The Executive DBA

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The Aston DBA

As a senior professional, you will know that deep, dedicated thought on an issue is the path to innovation. The Aston Executive DBA is your chance to structure your thinking. You will discover how to turn complex ideas into action and become recognised as a thought leader in your field.

Course overview

  • Course level
    Postgraduate, MBA / DBA
  • Course type
  • Duration
    The Executive DBA is a part-time distance learning course which can be completed in four years. Actual completion may vary depending on circumstances.
  • Course options
    No placement
  • School

Entry requirements

  • For direct enrolment:
    Postgraduate degree in business or equivalent.
  • Further requirements:
    Min 5 years experience in a senior role.
More information

Key Dates

  • Start Date
  • April 2020 start
    Applications for April 2020 are not yet open, please register your interest with rdp@aston.ac.uk.

A unique research experience that can transform your career, organisation and development as an individual

A widely respected qualification that clearly demonstrates your credibility, insight and ability to innovate

Access to cutting edge thinking, translated into organisational impact

The opportunity to offer senior managers the chance for further career development

Course summary

The AMBA-accredited Aston Executive DBA offers you a distinctive opportunity to work with world-leading academics to advance research to continually progress thought on how to develop effective organisations.

Participants discover how to turn complex ideas into actions and become recognised as thought leaders in their field. 

The Executive DBA benefits

The Executive DBA is a part time distance learning doctoral programme designed so that senior professionals can advance their learning whilst still working in their existing roles. 

The Executive DBA goes beyond theory. To succeed, participants must show that they can transform practice with the knowledge they have created.  Participants discover how to turn complex ideas into actions and become recognised as thought leaders in their field.

You will benefit from:

  • a unique research experience that can transform your career, organisation and development as an individual
  • a widely respected qualification that clearly demonstrates your credibility, insight and ability to innovate
  • networking opportunities through a global cadre of highly experienced fellow Executive DBA participants to exchange ideas and experiences.

Your organisation will benefit from: 

  • access to cutting edge thinking, translated into organisational impact
  • the ability to significantly enhance their innovative capacity
  • the opportunity to offer senior managers the chance for further career development.
Programme structure

The Executive DBA is a part-time distance learning course which can be completed in four years. Actual completion may vary depending on circumstances.

Year 1 (up to two maximum): Research Methods Course and Qualifying Report.
Years 2-4 (up to six years maximum): Individual research project and submission of thesis/portfolio.

The Research Methods Course
All doctoral students undertake the taught Research Methods Course (RMC) as the foundation of their development as a professional researcher and this is undertaken in the first year of study (or the first two years in some circumstances).

The RMC is intended to provide you with all the skills that you require both to successfully complete your Executive Doctorate and to develop you as a "researching professional". The RMC is taught by expert staff in management research and is designed to lead to the development of your final research proposal and qualifying report, which is the conclusion of the RMC. 

RMC Delivery
The programme begins with a week-long residential module taught together with full-time research students. On-campus attendance is compulsory. For Executive Doctorate participants the three subsequent research methods modules are delivered online via Aston University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Blackboard. DBA participants are welcome to attend workshops on campus should the days and times these are arranged be convenient to them.

Distance learning

The Executive DBA offers a wide range of facilities in order to ease your transition into the world of research. A specifically tailored Distance Learning course, coupled with exemplary customer care and world-class supervision ensures that you have all the necessary tools to create knowledge.

A tailored and dedicated distance learning delivery

One of the key features of the Executive DBA is its distance learning delivery mode. The course has made a substantive investment in ICT support to make this experience work. The DBA exploits the latest version of the Blackboard™ Virtual Learning Environment, which enables the taught components of the Executive DBA to be delivered online, via learning materials designed to meet the needs of the DBA student specifically.  Podcasts, vodcasts, directed reading and online tasks and quizzes are provided for students to work through. Virtual discussion boards are used to conduct asynchronous online sessions between students and course tutors. Videoconferencing further supports live individual and group discussions as well as research supervision.

Understanding and exemplary customer care and support 

We understand that undertaking the Executive DBA is a huge commitment, we also know that time for any senior level manager is precious. This is why we offer a dedicated team to ensure your distance learning experience is one of efficiency. 


Research Methods Course
Each of the Research Method Course modules is assessed through assignments that require students to link the concepts from that module to their own research project.

Qualifying Report
The RMC is designed to lead to the development of a Qualifying Report, a written document approximately 6,000 words in length which forms the basis for the final thesis. The Qualifying Report is examined by viva voce and has to be successfully completed before the student proceeds onto the next stage of the research project.

Final Thesis
The research project culminates in the submission of a final thesis of up to 80,000 words in length. The thesis must be successfully defended by viva voce before the degree can be awarded.  

Research excellence and supervision

Any Executive DBA applicant is guaranteed to have a supervisor who has an excellent research track record directly related to the DBA topic. This is a rare facility that can only be undertaken by an institution with the research breadth of Aston Business School.  We will only take you on as a DBA if you can be supervised by a member of faculty who is a world-class researcher in their chosen field. 

Find out more about our areas of expertise.

Research DBA topics

When you apply for a DBA you will need to have an idea of the kind of research project you'd like to embark upon. With your application, you will need to submit a research proposal to demonstrate how you plan to take your topic further. 

Learn what makes a good research proposal.

Example Research Topics

Here is a small sample of the kind of research topics that DBAs have embarked upon here at Aston Business School:


Our Executive DBA students come from all over the world and have a wide range of professional experience across business sectors. 

Discover a variety of DBA testimonials

Michael Parker
Associate Director, Gleeds, Global Property & Construction Consultants 

Executive DBA

 "A doctorate is clearly a big commitment, but the distance learning approach allows me to study alongside my day job and benefit from the support of a world class business school."


Fees for 2019/20

£13,000 to be paid per year in years 1, 2 and 3.  £1,000 to be paid in years 4 and 5 and £2,500 in year 6.  A continuation fee of £650 will be payable in year 7.

Payment of tuition fees

You can pay your fees in full when your course commences or you can choose to pay by the following instalment option:

Fees can be paid in three termly instalments:

  • 50% (term 1)
  • 25% (term 2)
  • 25% (term 3)

What your fees include

  • full tuition for all modules, the Qualifying Report and the Thesis
  • online resources for the taught modules
  • a supervisory support network in your research area
  • full access to the University online Library facilities
  • 24 hour swipe card access to the Doctoral suite with wireless internet
  • use of the Executive DBA office for quiet study
  • use of printing and photocopying facilities
  • access to a private kitchenette area.


We are unable to offer any scholarships or funding to our students.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

For direct enrolment onto the Executive DBA you must have:

  • an MBA, MSc or an MA degree in business or management (or an equivalent professional qualification)
  • a minimum of five years experience in a senior role
  • for those whose first language is not English: either evidence that the masters degree was taught mainly or entirely in English or a satisfactory TOEFL or IELTS score (see below) or an equivalent English language qualification recognised by Aston University.

Additionally, you should demonstrate appropriate links to the practice that your proposed research refers to. Please direct any queries on eligibility to the Executive DBA Course Administrator: dba@aston.ac.uk.

English Language Requirements

  • TOFEL: A minimum score of 101
  • IELTS: An overall minimum score of 6.5
How to apply

The DBA takes the selection of its candidates very seriously and we go to great lengths to match a candidate with the right supervisor for their studies. Candidates will be expected to participate in a formal interview with a potential supervisor and the Programme Director before an offer of a place on the course is made.

Find out how to contact a supervisor and what documents you will need to provide in your application.

The DBA Programme intake is in October and April. Applications for the October intake should be submitted by 15 August at the latest and for the April intake by 15 February at the latest.  Any application after this date may not be processed in time for the October or April start.

Message from the Executive DBA Programme Director

Organisations are only as good as their people and their systems. Getting both aspects right for the context you work in, especially in a dynamic, competitive and global economy, can be hard.  These issues affect all sectors of the economy.

We want to work with you, as a thought leader responding to your work challenges, to help you refine your ideas and to inspire you to explore new ones as part of the Aston Executive DBA process. The outcome of this supported journey will be improved personal work practices and the confidence and capability to intervene and improve the organisational structures and processes you participate in, now and in the future. We want to make new knowledge work for you, but more than that, we will work with you to create a transformational learning environment so that you can realise your aspirations.

We also encourage curiosity-driven research. Research is measured not just by its economic impacts, but also by how it advances our understanding of the value of society and culture. In other words, echoing a view articulated by Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust, higher education drives economic development, solves society’s most urgent problems, and promotes enquiry that enables a critical stance so we can generate ideas and practices about work from a human perspective.

Engaged scholarship is a core mission for us. Join an international community of existing research students and alumni to achieve your ambitions. To find out more, explore the Executive DBA web pages, talk to a member of the DBA Team and exchange ideas with a potential supervisor.

Stuart Weinstein, Executive DBA Director

Register your interest