The Rise Of The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

Mantissa College-JulianHaytham

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Once seen as the poor relation of the PhD programme, DBAs can revitalise the careers of senior staff, says Stephen Hoare.

Having completed his MBA programme in 2009, the National Health Service finance manager Jonas Akuffo decided to aim even higher. He applied to study a DBA programme. Jonas Akkufo who is 45 years old said that “with a background in private and public sector financial management, I decided to write my thesis on the quality of financial reporting by Malaysia's leading banks.” His employer, Ghana Education Trust, had granted him up to three weeks of study leave a year to attend tutorials and research seminars that were conducted in relation to the DBA programme. His employer also paid his annual fees in the subsequent year. Jonas Akkufo who has been promoted twice since starting his MBA programme further said that "the DBA programme has helped me a lot" and that "I am responsible for governance as part of the senior management team and it is great to be able to offer my expertise."

In spite of its career-boosting potential, the DBA programme has only achieved widespread recognition within the last fourteen years. “As a differentiator, having it is a bit like completing an MBA programme twenty six years ago,” says Dr. Syakila, DBA Coordinator and Lecturer at Mantissa College, Malaysia for programme in collaboration with  L’Institut pour I’Expertise (IPE) Management School Paris, France (IPE- France )

The DBA programme was once seen as the poor relation of the PhD programme but accreditation has played a major part in boosting its image. Since 2005, the Association of MBAs (AMBA) has accredited seven DBA programmes from the United Kingdom and European business schools. Mark Stoddard, AMBA accreditation project manager said that "the DBA programme is an exciting and innovative doctoral degree that continues the academic rigour of a traditional PhD programme with the practical application to solve real and complex business problems." 

The DBA Programme in collaboration with L’Institut pour I’Expertise (IPE) Management School Paris, France offered at Mantissa College, Malaysia is attractive to students due to its flexibility. The programme aimed at senior executives in mid to late career. Although the duration and fees are based on a three years programme, in practice most business schools allow doctoral students to complete their DBA programme within five years.

The typical profile of a DBA student differs radically from that of an MBA student. Doctoral students are drawn from a mix of private and public sectors. Dr Syakila DBA Coordinator and Lecturer at Mantissa College, Malaysia for programme in collaboration with  L’Institut pour I’Expertise (IPE) Management School Paris, France (IPE- France ) said that “The career experience of DBA students tends to be around eighteen years whereas for an MBA student it is around eight years. They tend to be very senior people from the private sector who are more likely to be able to afford the fees.”  

At this level of seniority, salary enhancement is less of an issue than self development and the ability to solve complex business problems. One of L’Institut pour I’Expertise (IPE) Management School Paris, France (IPE- France ) alumni is a 56 years old information technology consultant whose thesis was based around a new electronic staff rostering application developed for his client, with a private hospital in Malaysia. Now proved, the software could soon be taken up across the health sector.

The multifields approach adopted by many business schools has direct benefits for DBA students. For example, DBA students at Mantissa College has around sixty DBA students who are researching across all fields. Twelve research in areas including business performance, supply chain and logistics as well as innovative products and services add up to an impressive resource.

Dr. William Chua, director of the DBA programme at Mantissa College located in the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia said that "Our DBA students study anything from human resource management and performance management to business strategy or finance. Links with business are critical to the growing reputation of the DBA programme. Research brings academics closer to current business practice and real life issues. In the past, people regarded a DBA programme or a PhD programme as a piece of research with limited outcomes. We see DBA students developing a more qualitative approach. They start looking for different sources of evidence and evaluating it.”

Tom Ngui who is 56 years old is Principal Consultant and Managing Partner at his own venture, a company based in the Malaysia that owns or has shares in global outdoor and sports brands including Speedo, Berghaus and Lacoste footwear. He began the DBA programme at Mantissa College located in the Kuala Lumpur in 2015 and graduated with a doctorate in the autumn of 2019.

Drawing on information sources such as performance management, controls and governance, Tom Nugi said that the DBA programme has helped him developed an evidence-based approach that has improved the quality of his decision making.

Tom Ngui also said that this is enhancing business performance in a highly volatile industry through better management of product selection and the development of products that fashion-conscious consumers would want to buy as well as that a key purpose of his role is to give confidence in the delivery of planned cash flows.

With a Master in Business Administration qualification, Tom Ngui was accepted to study a DBA programme on the strength of his considerable management experience. Tom Ngui said that “Combining a senior management role with part time study requires an understanding family and strong employer support. Constant feedback on progress while studying a DBA programme had kept me motivated and on track. Since I started studying a DBA programme, I have been given substantially more responsibility in the office and my leadership role has grown." 

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