Doctorate is degree of choice for the experienced
The doctor of business administration (DBA) is a graduate programme aimed towards senior executives who have substantial professional and management experience.
Candidates come from a variety of backgrounds, including government, corporations, as well as the education and other sectors. Much of the emphasis is on honing effective analytical and research skills that are invaluable in today's rapidly - and often dramatically - changing business environment.
At the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), which pioneered DBA teaching in Hong Kong 15 years ago, the focus is on developing leadership strategies, explains Dr G Mujtaba Mian, PolyU's DBA deputy programme director.
'The aim of the programme is to hone the strategic leadership skills of corporate managers who are inquisitive and want to continue with their self development in an ever-changing and increasingly complex and globalised business world,' he says.
During the course, experienced executives will be exposed to the latest analytical techniques and cutting-edge business theories. A major part of the programme is the preparation of a thesis, which involves hands-on application of the latest scientific techniques and business theories, adapted to the issues that are of most importance to the candidates' companies.
PolyU's DBA aims to produce 'scholar-leaders', which Mian defines as 'someone who can rise above day-to-day business problems - he has the capacity to identify the broad strategic issues, and is able to scientifically analyse and deal with them.'
Developing keen research and analytical skills enables candidates to define the issues facing them, isolate relevant information, and to systematically analyse various data to find a solution, says Mian.
'With an eye on the big picture, they can better position their companies to deal with the fast pace of changes in a macro-financial and international competitive landscape,' says Mian.
It is an approach that has found favour with graduates. 'Before pursuing the studies, decisions were made mostly based on past experiences,' says Dr Humphrey Leung, group CEO of Solomon Systech and a PolyU DBA graduate.
'The DBA programme has widened my perspective and also strengthened my critical and analytical thinking skills, which are most helpful for making major decisions,' he adds.
Leung says the course has provided him with a broader, cross-discipline perspective that has helped in understanding and evaluating different business situations. 'Secondly, the course enhances our critical, creative and analytical thinking, which is particularly useful for analysing and solving complex business management problems,' he says.
'Research skills enable graduates to tackle difficult details and to differentiate between quality works in real-life workplaces,' concurs Dr Eric Chu, chairman of the PolyU DBA Alumni Association.
'More thoughtful and accurate decisions are supported by different quantitative and qualitative skills developed over the years,' Chu adds.
Another course, the Hong Kong Management Association DBA programme, is offered in a joint undertaking between CASS Europe and the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis (UNS), whose business school is one of the most prestigious in France. It is a practical and research-based doctoral degree programme, with the DBA degree awarded by UNS.
The programme is designed for those with significant professional work experience who are seeking to enhance their practical and theoretical knowledge in an area of management, explains Ronnie Chan, programme manager of the UNS DBA.
Participants are asked to choose a research topic related to their area of responsibility or an area they wish to focus on.
The programme aims to further develop the competencies of practicing managers and business professionals, and to enhance their leadership contributions to their own organisations, as well as to industries and the community, Chan says.
The DBA, which has a global student body, is conducted mainly via e-learning, supplemented by intensive face-to-face seminars, meaning participants study at their own pace.