DBA Programs: Assess the reputation and teaching experience

Published: 3 October 2017 | by Thomas Graf

More than 250 Professional Doctorates in Business Administration programs are offered worldwide, more than 160 offered part-time. But the quality of the programs seems to differ a lot. How can you distinguish between programs beyond geographical or cultural distinctions? More precisely, how can you estimate the quality of a program?

Assess the general reputation of a DBA school, its experience in teaching, and its exposure to executives

In addition to the use of accreditation agencies and rankings on a faculty's research contribution, you can also assess the general reputation of a DBA school, its experience in teaching, and its exposure to executives.

Assess the reputation of the school by using rankings from internationally recognized journals or newspapers

In addition to the specific research quality of a faculty and the accreditation, the overall reputation of an institution can be a proxy of quality as well. You can look at more general business school rankings such as the Financial Times European Business School ranking or you can take into account more specific rankings related to particular management programs.

  • Bloomberg Businessweek, The Economist, and the Financial Times for instance publish lots of rankings around undergrade, graduate, and executive education in management areas. If a school is continuously ranked high here and offers a Doctor of Business Administration - this may be a signal of high recognition and at the end of the day even high quality.

How experienced is the school in teaching part-time programs?

Most doctorates in management for professionals - for instance the DBA - are taught such that managers can continue their job and at the same time earn a doctoral degree. In other words, theseprograms often are part-time programs. Now the question is: How good is the school in designing and structuring a program such that your learning effect is high?

  • Executive doctoral programs - similar to other part-time programs - are often structured as blended programs where residential (face-to-face) periods are combined with individual studying or online communication. If a school has a huge portfolio of blended programs - for instance, MBA programs or executive education workshops - then their Doctor of Business Administration programs likely profits from that experience and competence.
  • Therefore: Have a look at the other blended programs that a school offers and maybe take even specific rankings into account. Is the school highly ranked in online education rankings, for instance?

Assess a schools' network to managers: How well is the school exposed to executives?

Another way to assess the quality of a DBA program is having a look at the exposure of the school to executives. Executives or senior professionals in general are the primary target group for Doctor of Business Administration programs. Now in the absence of DBA rankings - why not having a look at other program types in management that are designed for a similar target group?

  • Have a look at the schools's offers for executives in general. Does it offer an Executive MBA (EMBA) for instance? Does it offer executive education seminars or workshops? If yes, how well ist it ranked here? Both the Financial Times and the Business Week offer rankings on this type of education and as such may help you finding the right program.

How you find top DBA programs

Of course you may find quality programs also in schools that do not fulfill each of these guidelines. Keep in mind that these guidelines are just rules of thumb and they do not provide a guarantee for finding the right program for you. At its best they are proxies to identify those programs that likely have a higher quality than others. By this, they may help you reduce the number of potential programs to choose. The next step, however, will be that you get in contact with the schools personally and talk to professors, admissions people as well as current and ex DBA students.

Further articles on how you assess the quality of an executive doctorate in business

By Thomas Graf