By Hanna Drozdowski, Senior Coordinator, Research and Projects, AACSB International
Although the paramount achievement at AACSB's International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) 2013 was the acceptance by AACSB membership of the 2013 Accreditation Standards, there were some other achievements which are sure to be of much interest amongst AACSB members. One particular achievement, as declared during the Annual Business Meeting by Chair Joseph A. DiAngelo, dean of the Erivan K. Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph's University, was the acceptance of the Doctoral Education Task Force's report by the Committee on Issues in Management Education (CIME) and the AACSB Board of Directors. Members can expect the release of the report, which is based on more than a year of research, analysis, and observations regarding business doctoral education worldwide, this year.
Chair of the Doctoral Education Task Force and dean of the Terry College of Business, at The University of Georgia, Robert T. Sumichrast delivered a presentation, with Laura Maguire, executive director of doctoral programs at Instituto de Empresa (IE) Business School, during the conference titled, "The Future of Business Doctoral Education." Although not a presentation on the task force report, the focus of discussion was strongly related to topics covered within the report, including the growing diversity in business doctoral program delivery around the world, along with diversifying career aspirations and outcomes of those earning business doctorate degrees. As Sumichrast pointed out, most faculty and academics are mainly familiar with the experiences of the doctoral programs that they themselves completed, which in most cases mirrored the programs and experiences of their mentors. "Many people have a narrow idea of what corresponds to a business doctoral program," mentioned Sumichrast, and this is "one of the biggest obstacles to innovation (in business doctoral education)."
Sumichrast and Maguire shared characteristics of doctoral programs at their respective institutions, which vary greatly. The PhD program at the Terry College of Business could be regarded as constituting a "traditional" format, especially by U.S standards, in that students, relatively fresh out of their undergraduate studies pursue four to six years of full-time, rigorous research and study, defend their dissertation, and aim to secure faculty positions at other peer institutions. Maguire discussed the IE DBA program, which is positioned for working professionals who pursue roughly four years of study and research with a more applied focus (compared to a "typical" PhD program), in a part-time and blended format, and complete the program with a successful dissertation defense. DBA students are not expected to pursue academic careers, but may show interest in teaching part-time or as adjunct faculty, eventually. Nonetheless, both programs emphasize rigor in research with publication expectations, and strive to uphold high standards of quality in delivery and expected outcomes.
The session's attendees seemed very interested in the distinction across the academic and 'professional' focused programs. Maguire pointed out the level of noise that exists among professionally-oriented doctoral programs, particularly regarding their titles, i.e., what are the differences between the Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA), the executive doctorate, the professional doctorate, etc.? Questions in the room seemed to align with much of the confusion the task force encountered regarding the terminology associated with these types of programs, as well as the rigor, quality, and career expectation for professionally oriented programs. Others cited examples supporting that what is considered a "traditional" model in one context is often different from the "traditional" model in another cultural or geographical contect.
The topics raised during the question and answer session supported the notion that in fact there is significant diversity in business doctoral program formats and delivery, as well as the level of awareness regarding the innovations being implemented. Sumichrast believes that the Doctoral Education Task Force's report will potentially help clarify some misconceptions about doctoral education models and elevate understanding and awareness of what is occurring globally in this realm. The report will also challenge AACSB schools to define the purpose of their doctoral programs, explore innovations such as the use of consortia and better articulate the value of their programs. Furthermore, as Sumichrast mentioned in the session, the report will issue to AACSB International a set of recommendations to provide the necessary support and guidance needed by schools to achieve the best quality in the types of doctoral programs they offer their students.