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New English-language doctorate goes deeper into business
Three higher education institutions in Flanders are collaborating to offer an English-language doctoral programme in business administration – the research equivalent of an MBA, leading to PhD. The programme is open to applications and the first candidates are expected to start studying in October.
The DBA programme has been devised by Vlerick Business School, Ghent University and KU Leuven, with the aim of bringing business practice and academic research closer together.
“There’s a lot of knowledge, data and insight gathered within companies, and by the people who work in them,” says Brecht Cardoen (pictured), academic director of programme and an associate professor at Vlerick and KU Leuven. “We want to capture that knowledge, bring it back to the academic community and build on it.”
Meanwhile, the doctoral candidates will learn research techniques and carry out an original piece of academic work that builds on their business experience and has the potential to have a broader impact.
The programme is aimed at people who have at least 10 years of managerial experience, including a period at executive level. They should also have a master’s degree, although not necessarily an MBA.
Motivations for applying vary, Cardoen says. Some candidates are successful business people whose companies now essentially run themselves. “They have time, and they want the intellectual challenge of doing something new.”
Others want to move into academia, either as visiting lecturers or with faculty positions, for which a doctorate is a prerequisite. “And even if they don’t have academic aspirations, a PhD might be necessary to go further in their career within a company.”
The programme combines online and campus-based modules and seminars. “It’s a blended format, which should allow anyone, from anywhere, to join this programme,” Cardoen says. This flexibility and the emphasis on self-study also means candidates can pursue the DBA alongside their jobs.
It begins with a learning phase to develop the skills necessary for doctoral research and to write a thesis. This stage can take from 18 months to two years and leads to a certificate in management research from Vlerick.
Then comes the research phase, which lasts up to two-and-a-half years. Most topics are up for discussion, as long as there is a management angle. “The field is very broad, ranging from finance through entrepreneurship strategy to operations,” says Cardoen.
Someone who simply wants to develop a new product or service would probably be turned away, but looking at how innovation might lead to a new type of business model could be interesting. Similarly, exploring how a method or a model from one sector works in another might involve worthwhile research.
Once the research is complete, and the dissertation successfully defended, candidates receive a joint PhD degree from the two universities.