Thoughts about the EBS DBA

Since I posted my EBS MBA FAQ over a decade ago (WOW!) I received many emails asking about the program. Now that the EBS DBA program has taken off, I almost never get a question about the MBA program, and most of my questions now are asking about the DBA program.

Unfortunately, since I didn't go through the DBA program, I don't really have any insider information, hints, or tips to share. However, that doesn't seem to stop people for asking me.

What I did do, was go through a PhD program the traditional, old-fashioned, a big state research school way.

So what I thought I might do instead, is to give me thoughts about the EBS DBA program, from the prospective of someone who knows a lot about EBS from my experience of spending time on campus in Edinburgh, and who has completed a PhD "the old fashioned way." 

First however, I want to shed some light on doctorates (PhDs and DBAs mainly) in general. This doesn't apply to MDs, DVMs, PharmDs, professional doctorates, and those white-coat-in-a-lab hard science doctorates. I'm mainly talking about the social science-y research doctorates.

For most of us, we spend our lives trying to learn new things. We start out learning how to walk, talk, and use the bathroom. If we make it that far, now we begin going to school. In the US, that is usually kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade for elementary school. Sixth through Eighth grades for middle school, and then high school for 9 - 12th grades. After that, there is college/university for a bachelors degree. People graduate, and then realize maybe that degree in early century street graffiti wasn't the best choice from an employability prospective. People go back to learn things yet again, this time either another bachelors degree, or perhaps a masters degree like the MBA.

After decades of this learning mindset, it is easy to think that getting your doctorate is just more learning, or a higher level of learning. I'm here to say that is wrong.

At the doctorate level, it is no longer about what you learn, the focus becomes what you can produce. The research you produce, the papers you can write, the classes you can teach, and the grant money you can pull in. Sure, there is a taught element to most US PhD programs, as well as the EBS DBA, but the taught element it is to teach you how to produce. You might have heard the term "Publish or perish." In academia, if you don't produce, you are out. The thing you are going to need to learn to produce to graduate is going to be your dissertation. 

In fact, a common complaint I hear from DL PhD or DBA students whether they are at a student at one of the big US DL universities, or a big state university is "All they seem to care about is grammar and paper formatting." That's because it's your research now, not somebody else's. If you are truly doing original research, there is really nothing anyone else can teach you, rather than guide you through the process.

If you find yourself saying, "I want to do a doctorate so I can learn about...". Stop right there. A doctorate is not the best choice for you. If you want to learn something, your best bet would most likely be another masters or a certificate program.

So here are the questions I typically get regarding the EBS DBA..

Question 1. How does the EBS DBA program compare to a PhD program at a US RA university?

US PhD programs can differ greatly. Even different departments within the same university can vary, and there can be variations within the same department because of the a student's dissertation committee being different. I can only compare things to the on-campus program that I did at the University of Florida. Also, I can only compare it to what I know about the DBA program from what I've read or other students have told me, not from actually being a DBA student.

Overall, the process for both is about the same. You start of with a taught portion, usually courses on how to do research and related things like statistics. You begin your literature review and start developing your research topic. At some point you need to get come with up a research proposal that passes muster with your dissertation committee. You do your research, present your results, and defend your work (in the UK, called a viva voca, in the US a dissertation defense.) At that point, you either 1)fail outright entirely, 2) pass outright entirely, or 3) pass, but you need to make some changes.

Of those three options, 1) is pretty rare, because they usually wouldn't even schedule your dissertation defense unless you were ready. Option 2 or 3 is the most common because at that point, it has usually been several years, and if you were that bad of a student, they would probably advise you to stop before you waste more time and money. Five years tends to be the average time from the start of the program, to the defense stage for both the EBS program, and other PhD/DBA programs.

Although the overall process for both is similar, I actually like the EBS way of doing the taught phase better. Everything is well laid out in their Introduction to Business Research courses and the quality of the material is excellent, and it's consistent. At a typical US university, you get a lot of variability in scheduling (certain required courses may only be offered once a year or something), and the quality can differ based on who is teaching the class.

Question 2. So, is the EBS DBA program just as rigorous as a program from a US regionally accredited university?

Knowing what I went through at my US program, and comparing that experience to others that have been through the DBA program, and looking at a few dissertations that I have found online, I would say absolutely.

Questions 3. What is the dropout rate for the EBS DBA program?

Good question, I have no idea. I would be curious to know that myself.  But it has been widely reported that the dropout rate for US doctorate programs is around 50%! So think about that before you jump into any doctorate program.