Our Programmes

Doctoral Research Programmes

Take your career to the next level with a research-based DBA or PhD.

Pre-doctoral Programme

Develop an understanding of how to conduct doctoral-level research.

More about our Pre-doctoral programmes

Which Doctorate is right for you?

The DBA and PhD are both doctoral level research degrees and both entitle the holder to use the title ‘Dr’; however, they are designed for different purposes.  So which one is for you?

A PhD is an academic research degree where the focus is a contribution to scholastic knowledge. A PhD has traditionally been the de facto qualification for those wishing to move into academia and become a professional researcher. 

A DBA is a professional research degree where the focus is a contribution to the profession or practice overall. The DBA is designed to support professionals who wish to develop the skills needed to deliver unique solutions, based on an accurate, un-biased analysis of the situation.

Our Doctoral programmes

Designed to help students use research methods to define, implement and evaluate potential solutions for very real business issues.

Attracting high-calibre students from across the globe, the DBA and PhD builds on the learning gathered in our MBA and MSc courses to create a research-based programme of original thought and novel ideas. Studied by distance learning, students will have the full support of a dedicated Edinburgh Business School supervisor.

Heriot-Watt University is a UK, research-led university, and was assessed top in Scotland and 9th
in the UK for research impact, with 82% of our research assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent (REF 2014).

Our DBA and PhD students

Current students working towards their Doctoral programmes.

Active students

Current students working towards their Doctoral programmes.

Our Doctoral graduates from around the world.


Our Doctoral graduates from around the world.

Average time taken to complete a Doctoral programme.

How long will it take?

Average time taken to complete a Doctoral programme.

The Edinburgh Business School doctoral programme unites first-class academics, rigorous training in research methods with a global practitioner community.

Professor Abigail Marks, Director of Research & Doctoral Programmes

DBA and PhD programme structure

The programme consists of two stages, the course stage and the research stage. The course stage has been designed to equip you with the knowledge and expertise needed to develop the topic of your thesis and your understanding of the research process.

The research stage consists of two phases, the mentored phase and the supervised phase; on completion of these, you will submit your final thesis for examination which takes place in the form of an oral defence.

Course Stage

Demonstrate the knowledge and expertise required to underpin the subject of your thesis.

You first complete the three courses titled Introduction to Business Research 1, 2 and 3. These courses make up our pre-doctoral programme and will help you understand the research process.

On successful completion, not only will you have you have the theory, knowledge, tools and techniques required to embark on a doctoral research programme but you are also awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Business Research Methods, a significant University award in its own right. You will then go on to discuss your research interests with our senior mentor and develop an outline of your proposed area of research.

The senior mentor will then consider all your prior qualifications and experience in the proposed research area to decide which, if any, additional courses are required. The majority of students are not required to take additional courses as they tend to research an area they have qualifications and/or experience in.

Introduction to Business Research 1, 2 & 3

On completion of the three Introduction to Business Research courses, you will receive the award PGCert Business Research Methods

Introduction to Business Research 1

The research proposal - this course gives you a basic understanding of:

What research is and how it is carried out.
The concept of research
Empirical theory
Experimental and observational research
Basic research techniques
Qualitative and quantitative research
Research risk management and project management
Choosing a subject and research focus
Application to business research
Writing a research proposal
Developing a research timetable.

Download Course taster

Introduction to Business Research 1


Introduction to Business Research 2

The Intermediate Submission - Research methodology and literature review

How to do a business-related literature review and then use it to develop a hypothesis or theory about a business issue
The concept of a business research methodology
The concept of replication and validation
The specifics of management and business research
Identification of relevant management issues
The concept of a literature review
Sources of information and search techniques
The structure and format of a business literature review
Literature review synthesis and theory development
Research and operational hypotheses
The concept of a business-related hypothesis.

Download Course taster

Introduction to Business Research 2


Introduction to Business Research 3

Research Methodology, Data Collection and Analysis, Results and Conclusions

The third research module concentrates on;
Statistical techniques for data collection, analysis and drawing conclusions
Data collection and analysis techniques
Distributions, inference, significance, variance
Regression, correlation, regression analysis
Time series, stationary series, trends, forecasting errors
Pilot studies and theory refinement
Literature re-evaluation and theory refinement
Generating preliminary research results
Formulating results validation studies
Validation feedback and re-evaluation of research results.

Download Course taster

Introduction to Business Research 3


Research Stage

The Mentored phase: Define an appropriate subject for your thesis.

Working in co-operation with your mentor, you will spend around six months developing your research proposal. Your mentor will be a senior academic with experience facilitating the progression of DBA students through the mentored stage but not necessarily an expert in the subject of the proposed final thesis. 

The research proposal must be submitted to the Doctoral Review Committee for approval. Once accepted, you will be allocated a supervisor whose expertise lies within your proposed area of research.

 Suitably qualified students can choose at this point to pursue a PhD or DBA depending on which degree is more suited to their research topic.

Supervised Phase

Conduct a literature search, then write and defend your thesis.

Working under the direction of your supervisor, you will conduct a literature review that supports your research and methodology. You will then carry out your research and write your thesis. 

Your supervisor will be a senior academic with specific knowledge of your chosen area of research. You will have approximately six hours of contact time with the supervisor every month; electronic communication takes place on a secure web board within your Student Portal and is supplemented by telephone/Skype conversations.

Each stage of your research must be developed to a level acceptable to the Doctoral Review Committee.

On completion, your thesis is submitted for examination, which takes the form of an oral 'defence'.


How do you apply and when can you start?

Finding a Research Topic briefing notes

Here's a guide to use when thinking of a possible topic for your research.

Finding a research topic (pdf)

DBA Application form

To join the DBA programme, you must complete this Application form.

You must have five years’ experience, a Masters degree and be fluent in English. There is no fixed start date; you can begin at any time.

DBA Application form

PhD Application Form

To join the PhD programme, you must complete this Application form.

The equivalent of a UK 2:1 Bachelor’s (honours) degree or higher, with a dissertation, in a business/management related subject from a recognised institution, and/or a specialised Master’s degree, with a dissertation, in a relevant subject from a recognised institution. You must also be fluent in English. Please note that applications for the PhD programme are considered by the Admission Panel on an individual basis and therefore possession of the minimum qualifications does not guarantee you will be accepted on to the programme. There is no fixed start date; you can begin at any time.

PhD Application form

Your DBA and PhD Faculty

Want to find out more?

Our whole ethos is centred around the student. So if you’d like to find out what the School can do for you, fill out the form and we’ll get back to you. Quickly.

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