IN AN unprecedented move the Scottish Office yesterday froze funding

of a research award after the resignation of the key holder.

Professor Penny Prophit resigned in disgrace from the chair of nursing

studies at Edinburgh University after an investigation into claims she

had a PhD which she did not possess.

Last December the Scottish Office awarded her and two research

associates a grant of up to #633,000 to audit nursing practice and

standards throughout the country.

A Scottish Office spokesman said the two associates had quit the

project before the departure of the professor, a Franciscan nun from


''They have been replaced by senior nurses from the NHS in Scotland.

This is a very important project and we have been making efforts since

last month to rescue it. Very little of the allocation has actually been


The project has been taken over by Elizabeth McLean, Lothian's chief

nursing officer; assisted by Evelyn Hastings, chief nursing officer for

Lanarkshire; and Janet Roy, director of nursing services at Ninewells,


She was appointed director of the nursing studies research unit at

Edinburgh in 1983.

Professor Prophit, 53, resigned ''for personal reasons'', a university

spokesman said.

''Quite recently it was put to the university by an independent source

that Penny Prophit was claiming a PhD from the Catholic University of

America which she did not, in fact, possess,'' he said.

''This was investigated by the university and the matter was then

raised with Penny Prophit. Shortly afterwards, last month, she submitted

her resignation for personal reaons.''

In September, Edinburgh geriatrician and novelist Colin Douglas wrote

about bogus academic qualifications from American and European

universities in his column in the British Medical Journal.

Last night he confirmed he had made inquiries in Washington about

Professor Prophit. ''I had concerns about an earlier unproductive 'care

of the elderly' research project. There were things I did not understand

about this major nursing audit award and I checked up on some of the

people involved,'' he said.

Professor Prophit's entry in Who's Who refers to a PhD qualification

from the Catholic University of America and her appointments as a former

Mental Welfare Commissioner for Scotland and consultant to the World

Health Organisation.

She has several qualifications which are not in question: a bachelor

and masters nursing degree and a doctorate in nursing science.

In a news release on her appointment to the UK Central Council for

Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting, she also claimed a PhD in

counselling psychology.