CityU DBA - Doctor of Business Administration

26 March 2015

DBA takes a rigorous approach to problem-solving

John Cremer

Setting the bar high, the stated aim of the DBA (doctor of business administration) programme at City University (CityU) is to help senior executives advance knowledge and practice in their respective fields.

It does this with an emphasis on applied research and academic rigour. As they progress, students are expected to demonstrate independent and critical thinking and to apply inter-disciplinary knowledge. They use advanced research methods to address complex problems with direct relevance for modern business. And, working towards their thesis also presents the chance to gain a deeper appreciation of a fast changing environment – everything from ethical issues and creative solutions, to how to successfully manage and lead an organisation.

“The programme includes a number of foundation courses and workshops, but the overall emphasis is on the research element,” says Muammer Ozer, professor of management and DBA programme director at CityU. “One of the requirements for admission is that proposed thesis topics should have clear practical and managerial implications and not be merely theoretical in nature.”

It is also worth noting that successfully completing the DBA provides benefits which last a lifetime

Within those broad parameters, though, there is obviously plenty of scope. For instance, the type of research students are currently conducting includes a detailed look at basic necessities such as the supply of rice at a time of continuing population growth, as well as complex financial matters related to private equity funds and the internationalisation of China’s renminbi.

Some topics have more of a local flavour, such as the competitiveness of Hong Kong’s manufacturing sector. Others are more global in outlook, focusing on issues like doing business in Africa or internet security in the high-tech age. While still others are directed towards shedding new light on mainstream business questions such as enhancing employee retention and how to improve various aspects of operational performance for multinationals, SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and even street vendors.

“The reason we emphasise these sorts of topics is that we consider them to be timely, important and likely to have a profound impact on both the business sector and society at large in the years ahead,” Ozer says. “Before starting the programme, students will have a research idea they want to pursue; it usually relates to some aspect of their own company or industry. However, we find that the initially proposed topics often tend to be too broad for our purposes. Therefore, we guide and advise students on how best to narrow their focus and refine things as they go on, while also making sure their research does not become purely academic.”

Class sizes for the DBA are deliberately small. This helps to maximise interaction among students and allows faculty members to offer as much one-on-one supervision as possible.

The basic structure entails five core courses and a number of electives before moving on to the 50,000-word thesis. In this way, students first gain a solid foundation in research skills, up-to-date business knowledge and the latest thinking.

The coursework component is taught by faculty members of CityU’s college of business, as well as other renowned local academics and overseas-based visiting professors, who can give the necessary international perspective.

“To ensure that our DBA candidates progress smoothly from the coursework component to the thesis, each is assigned a mentor in the first year, according to the areas of interest indicated,” Ozer says. “Normally, the mentor will later be the thesis supervisor and, in that role, will help to develop a structured programme of study, finalise the thesis topic and outline the proposal.”

Along the way, there are also monthly sharing sessions, regular events with eminent guest speakers, and opportunities to join different learning circles. The university also provides statistical support and library facilities geared to the needs of state-of-the-art research.

Most students aim to complete the part-time programme within three to four years. However, with work and other commitments sometimes having to take precedence, up to six years is possible.

The next intake begins in September this year, and the usual requirements for admission include a recognised master’s degree and a “substantial amount” of experience in senior positions.

“Essentially, the DBA is about learning to solve novel business problems using sound research methodologies, and then formalising that newly created knowledge for the benefit of others,” Ozer says. “It is also worth noting that successfully completing the DBA provides benefits which last a lifetime. What our students achieve during the programme greatly enhances their ability to make a lasting impact in their companies and their communities.”