The doctorate loses its value for business leaders


In continental Europe, the doctorate is still widely regarded as the next default step for executives wishing to extend their knowledge beyond an MBA. But the complexity of the challenges facing organizations today means that senior businessmen have increasingly specific and quite different educational needs. These cannot always be met by conventional doctorates such as the doctorate – much less by continuing education or continuing education programs.

They do a great job providing leaders with pre-defined solutions on specific topics. But they are less suitable for those who wish to take a step back and generate specialized knowledge and expertise to benefit both their organizations and themselves as current managers.

On the other hand, doctorates are great for people who want to pursue an academic career or teach at a business school. But they are less suited to business leaders facing increasingly rapid, uncertain and complex challenges (only exacerbated by the pandemic) that force them to work beyond the confines of a highly specialized academic discipline.

At a high school level, many senior business leaders want a theory and a broader view of their business practices. They seek advice from expert academics and opportunities to interact with other like-minded leaders. Achieving all of this requires a program that delivers broad, divergent and multidisciplinary knowledge.

This is why many leaders in Europe are now looking to the professional doctorate, the DBA, as a more suitable option. Besides being able to focus on an existing problem in their professional practice and find a way to solve it, the main objective of the DBA is to help practitioners to gain recognition for their abilities and to publish and share managerial knowledge based on their experience. It can serve as a powerful development tool, helping them determine which aspects of their identity are potentially blocking the personal progress and change required to find solutions.

Despite all this, universities in continental Europe have been slow to offer DBAs. In France, for example, Grenoble School of Management introduced the first program in 1984, but it was not until 2008 that the first French university, Paris Dauphine, offered an executive DBA. Traditional doctorates still get the most airtime because their more philosophical approach is what the industry understands best. French business schools and universities are estimated to be around 25-30 years behind the UK in terms of DBA offerings.

DBA is considered very resource intensive and therefore is not a priority for publicly funded universities. What is perhaps more surprising is the lack of interest from paid mainland business schools. Given their unique focus on business and management, the DBA would allow them to engage differently with business leaders.

While some academics may struggle to embrace the practical and unusual mindset required for supervised DBAs, others are chomping at the bit. Here at the Business Science Institute, for example, we have received calls from faculty members elsewhere actively seeking DBA teaching or supervision experience, as this type of deep interaction with practitioners was not. offered at their home university. Lars Meyer-Waarden, professor of marketing at Toulouse School of Management and academic coordinator of our executive DBA in Thailand and Vietnam, says he finds “stimulating to conduct applied research on hot topics concerning organizations at the moment. – in marketing and technologies such as AI. , the internet of things and smart cities ”.

The students also seem enthusiastic. We have seen many examples of people who have gone from a PhD to a DBA because the first one did not meet their needs. From a student perspective, the DBA offers an intensive active learning experience that offers unique critical perspectives on their practice. This allows them to navigate through ambiguity and complexity to find solutions to “nasty” and very specific business challenges.

From an employer’s perspective, DBAs develop specific practice-related skills and outcomes that are absent from a traditional doctorate. European governments are also demanding a research degree more suited to the needs of business and economic growth, although many countries still do not officially recognize the DBA as a doctoral-level degree. Internationally, quality assurance and accreditation agencies have generally adopted criteria more related to work and practice in doctoral learning. DBAs can therefore support institutional accreditation initiatives, if carried out properly.

But there is so much more they could do for institutions – and learners. There are now over 60,000 MBA graduates in the UK and Europe, coming solely from institutions accredited by the MBA Association. The market for further study is huge. As these graduates grow into senior executives over time and their needs change, could the DBA become the new MBA?

Michel Kalika is President of the Business Science Institute, an independent international academic organization that operates a DBA program for senior executives from nearly 50 countries.

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