It has become an accepted fact that professionals looking to advance their careers in today's business environment require an MBA qualification. However, this environment is constantly changing as fresh markets open, new operating practices emerge and regulatory regimes evolve, and it has made the shelf life of knowledge increasingly short. So how do today's busy professionals stay abreast of this in order to meet the challenges of the business world? This is a question that the University of Newcastle hopes to answer with its Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programme. 'Most people who enrol for the DBA programme are looking to advance in their business careers - sometimes with their current firms, sometimes with new employers,' said Stephen Nicholas, vice-chancellor of the faculty of business and law at the Australian university. 'Some of our students undertake the DBA as a means of career change by developing the skills to be a consultant or launch their own business, for example.' The goal of the programme is essentially to equip managers with the latest business tools and analytical techniques, providing a deeper knowledge of their chosen area of study - a level of analysis not achievable in the broader MBA curriculum. According to Professor Nicholas, the DBA programme does so through a four-step process. The first step is to build on students' core knowledge of business, enabling them to gain knowledge and expertise in new aspects. Secondly, it equips them with research skills, enabling them to evaluate the research of others and to translate it quickly into practical ways that facilitate business growth. Thirdly, it enables students, through their applied project dissertation, to acquire new knowledge in a chosen area of business relevant to their firm or their own career objectives. Finally, it gives students the skills and standing to contribute to the development of the global economy through their professional practice. 'The DBA allows students to update their knowledge and skills and to conduct research on a topic of their own choice that often corresponds to issues they are facing at work,' Professor Nicholas said. 'Also, the DBA signals to employers that a person is serious about their career and is highly motivated. Companies would provide opportunities that may otherwise not be available.' One of the main requirements for entering the programme is a recognised master's degree, meaning most MBA graduates would qualify immediately. To help prospective DBA students who are interested in getting their doctorate - but do not have an MBA - the university has also launched a Master of Business (MBus) programme. The MBus programme consists of eight part-time management courses over 14 months and is designed to give students a grounding in the fundamentals of accounting, finance, organisational behaviour, economics, marketing and management in addition to practical skills such as teamwork, writing, presentation and time management. 'The programme aims to train students in contemporary principles and standards of critical reasoning and professional management to enable them to evaluate for themselves the reliability, validity and efficacy of the techniques and principles of business and organisational management,' the professor said. 'It provides them with the skills to operate effectively in and contribute to the development of their own business and social communities.' The programme has proved incredibly popular, according to the university, and has received significant attention from students who are looking for a master's qualification. One of the core strengths of the programmes stems from the university's approach to learning, which uses a problem-based methodology, combining the experiential and contextual approach to teaching and learning. This is coupled with a strong focus on teamwork to achieve the best results. 'It is through group interaction that students' personal skills are most challenged. Skills such as leadership, cultural sensitivity, presentation and debating are demanded in today's workplace. This, in conjunction with theory and problem-based learning, achieves maximum learning outcomes,' Professor Nicholas said. In addition, the university places a strong focus on the global nature of modern business. 'The Newcastle Business School programmes are designed to align with the challenges of a rapidly changing business landscape. There is a greater emphasis on internationalisation of the curriculum.' Ultimately, he said, there are many important skills that managers need, such as critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, participative decision making, business administration, cross-cultural management techniques. He firmly believes that Newcastle's DBA and MBus are an effective means by which managers can equip themselves with these skills. The goal of both the DBA and MBus programmes, he said, is to increase the competencies of practising managers and business professionals and in addition to better equip them with the capability to make a leadership contribution to their own organisations, wider industries and communities. Newcastle's programmes are offered through the Hong Kong Management Association for local professionals.