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Professional Doctorates in

Toward a Practice-Based
Approach to Doctoral Education

University of Western Sydney

RMIT University

Professional doctorates, particularly in Australia and the UK, have been a significant
growth area over the last 20 years. We discuss the emergence of professional doctorates
in management education and their contribution to a more practice-based approach to
doctoral education, with particular reference to the doctor of business administration
degree (DBA). Professional doctorates were developed by some universities in the face of
rising criticism about the relevance of PhD research to practice and the changing context
and content of knowledge in the new economy. We conclude by discussing implications
for doctoral education and directions for future research.


The rapid emergence of the knowledge economy
has changed the dynamics between governments,
industry, and universities and influenced the edu-
cational needs of managers and management re-
searchers. Criticism of the relevance of doctoral
education, especially the traditional PhD, has been
mounting for some time (Lee, Brennan, & Green,
2009; McWilliam, Taylor, Thomson, Green, Max-
well, Wildy, & Simons, 2002), and in response, uni-
versities have sought new ways to deliver research
training. In particular, the rapid expansion of pro-
fessional doctorates appears to reflect an alternate
mode of knowledge creation. Proponents of profes-
sional doctorates claim that the training they pro-
vide is more attuned to the real-world needs of
managers because it focuses on practice in the
workplace and is flexible enough to respond to the
needs of the knowledge economy (Fenge, 2009;
Usher, 2002). Here, we discuss the role of profes-
sional doctorates in management education and

knowledge creation, with particular reference to
the doctor of business administration (DBA) de-
gree. Our main purpose is to discuss the emer-
gence of the professional doctorate as a program
designed to address criticisms of the increasing
irrelevance of PhD programs to professional prac-
tice. We identify the range of professional doctor-
ates on offer in Australia, the United States, and
United Kingdom, and, based on our experience of
developing and managing a DBA program at a
large Australian university, we outline some chal-
lenges and opportunities for academics and pro-
gram developers involved in professional doctor-
ates in business. How does a professional
doctorate program address the theory–practice di-
vide that some scholars claim exists in doctoral
research? What sort of knowledge was contrib-
uted? What kind of research skills do senior man-
agers require to improve their practice? Is the dis-
tinction between a professional doctorate and a
PhD becoming less important and unsustainable
in Australia and the United Kingdom, as some
have argued (e.g., Evans, Macauley, Pearson, &

We would like to thank Charmine Härtel and three anonymous
reviewers for their constructive comments.

� Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2013, Vol. 12, No. 2, 173–193.


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Tregenza, 2005)? There is little research that ex-
plains the role of professional doctorates in pro-
moting a more practice-based approach to doctoral
education. Our work here attempts to fill this gap.

The paper is organized as follows: We first de-
scribe the emergence of professional doctorates in
the changing context and content of the knowledge
economy. We then discuss the content and struc-
ture of the doctor of business administration pro-
gram developed by an Australian university. Next,
we identify a range of professional doctorate pro-
grams on offer in Australia, the United States, and
United Kingdom, and describe their stated aims
and outcomes. We conclude by discussing impli-
cations for doctoral education and directions for
future research.


In the modern economy, a great deal of productiv-
ity gains result from technologies of knowledge
generation and information processing. This re-
framing of knowledge as a source of productivity
has had significant effects in terms of investments
in education, research, and development. Univer-
sities, as major centers of knowledge creation,
have also responded to the needs of a knowledge
economy by marketing their knowledge-creating
capabilities and positioning themselves competi-
tively in the knowledge market (Jessop, 2008). The
Bologna Process in Europe informed significant re-
form in higher education. The reforms aimed at
creating a European Higher Education Area
through the provision of adequate resources, cre-
ating excellence in research and teaching, and
increasing the international effectiveness of Euro-
pean Universities (Dale, 2008). The concerted effort
to modernize the knowledge industry meant that
universities have come under increasing scrutiny,
especially in their role as creators of knowledge
through their doctoral programs, which are the
most specialized vehicles of knowledge develop-
ment. With increasing value put on knowledge as
a key driver of productivity, universities all over
the world face new expectations and pressures
from governments, employers, and workers to pro-
vide skill sets that can develop knowledge work-
ers. Several universities attempted to respond to
the challenges of educating professionals for the
knowledge economy by creating new degree pro-
grams of doctoral study, such as professional or
executive doctorates.

Research produced by nonacademics (mana-

gers, consultants, writers in the business press)
has had a greater impact on management practice
than research produced in business schools (For-
ster, 2007; Geuens, 2011). Some management schol-
ars are critical of the kind of research produced by
business schools. Pfeffer and Fong (2002) have ar-
gued that business school research is more di-
rected toward enhancing the prestige of the busi-
ness school than at solving management problems
per se. Bennis and O’Toole (2005) note that busi-
ness schools have directed their efforts more to-
ward obtaining academic credibility and focused
on demonstrating the rigor and scientific method
of their research rather than on its relevance to
practitioners. Emphasis on theory rather than
problem solving, narrow disciplinary focus, para-
digmatic tendencies that favor theory validation
rather than usefulness, problems of communica-
tion and incommensurability of ideas and con-
cepts were some of the explanations offered for the
relatively low impact of business school research
(Kelemen & Bansal, 2002; Pfeffer & Fong, 2002). Sev-
eral scholars have argued that there is a signifi-
cant “theory–practice” division in management re-
search (Baldridge, Floyd, & Markoczy, 2004;
Bartunek & Rynes, 2010; Burke & Rau, 2010; Hay,
2004; Schultz & Hatch, 2005; Shapiro, Kirkman, &
Courtney, 2007). In an analysis of papers published
in the top-5 management journals, Bartunek and
Rynes (2010) found that nearly half the articles in
their sample made no mention of implications for
practice. If practical implications were discussed,
they tended to be “tentative,” leaving little room
for practitioners to seriously implement any recom-
mendations arising from academic research.

The results of an AACSB study on sustaining
scholarship in business schools also point to an
industry–academic divide. The AACSB created the
Doctoral Faculty Commission in 2002 to respond to
the shortage of doctorally qualified faculty in busi-
ness schools— between 1995 and 2000 there was a
decrease of more than 19% in business doctorates
awarded (AACSB, 2003). The AACSB report con-
cluded that ensuring an adequate supply of busi-
ness doctorates is essential for maintaining “the
continued rigor of business education and re-
search conducted in academic, business, and pub-
lic policy institutions” (AACSB, 2003: 6). The report
also claimed:

The scholarship role of business faculty is an
essential and irreplaceable function because
societies and markets turn to business

174 JuneAcademy of Management Learning & Education

schools for knowledge advances that reflect
academic traditions of theory and method. An
active pipeline of rigorous and relevant re-
search output is especially crucial at this mo-
ment as business practitioners seek indepen-
dent, proven methods and ideas to shape
their strategies and practices, and to improve
the functioning of markets globally. In fact,
independent, scholarly research is the essen-
tial distinction of business schools versus
other entities that produce business writings,
and the reason business schools maintain
their legitimacy within the research univer-
sity community (AACSB, 2003: 10).

The report specifically mentions “relevant” re-
search while reinforcing the position of the acad-
emy as primary knowledge producers. The asser-
tion that business school research output
maintains the legitimacy of the discipline and the
school within the wider research community is
consistent with Pfeffer and Fong’s (2002) position,
but the report’s claim that practitioners actively
seek the knowledge produced by business schools
is not substantiated—in fact Pfeffer and Fong
(2002) showed that practitioners tend to use knowl-
edge from “other entities that produce business
writings,” rather than from business school re-
searchers. A later AACSB (2008) report also be-
moaned the lack of impact of academic business
research on business practice. Professional doctor-
ates, according to some scholars, can and should
play a major role in bridging these gaps because
professional doctorate research is closely con-
nected with professional practice and the knowl-
edge economy outside the university (Gill &
Hoppe, 2009; Neumann, 2005).

Before we discuss the role of doctoral education
in knowledge production it will be useful to de-
scribe the nature of university-generated knowl-
edge in the context of the knowledge economy and
the different ways the term is currently being de-
ployed. Does the valuation of knowledge in a
knowledge economy differ from that in the acad-
emy? A PhD, which is the highest level of academic
qualification, is awarded for research that is
deemed to make an original contribution to knowl-
edge. The PhD has come under criticism for being
too “inwardly focused,” inflexible, excessively nar-
row and overspecialized, too focused on theory, for
inhibiting multidisciplinary research, and for be-
ing of little relevance to management practitioners
(Evans, 2001; McWilliam et al., 2002; Pfeffer & Fong,

2002). For these critics, the type of knowledge gen-
erated by a PhD is not consistent with what is
needed by people, organizations, industries, and
societies to excel in the knowledge economy. In
Australia for example, a government report on
graduate studies recommended that universities
should develop postgraduate programs to “accom-
modate the changing needs of students, industry,
employers and professional bodies and consider
introducing doctoral programs more suited to pro-
fessional settings” (NBEET, 1989: 28). A government
report on higher education in the United Kingdom
made a similar observation, citing a lack of atten-
tion to research for the professions (NCICHE, 1997).
The funding mechanism of the new Research Ex-
cellence Framework, currently scheduled to be im-
plemented in 2014 in the United Kingdom, places a
much stronger emphasis on the impact of research
and will assess not just the academic impact but
also the broader social, environmental, and eco-
nomic benefits of research (Hodgkinson & Starkey,
2011). A report by the AACSB on doctoral programs
in the United States also called for more “variabil-
ity” in doctoral degree products (AACSB, 2003).

These reports seem to indicate that a different
type of knowledge is needed to equip managers in
the new economy. Researchers have distinguished
between Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge (Gibbons,
Limoges, Nowotny, Schwartzman, Scott, & Trow,
1994; Gibbons, 1998). Mode 1 refers to the knowl-
edge that is traditionally produced in the acad-
emy. It is based on an explanatory paradigm, dis-
ciplinary based, theoretical, produced “for its own
sake,” focused on “knowing that,” understanding
“what is,” and its legitimacy is based on profes-
sional activities such as publications in peer-
reviewed journals and papers in conferences
(Bourner, Bowden, & Laing, 2001; Usher, 2002; Van
Aken, 2004, 2005). Mode 2 knowledge, on the other
hand, refers to knowledge developed in the context
of practice. It is a design science that focuses on
knowledge designed to solve problems, likely to be
produced in the workplace through reflection on
practice, focuses on “knowing how,” is more prac-
tical, legitimated through links with industry, and
reflects the penetration of the market into the acad-
emy (Usher, 2002; Van Aken, 2004, 2005). This dis-
tinction has been acknowledged as very influen-
tial in the design and development of professional
doctorates in the United Kingdom and Australia in
the early 1990s (Fenge, 2009; Lee et al., 2009; Max-
well, 2003; Sarros, Willis, & Palmer, 2005).

Critics of traditional PhD research argued that

2013 175Banerjee and Morley

Mode 1 knowledge that is produced in the acad-
emy has little or no relevance to practicing man-
agers (Bareham, Bourner, & Stevens, 2000; Evans,
2001; Thomas, 2007). Proponents of professional
doctorates claim Mode 2 knowledge is more appro-
priate for practitioners; however, the binary oppo-
sition between Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge
may not be as clearly defined in practice. The
problem with this binary, as in any binary, is that
one category tends to dominate the other, and the
parameters of assessing the “quality” of Mode 2
knowledge are often based on the terms specified
by Mode 1. This is what appears to be happening
in professional doctorate programs in Australia
and the United Kingdom in relation to the exami-
nation of the final product, the doctoral thesis. The
assertion that PhDs produce original research that
contributes to scholarly knowledge, while the DBA
makes an original contribution to professional
practice, is not clearly and universally apparent
during the thesis examination process (McWilliam
et al., 2002). When it comes to evaluating research
and contribution to knowledge, examiners tend to
use traditional criteria: theoretical strength and
methodological rigor. This partly reflects the lack
of a common understanding of how a professional
doctorate thesis or portfolio should differ from a
PhD, given the novelty of professional doctorates.
Examiners of professional doctorate theses and
portfolios still tend to use the same criteria as they
do for PhD theses (Fink, 2006; McWilliam et al.,
2002; Walker, 2008), despite concerns about the ap-
propriateness of these criteria (Johnson, 2005). As
well as having different epistemological relation-
ships with academic disciplines, knowledge of
and in professional practice has a uniquely ap-
plied nature, whereas in a PhD the knowledge
sought can be purely theoretical. This is not to say
that the professional doctorate is somehow less
rigorous than a PhD—it is supposed to have a
different kind of rigor, but few universities have
been able to define different notions of rigor when
it came to practice-based research. This remains an
unresolved problem with professional doctorates.

In an attempt to overcome the binary of Mode 1
and Mode 2 types of knowledge production Huff
(2000) proposed that Mode 1.5 knowledge produc-
tion could retain the theoretical characteristics of
Mode 1 knowledge while integrating the practice
assumptions and outcomes of Mode 2 knowledge.
In this approach research questions typically arise
from practice, which are then framed using theo-
retical insights from Mode 1 knowledge enabling

researchers to clarify constructs and relationships
in a broader context. Professional doctorates such
as the DBA may provide an opportunity to develop
Mode 1.5 methods of inquiry. In the next section we
discuss some key assumptions and learning out-
comes of professional doctorate programs, their
relationship with PhD programs, and their contri-
bution to professional practice.


Professional doctorates are typically found in the
fields of education, clinical psychology, medicine,
business administration, and engineering (Taylor,
2008). Jamieson and Naidoo (2007) argue that many
of these areas where professional doctorates are
strongest are at the intersection of traditional dis-
ciplines, because knowledge contributions in the
context of professions are less likely to be devel-
oped within the bounds of just one discipline. Doc-
tor of business administration programs in the
United Kingdom and Australia were introduced
from the early 1990s, largely as a result of recom-
mendations made by government education de-
partments (Bareham et al., 2000; Sarros, Willis, &
Hardie, 2004). The number of professional doctor-
ates in general and DBAs in particular grew rap-
idly in the 1990s in both countries (Fenge, 2009;
Maxwell, 2003; Neumann, 2005). For example, the
first DBA program was introduced in Australia in
1993, and by 2000 there were 21 Australian univer-
sities (about half the total number of universities in
the country) offering DBA programs (Bareham et
al., 2000; Sarros et al., 2004). More recently, several
DBA programs have closed down, mainly because
of very low graduation rates, and at the time of this
writing there were 16 Australian universities offer-
ing DBA programs. One possible reason for the
attractiveness of DBA programs in Australia is the
coursework component. Unlike US PhD programs
that have a significant coursework component
with qualifying and core examinations, Australian
and UK PhD programs have not had discipline-
based courses, apart from one or two research
methods courses. But recent reforms of some PhD
programs to include advanced coursework make
this a less strong distinguisher (Evans et al., 2005;
Lee et al., 2009).

Forty-two universities in the United Kingdom of-
fer DBA programs (37% of the total number of uni-
versities in the UK). In contrast, less than 10% of
AACSB member business schools offered a DBA

176 JuneAcademy of Management Learning & Education

program in the United States (AACSB, 2003). In
continental European universities there are virtu-
ally no DBA programs (or at least their doctoral
programs are not named as such); an exception is
the Copenhagen Business School whose website
mentioned different routes to a PhD including an
“industrial PhD fellow” (with no teaching require-
ment) and a DBA. However, their website has no
information about the DBA program. Several PhD
programs in European universities emphasize a
practice-based approach to research. For example,
the PhD program at Tilburg University in the Neth-
erlands is “specifically targeted to professionals”
and “offers opportunities for practice-oriented sci-
entific research.” The PhD program at Universitat
Saint Gallen in Switzerland offers two tracks: a
“research-based professional career” or “academic
career track.”

There has been a proliferation of names for pro-
fessional doctorates in the United States: Burrell
(2006) cites examples such as a doctor of manage-
ment, doctor of public health, doctor of public ad-
ministration, doctor of health science, doctor of
engineering science, doctor of communications de-
sign. Australia and the United Kingdom have
matched this proliferation with, for example, a doc-
tor of nursing (Edwards, 2009), doctor of profes-
sional practice (Fenge, 2009), doctor of technology
(Maxwell, 2003), doctor of creative arts, and doctor
of juridicial studies (Neumann, 2005). Bourner et al.
(2001) give more UK examples. In the United States
are more as well: the doctor of professional studies
at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business and
doctoral programs from nonbusiness schools such
as the George Washington University Graduate
School of Education and Human Development’s ed-
ucation doctorate in human and organizational
learning. Some professional doctorate programs in
business are essentially PhDs (e.g., the programs
at Indiana and Boston Universities) aimed at de-
veloping management academics; some PhDs, like
the Fielding Graduate University’s, are aimed at
practicing managers. Standardized doctoral train-
ing across professional doctorate programs is cer-
tainly not the norm, and there is considerable va-
riety in program content. Table 1 provides a
representative list of professional doctorates cur-
rently offered by Australian, UK, and US universi-
ties along with keywords that describe the pro-
grams’ aims. A caveat is in order here: It is quite
possible that there are other practitioner-based
doctoral programs offered in departments other
than business schools. Moreover, PhD programs in

several universities can have a focus on practice
without necessarily calling their program a profes-
sional doctorate or DBA. For instance, many Euro-
pean universities offer PhDs that are focused on
practice and whose key target populations are se-
nior managers and consultants, not potential aca-
demics. However, since we focused only on pro-
grams that are named professional doctorates,
executive doctorates, or DBAs, other practice-
based doctoral programs are not listed in Table 1.

If we look at the keywords that describe the aims
of DBA programs, terms like “practice,” “profes-
sional practice,” “applied research,” “applied
knowledge,” appear in all. In terms of target mar-
kets, virtually all programs are aimed at practicing
managers or management consultants. Of the 72
professional doctorate programs listed in Table 1,
only three universities specifically mentioned
academia as a career: A DBA would “open the
gateway to a life in academia” (University of
Southampton, UK); develop “proficient researchers
and proficient teachers” (Louisiana Tech Univer-
sity, USA); or “enhance their careers as executives,
consultants or university professors” (George Fox
University, USA). Other commonly used terms were
“professional development,” “professional prac-
tice,” “research skills,” and “knowledge” (prefaced
with terms like “deep,” “applied,” “practice-based”
or “actionable”) and “critical thinking.” About 20%
of the programs specifically mentioned “reflexiv-
ity” or “reflective practitioner” and “leadership” in
their aims. Seven programs specifically mentioned
that the candidate’s organization would be the fo-
cus of the research, with one UK university describ-
ing its approach to the DBA as treating the “work-
place as a laboratory.”

Entry criteria of most Australian PhD programs
require an honors degree (or equivalent), which
means that the candidate has had prior exposure
to research. Others specify an “appropriate” mas-
ter’s degree as well, which in business schools
tends to be an MBA, a degree that does not really
prepare a candidate for conducting doctoral re-
search. Most candidates entering doctoral pro-
grams in business have an MBA with very little
exposure to research.

In the North American doctoral system, the
coursework is designed to equip candidates with
both disciplinary knowledge and research skills.
For instance, Harvard Business School offers both
PhD and DBA programs, and the distinction is
based on a candidate’s research interests and “the
approach one wishes to apply to that research”

2013 177Banerjee and Morley

Professional Doctorate Programs in Australia, United Kingdom, and the United States

University Region
Name of
program Keywords about program aims

Charles Darwin University AUS DBA Professional development; specialized knowledge; managerial
competencies; theory and practice; professional managers; management
consultants; international, regional, national and organizational

Charles Sturt University AUS DBA Management knowledge; research skills; practical and problem solving;
industry focused; reflective professional practitioners

Curtin University of

AUS DBA Critical thinking; practical managers; practical business situation;
sensitive to research questions

Deakin University AUS DBA Advanced understanding; critical thinking; apply theoretical
understanding and research results to business problems; advanced
research skills; communicate research outcomes; professional practice

Murdoch University AUS DBA Develop solutions; strategic business issues; high level expertise; career
advancement; leadership

Queensland University of

AUS DBA Researching professional; research-based business decisions; contribution
to business practice; solving contemporary and complex business
problems; discipline-based knowledge

Southern Cross University AUS DBA Professional practice; solve problems through research; expert knowledge;
new insights in your professional area

University of Ballarat AUS DBA Advances knowledge; application of new knowledge; practical situations;
professional managerial competence; theoretical, practical and
scholarly expertise

University of Canberra AUS DBA Reflection on practice; relevant research skills, professional experience;
research, writing and analysis skills; bridging the gap between theory
and practice

University of Newcastle AUS DBA Leadership; analytical and critically self-reflective skills; applied research;
extend and deepen their knowledge

University of Notre Dame

AUS DBA Improve relationship between professional and academic knowledge;
research-based approach

University of Southern

AUS DBA Business-oriented doctoral research program; theoretical and empirical
understanding; contribute to knowledge generation; identify and resolve
business challenges

University of Western

AUS DBA Enhances students’ research skills; develops their independent and critical
thinking; contribute state-of-the-art knowledge

University of Western

AUS DBA Uncover new knowledge; advanced training; applied; professional
practice; critical consumers of research

University of Wollongong AUS DBA Business research skills; leadership; expand knowledge; enhanced
understanding of contemporary management theories

Victoria University AUS DBA Problems of a particular profession; undertake independent research;
original contribution to your profession

Durham University UK DBA Practitioner–researcher; analytical, conceptual, and critical thinking skills;
innovators; increased understanding and knowledge; strategic focus;
professional practice; applied business research; practitioner-orientated
research; analysis and critical appraisal; personal and career development

University of Bath UK DBA Research excellence with professional practice; international; advanced
management practice; exercising professional responsibility; leadership
roles; test theories; research skills appropriate for senior levels of
institutional management; policy improvement; good practice

University of Southampton UK DBA High level strategic business issues; applied; ability to solve business
issues; portfolio career; open the gateway to a life in academia

Aston University UK DBA Intellectual, business and research expertise; knowledge leaders; powerful
practical knowledge; interface of advanced research and business;
develop effective organizations; persona transformation

University of Birmingham UK DBA Academic rigor with practical management relevance; think more deeply
and critically about the work that they do; enhance management

(table continues)

178 JuneAcademy of Management Learning & Education


University Region
Name of
program Keywords about program aims

University of Newcastle UK DBA Advanced research and analytical skills; progressing their careers
University of Manchester UK DBA Life-changing experience; improve your understanding . . . yourself and

your way of working; deeper understanding of your chosen subject area
University of Liverpool UK DBA Workplace-based research; actionable knowledge; practically oriented;

integration of actionable knowledge; critical thinking skills; working
environment; practice-based learning; critical action learning; action
research; hands-on learning methods; reflect; contemporary
management topics; doctoral practitioner and researcher

University of Surrey UK DBA Enhancement of professional practice; relevant to the world of
management; addressing real problems; practitioner doctorate

© Copyright by Wydawnictwo SGGW


[email protected]

Acta Sci. Pol.
Oeconomia 16 (4) 2017, 83–91
ISSN 1644-0757 eISSN 2450-047X DOI: 10.22630/ASPE.2017.16.4.47

Received: 17.10.2017
Accepted: 13.12.2017




Robert Kowalski

freelance consultant


The purpose of Higher Education is increasingly under scrutiny as are its previous shortcomings. The last
bastion of academic hegemony, the PhD, is being reconstructed, moving from a discipline focused degree
intended to extend abstract, universal knowledge through the presentation of a thesis towards an emphasis
upon the development of the skills of the researcher. Furthermore, the recognition that knowledge can be
generated in realms other than academia has concurrently seen the emergence of Practitioner Doctorates,
based upon Action Research, that are designed to develop researching professionals.
The paper poses the question whether it is appropriate to extend the model developed for an Interna-
tional Master of Business Administration into the provision of an International Doctor of Business

Key words: Action Research, DBA, Dewey, Knowledge, Practitioner Doctorate, Research skills


In the brave new world of 1990 I doubt if any of us could have anticipated the remarkable changes that were
about to come about. The core motivation behind them was the expansion of free-market capability in the
transition economy countries. But my own interest was in promoting curriculum development processes in the
widest sense, and not just for those partners. I was personally motivated by the statement that: “The changing
economic situation in a free market economy will enforce the need for rapid responses in the form of appropri-
ate modifications to training programmes. Universities must also pay greater attention to nurturing in students
certain personality traits, including the ability to think creatively and to act independently, with initiative and in
the spirit of enterprise” [Wieczorek 1992, p. 64].

In an earlier existence, as an ecologist, I used to think in terms of the Red Queen Hypothesis in reference to
Lewis Carol’s Through the Looking Glass – where the queen of hearts had to run as fast as she could in order
to stay on the same spot. So having made substantial ground to align curricula for Business Administration
it is time to take stock and ask what the future might hold. In response to this I want to be typically provoca-

A suitable point from which to begin a review of imminent prospects is that of purpose. What is the purpose
of Higher Education? As Bauman and Donskis [2013, p. 142] noted: “the mission of education, since it was ar-
ticulated by the Ancients under the name of paidea, was, remains and probably will remain for the duration the


Kowalski, R. (2017). Future progressive: the need for a professional doctorate – an international doctor of business administration.

Acta Sci. Pol. Oeconomia 16 (4) 2017, 83–91, DOI: 10.22630/ASPE.2017.16.4.47

preparation of newcomers to society to life in the society they are preparing to enter.” But in an era of constant
change this tautology contains more than a hint of potential stagnation particularly under the caution of The
Saber Tooth Curriculum [Benjamin 1939].

Now, as I have argued elsewhere [Kowalski 2014], the Higher Education Sector throughout the world has
traditionally viewed itself as an indisputable universal good. The result was the acceptance of a philosophy that
valued knowledge for its own sake and gave almost total freedom to academics to define for themselves those
aspects of knowledge that were to be pursued as well as promulgated through teaching. This self-serving indul-
gence drove the Higher Education system into two cul-de-sac; discipline based curricula and separation from its
constituencies, thereby laying the foundations for its subversion.

This failure to really examine why community resources were being invested in Higher Education came to an
end with the economic difficulties of the early 1970s. Criticism mounted, primarily motivated by the concerns
of commerce, as Schmitt [1987] lamented the American educational system put little emphasis on the values of
the marketplace and focused mostly on academic values which emphasise optimum solutions, and Smith [1990]
continued this theme when he averred that our educational systems are permeated by a minimalist outlook which
is undemanding and, expecting very little of people, is neither surprised nor disappointed when little is achieved.
Undoubtedly curricula have progressed during the last two decades, characterised by high relevance to the world
of work, up-to-date content and modern methods of teaching (including web-based learning) and assessment – as
evidenced by the results of evaluation. But nevertheless challenges remain.

Indeed, at least in the UK, there has been a radical re-focusing towards a functional curriculum [Warren-Piper
1985], and now some would suggest that we have gone too far in this direction, as Doring [2002, p. 140] noted:
“the higher education system is being encouraged to transfer its allegiance from the academic to the operational”
such that it primarily serves commercial interests, commodifies students and emphasizes technical knowledge
(technē) over phronesis.

Moreover, there is growing concern about a widespread departure from the essential values of education, as
Hunter and Geddes [2000, p. 5] noted: “the university seems increasingly the locus of high-level scholarly en-
deavors, but the structures of university life have led some to wonder whether the academy has rendered ‘the
life of the mind’ irrelevant to the larger American society, by turning broad-minded intellectuals into narrowly
specialized ‘technicians’, with critical faculties so refined that they often can gain no purchase on the pressing
issues facing contemporary society.”

Furthermore, Geddes [2012, p.2] commenting upon the rise of “the corporate professor” noted that: “profes-
sors themselves have bought into or been shaped by the corporate culture of the university and seem strangely
inarticulate about the purposes and worth of higher education.” Indeed, Lasch [1996, p. 98] commented that the
market turns: “scholarship into professional careerism, social work into the scientific management of poverty.”
Indeed, Mohan [2011, p. 131] lamented that: “temples of knowledge and learning have fallen to corporate eth-
ics,” and has led Bauman [2000, p. 56] to observe that: “For a couple of centuries now academia had no other
world to catch in its conceptual nets, to reflect upon, to describe and to interpret, than the one sedimented by
the capitalist vision and practice.” Causing Geddes [2012, p. 2] to comment that: “If professors can’t articulate
what they do or why it matters in terms not beholden to the market, then who can? What resources are there for
re-envisioning and re-articulating the purposes of higher education in a way that responds to the rapid and far-
reaching cultural changes taking place in our world today and that resists the commodification of knowledge,
scholarship, attention, and reflection?”.

Leading Doring [2002] to argue that the role of academics has shifted from being agents of change to be-
ing victims of change; from being at the heart of “a centre of learning” to being just a cog in another „business
organization”. 85

Kowalski, R. (2017). Future progressive: the need for a professional doctorate – an international doctor of business administration.

Acta Sci. Pol. Oeconomia 16 (4) 2017, 83–91, DOI: 10.22630/ASPE.2017.16.4.47


There has been mounting criticism of Higher Education globally in two key areas. The first is the abject failure of
leadership the world over to rise to the challenge of environmental sustainability, despite the fact that most of the
leaders who attended the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg have a higher education
degree from the world’s most prestigious universities [Martin and Jucker 2005]. So, we must ask why is it that
the people who contribute most to exploiting poor communities and the Earth’s ecosystems are holders of higher
degrees and doctorates? [Orr 2004]. Why is the seeming ignorance of our politicians about how the world works
as a living system so widespread? Why is it that our leaders so rarely demonstrate respect for the biosphere,
wisdom and precaution, or the capacity to challenge unethical actions? [Martin and Jucker 2005].

Secondly, as evidenced by the largely unpredicted collapse of financial systems in 2008, it seems that some
of the most fundamental issues at the heart of free-market capitalism have been overlooked and are absent from
general macro-economics’ curricula [Fullbrook 2016]. As Shutt [1999, p. 198] recognized, “Amid so many signs
that the existing world economic and political order is becoming unsustainable, it is remarkable that there is so
little overt questioning of its ideological basis,” and Söderbaum [2012, p. 109] maintained that “university de-
partments of economics continue to protect neoclassical theory.” Such that we might agree with Rahman [1993,
p. 219] that: “The ‘educated’ have not proved to be any more ‘enlightened’ or capable of wise and responsible
decisions and conduct than the ‘uneducated’.” and conclude that surely Higher Education institutions should
be operating as hotbeds of problem setting and problem solving that are fully embedded in their communities,
acting as conduits of resources and operating as environments for the growth of the sort of change agents that
embattled humanity require. Not just paying passing acknowledgement to the challenge1 but actually being

Another aspect over which universities have been criticised is research. Fundamentally we appear fixated
upon the question “How?” because of the way that technology has contributed to economic expansion, and ne-
glected those questions that underpin the deployment of that technology and the distribution of the wealth and
harm that it creates. At the heart of Higher Education’s difficulties is a tradition of organizing knowledge into
discreet subject areas2. As Mohan [2011, p. 127] argued: “The knowledge paradox has deepened the crisis by
creating silos of disciplines that do not creatively communicate with each other.” Such a structure is entirely ar-
tificial, smacking of Objectivism rather than Constructivism [Laurillard 1993]3, and has encouraged the disloca-
tion of ways of knowing that hinders a multi-disciplinary attack on the problems of the real world. The appropri-
ate view, as Stacey [2001, p. 189] suggested: “is an evolutionary concept of knowledge as meaning continuously
reproduced and potentially transformed in action.”

Six characteristics of knowledge distinguish it from information [McDermott 2000, p. 23]:
• Knowing is a human act;
• Knowledge is the residue of thinking;
• Knowledge is created in the present moment;
• Knowledge belongs to communities;
• Knowledge circulates through communities in many ways;
• New knowledge is created at the boundaries of old.

1 Another University’s mission statement aspires to being: “a truly international university, which is also a major contributor
to the economic, social and cultural transformation of [our home] city (…) and (…) region.”

2 For example, a current university mission statement refers to: “offering students the full range of disciplines.”
3 For example, another university claims that: “The mission of our University is the creation, dissemination and curation of

knowledge.” – begging the question – How could that get past scrutiny by an academic board?


Kowalski, R. (2017). Future progressive: the need for a professional doctorate – an international doctor of business administration.

Acta Sci. Pol. Oeconomia 16 (4) 2017, 83–91, DOI: 10.22630/ASPE.2017.16.4.47

The misrepresentation of knowledge as occurring in discreet disciplines and the behaviours associated with
an Objectivist perspective of knowledge have also contributed to the distancing of Higher Education from its
community constituents (including commercial interests) that is typified by the epithet “ivory tower” [Levin and
Greenwood 2001]. As Rahman [1993, p. 12] expressed it: “we intellectuals have been educated only to form and
to join a class of our own, aspiring for recognition by the international brotherhood of intellectuals, but alien
from our own society”. This is also maintained by the traditional approach to research which, contrary to popu-
lar perceptions, is not the only, nor even the most sensible, methodology to apply to problem solving. Indeed,
Pieterse [1999, p. 77] lamented that: “Interdisciplinary research is more widely applauded than practiced.”

In traditional research the researcher is effectively neutral (not necessarily objective), off the time-line,
able to scan the widest span, though not necessarily the detail, of unfolding events – usually enacted by others
– and generating propositional knowledge (E-theory) that can be reported and shared [McNiff and Whitehead
2003], as illustrated in Figure 1 below. This may also be captured by the concept of the Technical Rationality
model that is “embedded in the institutional context of professional life” and which Schön [1983] character-
ized as: “research is institutionally separate from practice, connected to it by carefully defined relationships
of exchange. Researchers are supposed to provide the basic and applied science from which to derive tech-
niques for diagnosing and solving problems of practice. Practitioners are supposed to furnish researchers with
problems for study and with tests of the utility of research results. The researcher’s role is distinct from, and
usually considered superior to, the role of the practitioner”.

The false dichotomy of theory and practice, which had seen the arrogation of research by institutions of
Higher Education, has led to a knowledge generating process that had little impact upon everyday practice,
especially in professional endeavours such as teaching, management and social work. Dewey was very critical
of this divide, as Argyris et al. [1985] noted: “Dewey was eloquent in his criticism of the traditional separation
of knowledge and action, and he articulated a theory of inquiry that was a model both for scientific method
and for social practice.” Indeed, positivist methods and the simple position of the objective observer were
clearly perceived to be inappropriate for researching social phenomena.

Fig. 1. The alternative positions of the “researcher” (looking down upon their head, as it were)

Source: Own elaboration. 87

Kowalski, R. (2017). Future progressive: the need for a professional doctorate – an international doctor of business administration.

Acta Sci. Pol. Oeconomia 16 (4) 2017, 83–91, DOI: 10.22630/ASPE.2017.16.4.47

Now we must compare this with those circumstances where the practitioner researcher engages with their
constituents in action research, as shown in Figure 1, being fully associated with the unfolding events, on the
time-line, and having to respond and use developing knowledge in the management of the situation in the here
and now – and generating more tacit knowledge, more particular knowledge, and more narrative knowledge
that others must seek to generalise into their own contexts as seems best to them (I-theory4), which McNiff and
Whitehead [2003, p. 22] described as: “theories which are already located within the practitioner’s tacit forms of
knowing, and which emerge in practice as personal forms of acting and knowing.” such research, carried out in
the actual settings of social practice, allows any research findings to be seamlessly projected into practice.

As Stringer [1996, p. 10] noted: “Action Research is a collective process, engaging people who previously
have been the subjects of research in the process of defining and redefining the corpus of understanding on
which their community or organisational life is based.” Indeed, Burnes [2004, p. 984] observed that: “Lewin’s
view was very much that the understanding and learning which this process [of Action Research] produces for
the individuals and groups concerned, (…,) is more important than any resulting change as such.”

Definitively, Levin and Greenwood [2001, p. 103] commented that: “Universities, as institutions charged
with the generation and transmission of knowledge, have created a variety of conditions inimical to the prac-
tice of action research and thus to competent knowledge generation, thereby producing poor quality of knowl-
edge and isolating themselves unproductively from the societies they claim to serve”.


Within Higher Education’s acquisition of the research domain came the right to confer associated qualifica-
tions. As such the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), initiated in nineteenth century Germany, was dependent
upon an epistemological position that academically valid knowledge must be abstract and, to all intents and
purposes, universal [Lester 2004], and which was considered to provide an appropriate pre-service training
for research professionals [Park 2005] founded upon “the Humboldtian belief” that academic staff and also
the students are in higher education “for the sake of science and scholarship” [Becher et al. 1994].

In recent years the fitness for purpose of this doctoral qualification has been widely questioned [Park 2005].
Increasingly the PhD has been seen as insular, esoteric and irrelevant to the world outside academia. Gilbert
[2004] listed the following shortcomings of the PhD:
• consumers of research outcomes are demanding closer attention to problems generated in the practices of

everyday life;
• multi-disciplinarity as a research context is most productive of innovation and discovery;
• changing conceptions of knowledge challenge the compartmentalized approach to research training which

has been institutionalized in university academic structures;
• traditional university processes are being tested by the increasing pace and dispersal of knowledge produc-

tion and innovation, including the increase in research activity outside the university sector;
• new roles are proposed for academics, experts and intellectuals, derived from ideas of entrepreneurship,

knowledge work, the public intellectual and advocacy for science and research;
• forms of the doctorate are increasingly diverse, with an increase in the role of portfolios and the establishment

of professional doctorates in many fields;
• debates over competing research paradigms and methodological issues have created tensions which compli-

cate the construction of the doctoral curriculum;

4 Where McNiff and Whitehead [2003, p. 22] have describe I-theory as: “a dialectical form of theory, a property of an indi-
vidual’s belief system”.


Kowalski, R. (2017). Future progressive: the need for a professional doctorate – an international doctor of business administration.

Acta Sci. Pol. Oeconomia 16 (4) 2017, 83–91, DOI: 10.22630/ASPE.2017.16.4.47

• concerns for the outcomes of doctoral research training have produced a widespread focus on the develop-
ment of generic or transferable skills.
Furthermore the pursuit of a doctorate seems to have become longer and more difficult, for example McAlpine

and Norton [2006] drew attention to the high attrition rates in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the
USA and their implications for the institutions, individuals and societies concerned. Consequently, there has
been a general shift from the focus upon the thesis product of the PhD to a more student development approach
emphasising skills. There is a new demand from funding bodies and potential employers that training within
PhD programmes should be more structured and better coordinated, that it be broadened to embrace key or
transferable skills as well as research skills, be compulsory rather than optional, and be more sensitive to issues
of employability that extend beyond simply creating new academics.

In the United Kingdom, as a result of the benchmarking work of the Council for Graduate Education, the
Quality Assurance Agency has suggested a set of outcomes for doctoral awards [QAA 2011] as follows:
1. Knowledge-based:
• K1 – systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the fore-

front of an academic discipline or area of professional practice;
• K2 – creation and interpretation of new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholar-

ship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, extend the forefront of the discipline, and merit publication;
• K3 – detailed understanding of applicable techniques for research and advanced academic enquiry.
2. Research skills:
• R1 – the general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new

knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the project de-
sign in the light of unforeseen problems;

• R2 – make informed judgements on complex issues in specialist fields, often in the absence of complete

• R3 – able to communicate their ideas and conclusions clearly and effectively to specialist and non-spe-
cialist audiences.

3. Attitudes:
• A1 – continue to undertake pure and/or applied research and development at an advanced level, contribut-

ing substantially to the development of new techniques, ideas or approaches.
4. Professional skills:
• P1 – have the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of per-

sonal responsibility and largely autonomous initiative in complex and unpredictable situations, in profes-
sional or equivalent environments.

Note that this constitutes a radical change of emphasis from the contribution of new knowledge as the pri-
mary objective to the generation of new researchers who have undergone “training” in research and new knowl-
edge generation.

There is also a clear recognition that new knowledge can also be generated outside of academia – predomi-
nantly in professional practice, underwriting the emergence of the Professional or Practitioner Doctorates.
Thus the growth of professional doctorates represents the arrival of the “student-development” approach at
the doctoral level. Such professional doctorates place the highest development of the student at the heart of
doctoral study, compared with the PhD which has the highest development of the discipline at its heart.

The practitioner doctorate challenges the PhD-based orthodoxy since it is explicitly concerned with practi-
cal knowing and doing, and does not set out to license researchers. It suggests a need for conceptualizations
that are not defined by academic research and knowledge generation. In a practitioner doctorate research is
undertaken with a particular aim in mind, and new knowledge is generated for a purpose, even if it is subse-
quently disseminated through publication. Graduates of a practitioner doctorate will necessarily be able to 89

Kowalski, R. (2017). Future progressive: the need for a professional doctorate – an international doctor of business administration.

Acta Sci. Pol. Oeconomia 16 (4) 2017, 83–91, DOI: 10.22630/ASPE.2017.16.4.47

operate as practitioner-researchers, but they are foremost capable and thinking practitioners. This enables doc-
torates to be conceptualized in terms of the kind of high-level thinking and action needed to create significant
and considered change and development in complex practical situations [Kowalski and Kaminski 1999].

Professional doctorates now form an established alternative to the PhD, both in the UK, the USA and
Australia. The culmination of this development is represented by what might be termed practitioner doc-
torates, based on development projects that result in substantial organizational or professional change and
a significant contribution to practice. Such programmes present a challenge to traditional conceptions of what
constitutes doctoral work based on research. Nevertheless, they are constituted in a way that is both robust
academically and appropriate for the complex and far-reaching problems encountered in contemporary so-
ciety. In particular the knowledge generated is to be validated on the basis of “what works” rather than the
objectivity of data gathering, or some such. Thus the “traditional” Doctor of Philosophy degree is intended to
develop professional researchers, the practitioner doctorate is designed to develop researching professionals.
That the two types of doctorate are indeed distinctly different and that the new practitioner doctorate meets
a very different need can be seen through comparisons set out in Table 1.

Table 1. Various aspects of the provision of the traditional and practitioner doctorates are compared

Aspect Traditional Doctorate Professional Doctorate

Topic Any within reason
Limited in focus often agreed with


Taught elements Possible but not prescribed Prescribed and extensive

Start date Whenever registered Fixed (usually biannually)

Relationship to other students Individual within a departmental group Part of a cohort of students

Thesis and viva voce

Or body of published work and viva voce
Course work (products, portfolios,

published papers), thesis and viva voce

Research focus Episteme; E-theory; Mode 1
Techne; Phronesis; I-theory; Mode 2

[Gibbons et al. 1994]

Research Methods Experiment; Objective 3rd party data gathering
Action Research; Subjective involvement

in generating data

Career Pre-service In-service

Contribution To a body of knowledge To professional practice

Audience Academic colleagues (Peers) Community of Practice

Source: Neumann [2005].


Thus, just as in 1995, we find the provision of Business Administration qualifications at the edge of a great
opportunity wondering whether as an international academic community we can and should grasp it with both
hands. Can we create an International Doctorate of Business Administration? One that is multi-centred, peripa-
tetic and which will support the development of business leaders in agriculture and related enterprises?


Kowalski, R. (2017). Future progressive: the need for a professional doctorate – an international doctor of business administration.

Acta Sci. Pol. Oeconomia 16 (4) 2017, 83–91, DOI: 10.22630/ASPE.2017.16.4.47

The AgriMBA offered by SGGW is uniquely placed to provide a basis and template for such a development.
Its strengths are that:
1. It is truly international in content and intention.
2. It is in-service – so highly practice oriented.
3. It involves the mixing of staff and students from partners across Europe.
4. It is founded upon breaking with traditions.
5. It is unpretentiously eclectic.

Nevertheless, we have to be cautious in our advocacy of change. The philosophical positions outlined above
also require that individuals have to find meaningful solutions which are appropriate for their own context. In
this respect it is vital that changes are brought about and implemented by the staff of the institutions concerned.
They cannot be driven from above, nor from outside. We must remember that although it is the external grain
of sand which causes the pearl to form, it is the oyster itself which does the making. Those farsighted, entrepre-
neurial academics who drove the AgriMBA are not in a position to drive forward an AgriDBA, but they represent
a resource of experience to support those who would.


Argyris, C., Putnam, R., McLain Smith, D. (1985). Action Science. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid Modernity. Polity Press, Cambridge.
Bauman, Z., Donskis, L. (2013). Moral Blindness: The Loss of Sensitivity in Liquid Modernity. Polity Press, Cambridge.
Becher, T., Henkel, M., Kogan, M. (1994). Graduate education in Britain. Jessica Kingsley, London.
Benjamin, Harold R.W. [J. Abner Peddiwell, pseud.] (1939). The Saber-Tooth Curriculum, Including Other Lectures in The

History of Paleolithic Education. McGraw-Hill, New York.
Burnes, B. (2004). Kurt Lewin and the Planned Approach to Change: A Re-appraisal. Journal of Management Studies, 41

(6), 976–1002.
Doring, A. (2002). …

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Books and Resources for this Week

Week 4

BUS-7102 v1: Applied Doctoral Studies in Business (45981… NI

The DBA in the Business World

The DBA has become a powerful tool in the business environment as it looks to go

beyond day-to-day business and looks to identify, research, and solve complex business

problems. It incorporates an advanced business skill set that is not taught in an MBA

program. The DBA fits the needs of a global business environment well. This

multidisciplinary degree is applicable across all industries.

Like the PhD, the DBA is a research role. The critical difference is the DBA is a problem

solver instead of a knowledge finder. The DBA is, as the name states, a Doctor of

Business. The goal of this professional is to diagnose a problem and fix the problem, often

through research. The DBA is tasked with identifying problems within a business and

coming up with solutions to resolve those problems.

DBAs are well suited for senior and C-level roles. The DBA program provides a skill set

that is not a part of an MBA program. The skill set of problem solver, alongside the ability

to make a system-wide change, makes the C-level DBA a powerful commodity. DBAs

frequently work at think tanks where they have the ability to study problems in depth and

propose radical, yet effective solutions. Consultants with a DBA have a broader range of

tools that can be used to provide services for other companies.

Be sure to review this week’s resources carefully. You are expected to apply the

information from these resources when you prepare your assignments.

66.67 % 2 of 3 topics complete

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Banerjee, S., & Morley, C. (2013).

Professional doctorates in

management: Toward a practice-based

approach to doctoral education.

Academy of…

Kowalski, R. (2017). Future progressive:

The need for a professional doctorate –

An international doctor of business

administration. Acta…

Week 4 – Assignment: Develop a PowerPoint to

Explain the Role of the DBA in the Business World

Due September 19 at 11:59 PM

Assume you are the hiring manager at a company that is having some business struggles.

You have been tasked with solving these issues through strategic hiring practices. You

would like to share the value of hiring DBAs for key company roles.

Develop a PowerPoint presentation that explains the value of a DBA in your company.

Explain what the DBA is and the difference between a DBA and PhD in the workplace.

Length: 7-10 slides. Each slide should have notes of 75-150 words in the notes area.

References: A minimum of 4 peer-reviewed journals/articles.

Your presentation should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts

presented in the course and provide new thoughts and insights relating directly to this

topic. Your response should reflect scholarly writing and current APA standards. Be sure

to adhere to Northcentral University’s Academic Integrity Policy.

Upload your document and click the Submit to Dropbox button.

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