Business PhD Programs Need to Think Outside the Ivory Tower

Photograph by Edwin Remsberg

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is calling for business doctoral programs to shake things up by educating students with a range of professional aspirations that could include roles outside of academia.

In “The Promise of Business Doctoral Education,” a report released on Sept. 10, AACSB’s task force also asks schools to encourage doctoral students to pursue research that will have a practical impact on business, which aligns with the AACSB’s recent revision of accreditation standards.

Among the report’s specific recommendations are increasing access to business doctoral education, making better use of limited resources, and both developing programs for students seeking careers in business and creating “career pathways” between business and academia to bring more professionals into the classroom.

“Doctoral education serves a role in sustaining management education and serving broader society,” says Robert Sumichrast, dean of Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business and chair of the AACSB’s Doctoral Education Task Force.

While the report purposely falls short of offering a prescription for doctoral programs, it encourages educators to innovate. Among the suggestions: Shift the cost of doctoral education to the students themselves and scrap the traditional dissertation in favor of a set of related articles. It also urges schools to consider alternative concepts from around the world, holding up as examples five types of doctoral programs in business that might serve as models.

In addition to the traditional program that graduates new business school faculty members, the report cites a three-year, part-time program for senior executives who want to undertake a research project and apply their findings to contemporary business problems.

An additional program offers students the option of pursuing a part-time track, if they plan to stay in business, or a full-time track for those who wish to go into academia. A fourth program designed to produce new professors, offered jointly by three business schools, gives students access to more faculty and other resources than any single school could afford. Finally, a part-time, three-year program for working professionals consists of a partnership between two schools, one of them in an emerging-market nation.

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