Our Doctorate and PhD programme

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 DBA.

Active students

Current students working towards their DBA.

Our DBA graduates from around the world.


Our DBA graduates from around the world.

Average time taken to complete the DBA.

How long will it take?

Average time taken to complete the DBA.

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. Complete these and you will be among the very best practitioners of research-based business solutions in the world. 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 will help you understand the research process. Each course is assessed by a written examination. Pass these and you will 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. If necessary, you must successfully complete these additional subject courses, each of which requires around 200 hours of study, before progressing to the research stage. 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.

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 Research Committee for approval. Once accepted, you will be allocated a supervisor whose expertise lies within your proposed area of research.

The 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  Research Committee.

On completion, your thesis is submitted for examination, which takes the form of an oral 'defence'. The examination will be conducted in person or by live video link.


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 DBA research.

Finding a DBA research topic (pdf)

Your student handbooks

The DBA Student Handbooks gives you guidance and provides background information on Edinburgh Business School and the various stages of the DBA programme, as well as procedural guidance notes and regulations. Here's the DBA course stage handbook as an example.

DBA course-stage handbook (pdf)

Application form

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

This must be sent to Edinburgh Business School in the UK for review along with two references and an official transcript of your Masters degree.  You must have five years’ experience and a relevant Masters degree – either an MBA or an MSc in business and management subject(s), or a relevant PhD. All DBA students must be fluent in the English language. There is no fixed start date for the DBA programme; you can apply and commence your studies at any time of year.


DBA application form

Key contacts

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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