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ACAPT survey results re: Autonomy in determining qualification of core DPT faculty

Jul 18, 2023

On June 26, 2023, ACAPT invited its member representatives to complete a survey in response to two proposed motions coming to the APTA House of Delegates in July, both of which would have an impact on academic physical therapy. Below is the background and results to RC 8-23. RC 22-23 has been removed from the House discussion.

The motion

RC 8-23: ADOPT: Autonomy in Determining Qualification of Core Doctor of Physical Therapy Faculty

That the following be adopted:


The American Physical Therapy Association supports allowing doctor of physical therapy programs autonomy in determining the percentage of their core faculty who must have academic doctoral degrees.

Support statement

What is the expected outcome of this motion? How does it contribute to achieving the Vision? Does it support APTA priorities (as reflected in the current Strategic Plan), and if so, how?

The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) criterion 4K stipulates that at least 50% of core faculty in a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) education program must hold an academic doctorate. This may include a PhD, an EdD, ‘or other doctoral degree that requires advanced work beyond the master's level, including the preparation and defense of a dissertation based on original research, or the planning and execution of an original project demonstrating substantial scholarly achievement.’1 An entry-level DPT degree does not meet this requirement.

The aim of the motion is to create a formal statement indicating that educational institutions and physical therapist education programs should be allowed by CAPTE to determine the appropriate mix of credentialed faculty to meet the expectations of the institution, the goals of the program, and the needs of the students.

CAPTE is currently accepting input on revisions to the Standards and Required Elements for Accreditation of Physical Therapist Education Programs, though no change in the 50% threshold in 4K has been proposed. The majority of input CAPTE receives is understandably from the educational community. A statement by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) House of Delegates (HOD) would provide CAPTE with timely and important feedback from delegates representing all areas of the profession.

By making a statement related to faculty qualifications in DPT education programs, this motion addresses the guiding principles of quality, collaboration, and innovation in the Guiding Principles to Achieve the Vision (HOD P06-19-46-54). It also continues the collaborative efforts to drive excellence in physical therapy education that were formalized when the Educational Leadership Partnership (ELP) was in existence.

ACAPT’s member representatives poll results

75 members responded with:

  • 25% voting to support the motion
  • 41% voting against it
  • 34% abstained & provided comments

In addition, the Board has been conducting virtual townhalls and inviting input on this question. Results of those townhall meetings have had similar for and against percentages.

Supporters of the 50% rule argue that:

  • It is important to have a mix of clinical experts and terminally degreed faculty to provide students with a well-rounded education.
  • They also believe that the 50% rule helps to maintain the rigor of physical therapy programs and ensures that they are producing high-quality clinicians.
  • Additionally, these program faculty worry that elimination of the rule could lead to a decrease in the amount of research being conducted in physical therapy.

Opponents of the 50% rule argue that:

  • It is too rigid and does not allow programs to be flexible in their hiring practices.
  • It disproportionately impacts smaller, rural programs that have a harder time recruiting faculty in general.

There is currently more member support for maintaining some minimum percentage of core faculty with terminal degrees as a required element. The focus of this perspective centers on the goal of maintaining high quality education and evolving clinical practice.

APTA House of Delegates next steps

ACAPT presented the above statement to the APTA House of Delegates (HOD) after RC 8-23 was introduced. After some debate, the delegates approved a motion to postpone the motion indefinitely and it was eliminated from consideration. 

A final decision will be included in the HOD minutes which will be posted around September 29, 2023.

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