The University has many years of experience in this area, including among its Fellows several experts who have been professionally engaged in experiential assessment as part of national immigration processes. In addition, it is possible to take courses at other providers and accumulate these for credit towards a University award. One popular option is the “top-up award” where an existing professional certificate or diploma can be converted to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree by the completion of a dissertation or professional project. Another situation sometimes encountered is the “all but dissertation” or ABD PhD candidate who has already completed the coursework component of their degree and now needs to undertake the dissertation at another institution in order to graduate.
It is also possible for external mentors to be brought into the University’s programme, subject to University approval in each case. This enables a greater breadth of expertise to be drawn upon and even the assessment of subjects in which the University does not currently appoint mentors. The external mentors, usually serving or emeritus faculty at another institution, are contracted by the student to assess the work concerned and the University then convenes a moderation panel to consider the outcome. At all points the student will have a University mentor appointed for support and academic liaison.
Programmes by Dissertation
The dissertation or thesis option allows for a master’s or doctoral degree to be completed on the sole basis of the submission of a piece of substantial written work that incorporates the results of an independent investigation of a given topic. At master’s level, this work may be either original or the result of a systematic and critical exposition of existing knowledge. At doctoral level, this work must show significant originality. Full guidance is given as to the expected format and structure of the dissertation.
The degrees of Bachelor or Master of Letters (Arts subjects), Bachelor or Master of Philosophy (Philosophy and Science subjects) and Doctor of Philosophy (in all subjects), are generally earned entirely by dissertation. The University also offers the option of a conversion bachelor’s degree by dissertation for those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a different field.
A further option for the highly experienced candidate, or those who are transferring in significant prior learning credit, is to use APEL as a means to reduce the dissertation requirement.
Doctorates by Published Work
The published work route to a doctorate is currently offered by many universities, but is generally restricted to university staff, or in some cases to existing alumni. At the University this route is open to all candidates meeting the academic prerequisites, and can include subject areas that are not otherwise offered by the University. The award will be available to those who have published substantial work representing an original and significant contribution to their discipline, usually in the form of books and scholarly articles that have been made available to the public in a recognized format. Interdisciplinary work can also be considered. Submission is made via a portfolio of this work together with an accompanying paper that places the work in its context.
The Doctor of Philosophy degree is available via this route, as is the Doctor of Music in Composition. Also available are the higher doctorates of Doctor of Letters, Doctor of Science, Doctor of Laws and Doctor of Divinity. The higher doctorate is an earned rather than an honorary award and represents a standard significantly beyond the PhD.
Programmes offered by specific Research Centres of the University
The Research Centres of the University offer a number of programmes which, while maintaining the University’s overall principle of flexibility, have specific structured requirements. These include the degrees of Master and Doctor of Music in Composition or Performance offered through the Henderson Memorial School of Music and the degrees of Bachelor, Master and Doctor of Business Administration offered through OXCEL as well as OXCEL’s own programme of leadership certifications. The University also offers programmes for practitioners in the interdisciplinary field of Narrative Studies. There are certificate programmes available in the areas of Autism and Addiction Studies.
>>Henderson Memorial School of Music
>>OXCEL – The Oxford Centre for Leadership
>>Programmes in Narrative Studies
>>Certificate in Relational/Existential Approach to Autism
>>Certificate in Addiction Recovery Studies
Programmes in Theology
The University’s degree programmes in the area of Theology are offered through Holy Apostles Glastonbury Biblical Seminary and are intended primarily for seminarians and members of the Apostolic Episcopal Church, although members of the public are also able to participate. The degree of Doctor of Ministry is offered to serving clergy of any Christian denomination.
In addition to these degree programmes, there are also non-degree diploma programmes in theology offered by the Western Orthodox Academy in the United Kingdom.
Programmes in Business
The University offers two routes to graduate degrees in Business Administration; one via OXCEL – The Oxford Centre for Leadership (see above) and the other through a structured mentored programme described at the links below.
Degrees awarded other than by assessment
Since its inception, the University has not only awarded degrees following assessment of work but has also bestowed degrees honoris causa or jure dignitatis, either on an honorary basis or as a result of the senior status of the graduate. The University can also incorporate a degree awarded by another university by awarding its own degree ad eundem, which is usually a privilege reserved for graduates or Fellows.
Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals of achievement who have established themselves as leaders in their field and to persons who have rendered particular assistance to the University. Those who have the ability to render advisory service to the University may be considered for the award of Fellow of the University (F.W.O.U.)
At the University, the degree of Master of Arts is a degree that signifies the senior status of an existing graduate. A graduate of good character and achievement holding any bachelor’s degree of the University may, after a period of three years have elapsed, petition the University for the grant of the degree of Master of Arts jure dignitatis for which a nominal fee is payable. The degree of Master of Arts may also be conferred upon Fellows or other persons with a connexion with the University jure dignitatis. It is not conferred on completion of an examined course of study.