The Executive Doctorate (DBA)

Executive Doctorate researchers develop their intellectual, business and research expertise to the highest levels by working with world-leading academics in a challenging and supportive research community. 

Our intent is that they graduate as knowledge leaders in their areas with a powerful practical knowledge and skill base that enables them to make a difference to their organisations.

The Aston Executive Doctorate offers an opportunity for leaders to work at the interface of advanced research and business to ensure unique and powerful breakthroughs in understanding how we can develop effective organisations.

The Executive DBA is a distance learning doctoral programme designed so that senior professionals can advance their learning whilst still working in their existing roles. On exit, people gain a qualification equivalent to a PhD and are entitled to call themselves ‘Doctor’. 

The Executive DBA goes beyond theory. To succeed, participants must show that they can transform practice with the knowledge they have created.

The benefits offered to the Individual:
  • A unique research experience that will impact on their career and their own development as an individual
  • A widely respected qualification that clearly demonstrates their intelligence and ability to innovate
  • Networking opportunities through a global cadre of highly experienced fellow Executive DBA participants to exchange ideas and experiences.

The benefits offered to your Organisation:

  • Access to vital ‘cutting edge’ thinking that they can use in their own organisation
  • The ability to significantly enhance their own innovative capacity
  • The opportunity to offer senior managers the chance for further career development

Flexible and distance learning

The Executive DBA Programme offers a wide range of facilities in order to ease you transition into the world of research.  A specifically tailored Distance Learning Programme, coupled with exemplary customer care and world class supervison 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 Programme is its distance learning delivery mode. The Programme has made a substantive investment in ICT support to make this experience work. The Programme exploits the latest version of the Blackboard™ Virtual Learning Environment, which enables the taught components of the Executive DBA to be delivered by podcast linked to a range of Powerpoint material provided. Virtual discussion boards are used to conduct online sessions between students and programme tutors.

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 member of staff to ensure your distance learning experience is one of efficiency. As well as this, the programme offers an experienced Programme Director, who not only has a wealth of industry-led experience, but gained his doctorate in the same way.

The Executive DBA Programme at Aston University is a part-time four year programme. 

Milestones and Structure
Part-time: four years study (up to six years maximum) 
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. 

The four modules are:
RMC I – Basic Skills within the Management Research Process    

RMC II- The Philosophy of Management Research

RMC III – Qualitative and Quantitative Research Design and Analysis

RMC IV - Communication and Advanced Research Skills

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

RMC Delivery
RMC Modules I and IV are residential week long modules taught together with full-time research students and on campus attendance is compulsory.  For Executive Doctorate students RMC II and RMC III are delivered online via Aston University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Blackboard.  Distance-learners are welcome to attend some of the workshops on campus should the days and times these are arranged be convenient to them.  

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 approximately 80,000 words in length.  The thesis must be successfully defended by viva voce before the degree can be awarded.

Final thesis 4 paper Route

The research project culminates in the submission of a final thesis approximately 80,000 words in length.   

The final submission for this route consists of 4 papers of publishable quality, complete with a Critical Commentary.  The four papers that make up the body of the thesis must meet the following requirements:

  • All four papers must be linked by a common spine
  • A minimum of two of the papers will be published in peer-reviewed practitioner oriented journals (minimum 2 star)
  • The remaining two papers must be judged to be of publication quality by the supervisory panel but not yet accepted for publication. 

This route allows the student flexibility with regard to their final thesis submission, allowing for changes in role or company whilst still maintaining the academic rigour required for a Doctoral thesis.  Below is a proposed timeline for the work required during the Doctoral programme as a whole.

The thesis must be successfully defended by viva voce before the degree can be awarded.

Postgraduate Certificate in Business Research and Consultancy

All Executive Doctorate students will begin their studies by being registered for the Postgraduate Certificate in Business Research and Consultancy. The syllabus for this Postgraduate Certificate comprises of the RMC modules. This means that should students leave the Executive Doctorate programme before the award of a doctorate, they can be awarded the Postgraduate Certificate if they have successfully passed the RMC.

Entry requirements

For direct enrollment onto the Executive DBA programme you must have:

  • An MBA, MSc or an MA degree in business or management (or an equivalent professional qualification)
  • A minimum of 5 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, applicants should demonstrate appropriate links to practice to which their proposed research refers. Please direct any queries on eligibility to the Executive DBA Programme Administrator: dba@aston.ac.uk.

English Language Requirements

  • TOFEL: A minimum score of 101
  • IELTS: An overall minimum score of 7.0

           (6.5 reading, 7.0 writing, 6.5 listening and 7.0 speaking)

Below are fees for the 2014/15 academic year

Part Time






Year 1



Year 2



Year 3



Year 4/5/6



 Year 7

£540 (approx)** 

£540 (approx)**

 *  Continution fee for duration of Programme

** Writing up fee due after 6 month grace period

In order to qualify for Home or European Union fees, you must be able to provide evidence that you have no restriction on your stay, and have resided in the UK or European Union for the past 3 years and not for educational purposes.  

For details of full time fees, please contact the Programme Administrator, as this route is only offered in exceptional circumstances.

Find out what is included in your fees >

Payment of tuition fees

For this programme you can pay your fees in full when your programme commences or you can choose to pay by the following installment options:

Fees can be paid in three termly installments:

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

What your fees include

Our Executive DBA programme is inclusive of:

  • 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.

Rankings & Accreditation

Rankings & Accreditation

Message from the Executive DBA Director

Message from the Executive DBA Director

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.

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Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research