CityU’s Doctor of Business Administration rewards hard work with success and enjoyment
The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) offered by the College of Business at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) is defined by an emphasis on quality research and academic rigour. But it’s also designed to provide students with one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences they have ever undertaken. The CityU course is recognised as one of the highest-ranked DBA programmes in the world.
“The first thing students learn about our DBA programme is that it is not easy,” says programme director Professor Muammer Ozer. But he adds that satisfaction comes from an intellectual approach to research that addresses real business issues. Ozer says students have the satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes from gaining new knowledge and fresh perspectives that can be shared with society. They also benefit from the experience of sharing a journey of discovery with fellow senior-level business executives and CityU faculty members.
An inclusive classroom dynamic results in new friendships, and these can turn into a unique networking platform, Ozer adds. “Our students get to know each other, and they learn that everybody in different industries faces similar business challenges,” notes Ozer. Exchanging knowledge and experiences acts as a social lubricant for networking opportunities, he says. Participants are provided with multiple opportunities to interact with students from different years, including DBA alumni, throughout the programme.
The DBA is aimed at applicants with over 10 years of senior management experience, and there is an emphasis on attracting a diverse mix of students. This is achieved by recruiting experienced executives from different countries and industries, as well as from NGOs. Ozer stresses that the DBA programme aims to provide quality education, and does not try to attract a large number of applicants. Candidates with different backgrounds are selected to maximize cross-learning experiences.
“We are honoured to work with a diverse group of students who are also successful business leaders,” says Ozer. “They are passionate about solving complex business issues that have implications that go well beyond the boundaries of their organisations.” The business school is proud of its world-renowned professors, who have extensive global expertise as well as an in-depth knowledge of China.
Students learn advanced research techniques and how to write academic papers. The culmination of the DBA is a 50,000-word thesis, which has to be defended before a panel of academics and industry experts. To help students strengthen their research work, the programme uses a spiral learning approach, which involves revisiting and fine-tuning research work to achieve high-quality results. Students also have access to the University’s library, and they are provided with statistical support. To accommodate the schedules of busy executives, the taught components of the programme take place at weekends.
Participants are assigned an individual mentor to advise on suggested research choices, something which demonstrates the continuous support students receive. Mentors are all senior faculty members with expert knowledge and understanding of the latest business practices and specific areas of business. Typically, a research topic will relate to a challenge faced by a student’s own company or industry, although ways that benefits can be expanded to a wider community are also considered. “Equipped with such skills, students will know how to address pressing business problems, and make societal contributions in areas of change, innovation, international business, and any other business matter,” notes Ozer.
Global business is changing, and Ozer says the types of topics that students want to study are evolving to follow suit. For example, DBA students are choosing research topics related to the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), fintech, big data, and data security. They are also opting to produce research on strategic topics such as leadership, innovation and global expansion. “We encourage students to think about the broader impact of their research by considering multiple areas where their research can be used,” says Ozer.
Dr Ridha Wirakusumah, who graduated in 2017, describes his CityU DBA study experience as “the right balance between rigour and relevance”. Conducting high-level research has helped him to become better at presenting ideas in a clear and succinct manner, he says. “I have also become more open to different ways of solving problems by looking at challenges from different viewpoints,” notes Wirakusumah, the president and CEO of an Indonesian bank.
Citing various highlights of the programme, Wirakusumah says he valued the support provided by the DBA faculty, along with access to the University’s library and support facilities. “The faculty is caring and progressive, and always willing to help and be there for you,” Wirakusumah says, noting he also appreciated the way that classroom time was scheduled at weekends instead of evenings. Wirakusumah adds that he didn't expect to make so many meaningful friendships with mentors, professors and his fellow cohort.
Wirakusumah was interested to find out why leading private equity firms constantly deliver superior performances to their portfolio companies. His research examined the issue from a leadership and management perspective, with a particular emphasis on the operational execution and financial performance of private-equity owned banks in Indonesia. Wirakusumah believes his research can help others to better understand how private equity companies run their portfolio companies, and help regulators and banking practitioners look beyond the numbers when analysing private equity practitioners from an organisational perspective.
"My research expanded and deepened my understanding of banks, and gave me more than just a quantitative perspective,” says Wirakusumah. “I realised it was important to look through a qualitative lens, too. The strong link between a qualitative and a quantitative perspective proved to be crucial in the context of banking.” It was a wholly satisfying experience, he adds: “I didn’t expect that I would be able to produce a research paper that could potentially add knowledge and perspective to a subject I personally found interesting,” says Wirakusumah.