Learning how to give back to the community
While both DBA and MBA programmes are designed for executives, the focus of the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) DBA programme is to create and disseminate new knowledge useful to both industry and academia.
Programme leader Kuldeep Kumar says the aim is to help executives learn how to create useful knowledge and give back to Asian societies and their economies. “We train our DBA learning partners to conduct innovative research to find solutions to real-world problems, not just search for knowledge. The programme helps students acquire research methods and tools that help them create rigorously justified solutions to problems,” he says.
“In addition to typical academic research methods such as survey research, design of experiments, and qualitative data collection and analysis, our DBA executives learn to work with current, pragmatic research approaches such as design research, action research and action-design research,” he adds.
Management knowledge created and taught in Western business schools is useful, but not entirely appropriate, in the Asian context. The programme focuses on creating knowledge that contributes to Hong Kong, mainland Chinese, and Asian societies and economies. “The primary mission of our programme is to help our DBA executives create socially useful and, at the same time, rigorous knowledge,” says Kumar.
Bringing in the latest technologies and research methodologies plays a vital role in the learning process. “We equip our DBA learning partners with new Apple iPads with a specially designed software app called ‘The DBA Briefcase’,” Kumar says. “In addition, our learning partners are specially trained to use the hardware and software for information searches, organisation, analysis and collaboration. Our learning partners learn how to use the latest tools and techniques in meeting their objectives of creating rigorous and useful knowledge.”
Unlike typical doctoral programmes or Western PhD programmes, the CityU DBA favours collaborative knowledge creation. “We have developed exercises and assignments in which our executive learning partners learn how to work together, evaluate and criticise each other’s ideas, and come up with commonly understood and accepted research design decisions. Our programme encourages individual innovativeness and initiative, by evaluating and moderating it with collective wisdom, increasing the chances of its acceptance and implementation success,” Kumar says.
The programme takes a holistic view of business problems and situations. “Our DBA learning partners learn to examine and solve business problems from a multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspective. Increasingly, management of crises, whether physical or financial, natural or man-made, human or operational, is becoming a regular part of management. Our learning partners learn to examine business problems and crises from a multi-disciplinary perspective,” Kumar says.
Applicants must have a master’s degree in a business-related discipline from a recognised university and substantial professional working experience, including at senior level. Most applicants have more than 10 years of working experience.
Applicants will be invited to attend an interview to be assessed on their motivation and the feasibility of them completing a rigorous programme of coursework and research. The normal time for completion of the programme is four years. Students typically complete the programme in three to six years.
To allow students who are busy executives to have a flexible work and family schedule, classes are held over one weekend a month – a half-day on Saturdays and full day on Sundays.
Graduate Brian Li, who is managing director at free-weight manufacturer GP Industries, appreciates the opportunity the programme offered him to conduct vigorous research. Li shared his 20 years of management experience in his DBA thesis. “Much of the available text on globalisation is about how the Western world developed. I aim to contribute to industry by sharing my experience of a Hong Kong company developing under globalisation. I hope my experience can become a reference for the successors of my company and the industry,” he says.
Li thinks the research method that he learned from the programme is beneficial for business decision-making. “As a manager, I receive information from various parties and try to make the best choice. I find the approach and methodology on making decisions and carrying out research very similar. I think the research method that I acquired is very practical and helps make me a better business decision-maker,” he says.
Micky Lo, head of IT Security for Asia-Pacific at Deutsche Bank, is a firm believer in continuing development. He enrolled on the DBA programme to upgrade his knowledge. “The programme is very challenging because it demands that you become a pioneer. Most of the time you are doing research on your own. I advise those who want to take the programme to be prepared to carry out exhaustive research,” he says.
Lo was impressed with the exposure of the programme. “It offered me the chance to learn from high-fliers from various industries through the DBA community and the CEO forum. I also get to interact with students from Fudan University on the mainland. These have been valuable experiences for me,” he says.