The purpose of this debate is not to undermine the ASA—obviously, I am raising a very specific case—but I believe that its credibility is at stake, and that there are sensible steps that it can take to improve the transparency of its decisions and the way in which it represents them.
For my constituent Dr Burns-Hill, it is too late. She is left feeling aggrieved, because she had an uncertain basis for action given the opaque authority of the ASA, which required a remedy that did not fit her understanding of established academic and professional conventions. It is very difficult for her to have confidence in the ASA, given its apparent lack of relevant expertise in its dealings with her. I recognise that there is a difference between the academic recognition of a qualification and the implications of the marketing of that qualification to lay prospective consumers, and I recognise that the ASA’s role is to examine those matters. However, my constituent does not recognise the right of the ASA unilaterally to require an individual to adopt a non-standard use of post-nominals, when someone could work in a hospital and use the title “Dr” without the need to qualify it, if they were the holder of a PhD.
I am grateful to the ASA, and in particular to Craig Jones, the communications director, for their engagement with me and my constituents and for their detailed responses to date. They have sought to answer my questions and address the case as far as possible. However, I have raised this matter today on the Floor of the House as my constituent still feels aggrieved and besmirched. I want to give satisfaction to my constituent on this matter and I sincerely hope that the Minister will be able to address the specific points I have raised. I would also be grateful if he would use the authority of his office to facilitate a meeting between the ASA and Innovate, the first set of constituents. I very much look forward to hearing his response.