Prof Doc Business Administration (DBA) - University of Portsmouth

DBA Professional Doctorate in Business Administration

Part Time4-7yrs

Research to reflect on and contribute to professional practice

Course Overview

Why take this course?

The DBA is our flagship programme in business and management at Portsmouth Business School. It has been designed for private and public sector management professionals who wish to advance their careers by studying and researching for a doctoral degree in business and management. It allows students to conduct applied, practice–oriented research on topics that are directly relevant to their employing organisations and provide benefits both for their own careers as well as for the employers.

DBAs are increasingly recognised as valuable alternatives to the traditional PhD doctoral research degree that is mostly much more theory-oriented and less applied to concrete organisational problems and needs. The DBA also includes an intensive taught phase that prepares students in considerable depth for the empirical research that they undertake – usually in the organisation where they are currently employed at a senior/executive level.

Find out more about this course and our facilities by attending one of our regular open evenings where you can meet teaching staff and current students.

What will I experience?

The DBA offers students the opportunity to:

  • Experience a unique approach to intellectual inquiry emphasizing the integration of theory and practice
  • Conduct practice-oriented research
  • Contribute to applied management knowledge
  • Develop intellectually and personally as an individual, as an executive and as a contributor to the professional community
  • Gain a prestigious doctoral degree achieved through a rigorous, structured and comprehensive educational experience

Is it for me?

Designed for those who wish to conduct a programme of research pertaining to their current organisation, study occurs alongside professional practice, providing a framework for the demonstration and development of advanced professional knowledge and skills. Relevance to the professional environment is a pivotal feature and reflection on business and management practice is integral to the learning process.

What opportunities might it lead to?

The DBA is aimed at senior professionals with postgraduate qualifications who wish to:

  • take their management and professional development to new levels
  • add to their professional body of knowledge
  • further develop their own management careers

The research focus of the DBA addresses real business issues, with the results providing professional outcomes that are of direct relevance to your organisation. Research is both theoretical and practical. The DBA thesis is comparable to a PhD in terms of effort, rigor, contribution to knowledge, supervision and assessment.


Dave Corkill, Prof Doc in Business Administration (DBA) graduate

The DBA attracts a fantastic cross-section of senior business people and the opportunity to discuss theories and practices with them has been extremely valuable. We discuss real-life scenarios in relation to the course content which means we all benefit from a perfect balance of academic and practice-based learning.

Dave Corkill, Prof Doc in Business Administration (DBA) graduate

Back to top

Structure & Teaching

Our part-time programme involves between three and four years study and includes taught units, research methodology and action research. It is assessed by assignments primarily during year one (taught year), culminating in the final assessment of a doctoral level, research-based report.

The Portsmouth DBA comprises two key stages:

Year one: the taught component and assignment assessments.

Years two, three and four: the research component and final assessment.

A formal ‘Progression Board’, by which students should have successfully completed all first year assignments, denotes progression from stage one to stage two.

Part 1

This is the 'taught' component of the programme, which will equip students with the skills that they will need in preparation for Part 2. Part 1 consists of four units, namely:

Professional Review and Development: This unit will enable you to conduct a critical self-evaluation and identify your own learning requirements in relation to your doctoral programme of study and your own continuous professional development (CPD).

Advanced Research Techniques: This unit is key to your research practice and will allow you to successfully employ appropriate research theory and methodology in your own doctoral study and professional practice.

Publication and Dissemination: This unit focuses on output – analysing and critiquing publication and dissemination routes/methods within the field of business and management. It will cover both academic and professional dissemination in journals, books and conferences, as well as examine the need to communicate effectively with a range of professional groups.

Proposal for Professional Research and Development: This unit will enable you to reflect upon and consolidate prior learning and will underpin the preparation of a costed, coherent, realistic, achievable and well-argued proposal for a programme of professional research and development. This proposal must have been successfully completed in order to be approved by the formal Progression Board.

Part 2

You will study a research unit (Professional Research and Development) spanning years two, three and four. This will primarily involve supervision by your assigned DBA Supervisor and is overseen by the DBA Director, who will seek to ensure that timely progress is being made in the research, resulting in appropriate completion.

We use the best and most current research and professional practice, alongside feedback from our students, to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.

Teaching and Assessment

Our approach to learning is friendly, supportive and participative. The programme encourages active involvement and debate and fosters a lively exchange of ideas and knowledge. Our focus on application, rather than theory alone, is embedded throughout.

In year one, you will need to participate in the taught sessions, workshops and discussion forums and must be available to attend these. There is no attendance requirement in subsequent years, as your research is likely to comprise independent study in your own organisation, although regular meetings with your supervisor will be necessary.

Supervision and support is also a major component of the course. An allocated supervisor will guide and support you throughout your research programme and you will benefit from the ideas and learning experiences of your peers in what we call a ‘learning set’ (a small group of 3 or 4 peers who are at the same stage of DBA research as you).

How are you assessed?

Assessment is by coursework assignments at the end of the first year and students progress to the individual research phase after having passed the year one assessment. During the first taught year, students are allocated a mentor to help them develop their research topic in more depth and to prepare them for the research phase where they will be guided by a team of two academic supervisors over the following years.

Back to top

Facilities & Features

Portsmouth Business School

Portsmouth Business School is one of the most successful business schools in southern England. We have an impressive reputation for research, quality and academic excellence. We are among the top UK business schools for research and as part of their periodic review, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education awarded the University the best possible judgement for quality and academic standards. This track record of success and strength enables the DBA to draw on a truly impressive resource of expertise, knowledge and experience, both in the design and delivery of the programme.

Graduate School

The University of Portsmouth Graduate School supports, administers and coordinates training for the MPhil, PhD, and Professional Doctorate programmes. We aim to involve you fully in our research programmes by providing professional training, offering high-quality supervision, and giving you the opportunity to develop your knowledge and to equip you for your future career or further research.

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

You will also have access to thousands of online journals and will be eligible to join the ‘SCONUL’ scheme, which is a cooperative venture between higher education libraries that makes it easier for you to use academic libraries nearer to home or work. Our online facilities also allow you to:

  • access course materials and handbooks from your home or workplace
  • take part in online discussion groups with other DBA participants
  • communicate easily with Portsmouth Business School staff


Budgeting for your studies

There may be extra costs arising from your studies which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Some are common costs to all courses of study. These may include the cost of study texts, reference books, photocopying and computer supplies. Others relate to specific courses and may include field trips, materials and specialist equipment.

Back to top

Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Career prospects
Where next?

Your research will endeavour to make a significant original contribution to professional practice and theory relating to business and management. It will also challenge current assumptions and provide authoritative solutions, as well as influence and provide inspiration and leadership for others in the changing environment of professional practice.

Overall, the DBA is the highest level of professional and academic achievement inevitably leading to career growth in your current organisation and paving the way to further employment opportunities.

Benefits to the workplace

Benefits to the workplace
Employment boosting opportunites

The DBA is designed for those who wish to conduct applied research in their current work organisation. It offers employing organisations the benefits of:

  • An in-depth analysis of a key organisational issue or concern conducted by one of their own senior managers/professionals
  • Tapping into the experience of high profile academic experts from Portsmouth Business School
  • Work effectively at the crucial interfaces between industry and academia
  • Developing and advancing the active professional network of key staff who undertake the DBA research project

Career planning

Career planning

To make sure you take the right steps on your career path, we’re here to give you help, support and advice throughout your study. Even after you’ve graduated, we continue to give you support for up to five years.

Employers tell us that they want graduates to be able to demonstrate certain skills when they come out of university. Our courses take account of this. We make sure we prepare you for employment through work-related learning, projects, placements and working in simulated environments that are designed to prepare you for the working world.

Ed Derbyshire, Prof Doc in Business Administration (DBA) graduate

Ed Derbyshire, 50, is the director of testing for COMDEV Ltd who supply microwave and electronic equipment to commercial, space and defence markets around the world. The organisation is moving forward into some new and exciting phases and Ed decided to undertake the DBA to help him manage the new challenges he would face.

Ed said that he found the depth of research and analysis on the DBA extremely rigorous from day one. He said that anyone undertaking a DBA needs to be hungry for knowledge, have plenty of self-discipline and be interested in developing themselves.


Ed Derbyshire

Ed Derbyshire
DBA graduate

For me it was very much a personal challenge and it’s taught me to be systematic, reflective and it’s given me more confidence. It’s been an illuminating year so far and other people are already noticing a change in me. Personally I’m already reaping the rewards.

Back to top

Apply now or visit us

Online application form

Apply direct using our online form

Your application will be received by the University Admissions Centre for consideration.

Postgraduate Events

Our Postgraduate Events take place between November and May. Lecturers and support staff will be available to discuss your options. You'll also find out more about your chosen course and subjects that interest you.

Other opportunities to visit

Download our free walking tour PDF for a self-guided tour of the University.

We have an open-door policy so you will be able to take a look in our buildings, speak to some of our support services and get a feel for the campus.

Find out more about our self-guided walking tours.

Can't get to Portsmouth?

If you can’t make it to Portsmouth, come and see us at one of the events we attend around the UK.

Staff from our International Office also regularly attend overseas exhibitions. To find out more about these and our visits to your region see our International Office exhibitions page.

Fees and Funding

Find out more about fees and funding available to you at Portsmouth.

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.

University of Portsmouth
University House
Winston Churchill Avenue
Portsmouth PO1 2UP

T: +44 (0)23 9284 8484