Cranfield School Of Management’s Executive DBA is the highest-level business qualification available. This DBA programme enables senior managers to conduct valuable, doctoral-level research on a part-time basis, over four years, while remaining in employment.

This unique, research-based, practice-driven DBA programme provides a route to a doctoral level qualification, using the latest research tools and techniques to develop leading-edge thinking and analytical skills.

Aimed at senior practitioners, policy-makers and consultants seeking leadership positions in their organisations and professions, the Cranfield DBA is one of the few worldwide to hold an Association of MBA (AMBA) accreditation.


  • Start date30 September 2024
  • Duration4 years
  • QualificationDBA
  • Study typeExecutive / Part-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Participants are a carefully-selected, highly diverse group of professionals, drawn from a wide range of nationalities, industries, cultures and backgrounds. The group comes together for taught modules held at Cranfield, and stay connected throughout the programme and beyond.

The cohort enjoys excellent study facilities, Cranfield’s international research perspective and its extensive alumni networks. As the research is likely to be thematic, rather than discipline-based, participants are supported throughout by a panel of faculty members to maximise the value of the programme.

The qualification is well recognised and opens doors. But, most importantly, developing a solid knowledge base and establishing new linkages has presented great new opportunities for research, consulting and teaching collaborations.

Dr Gabriela Alvarez, Director, Latitude Research and Consulting.

Programme structure

A part-time doctoral programme for experienced executives

The programme contains a minimum of eight residential weeks over four-years, which provide the structure and support to ensure that researchers continue to progress.

The first and second year are comprised of four individual five-day modules focusing on Research Methods, co-ordinated by, and delivered at, Cranfield School of Management. The research training and researcher development input is structured into weekly blocks enabling you to work with your Supervisor and other Faculty Members for a concentrated period.

The Research Methods Training Programme allows you to develop and optimise your research capability by leveraging the wealth of knowledge and resources available at Cranfield. Five Elements are included:

  • Engagement, Influence and Impact
  • Governance and Organization
  • Literature and Theory
  • Personal and Professional Development
  • Research Methodology and Methods 

DBA process
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The third and fourth years contain some optional workshops focusing on in-depth methodologies, writing, personal development, panel meetings, a half-week of training to prepare you for your final submission and the viva voce. Additional input is tailored to meet individual study requirements.

DBA researchers are required to attend all residential weeks at Cranfield School of Management. The expected time commitment (in addition to the residential Cohort/Campus weeks) is approximately 15-20 hours per week.

1 1 30 September – 4 October 2024
Research Presentation and Reflections
2 9 – 13 December 2024
Deliverable I - Problem Formulation
3 24 – 28 February 2025
4 23 – 27 June 2025
Deliverable II - Positioning Study
2 5 8 – 12 December 2025

11 – 15 May 2026

Deliverable III - Literature Based Project
7 14 – 18 September 2026

Deliverable IV - Research Design
Deliverable V - Impact Plan

3 8 10 – 14 May 2027
4     Deliverable VI - Empirical Project
9 8 – 12 May 2028
Deliverable VII - Impact Assessment
5-6    September 2028 Thesis Submission 
  Within 6 - 8 weeks of Thesis Submission Examination: Viva Voce
  June 2029

Why DBA?

Organisational Impact

The Executive DBA is a high quality, doctoral level, research degree which has real impact in organisations and on wider policy and practice.  It is undertaken by those who are focused on practice-based careers.

You and your organisation will benefit from dedicated research on a major, often critical, organisational issue. This should have a significant impact on your organisation's management thinking, approach, processes and profitability.

You will usually come to the programme with a broad practical question which aims to tackle a particular issue within your organisation. This question will become more focused and will lead to clear findings and insights throughout the programme. The combination of a review of existing evidence, the collection of primary empirical data and engagement with practice, allows you to undertake research that will have both academic value and a real impact on practice and policy.

Talking to Your Employer about Sponsorship

For many students, obtaining sponsorship from their organisation is a fundamental element of the application process. Our experience, strengthened by the agreement of our current students and alumni, highlights that securing the support of your employer, not only boosts the overall learning experience, but also enhances future career development.

The very essence of the Executive DBA means that the supporting organisation has the opportunity to capitalise on the employee's enhanced business and leadership skills allowing future company objectives and strategies to be met.

Personal Impact

The Executive DBA is designed to provide you with a range of transferable personal and professional skills as a basis for continuing professional development. You will develop personally by engaging in the learning required to progress through the doctorate.

The programme provides a rich developmental experience. Most students find that they undergo a transition in their thinking and approach during the programme to one that is more rigorous and evidence-based. The many skills that you acquire, or in many cases build on, are sophisticated ones that will clearly differentiate you from other managers. The skills are both derived from, and are seamlessly transferable to, ongoing business situations.

This personal development means that our DBA alumni go on to reach senior positions in their careers; sometimes moving into roles in government or starting their own consultancy business. DBA graduates might also combine this with part-time teaching roles, and, we hope, maintain their relationship with Cranfield School of Management.

The Cranfield DBA Experience

A world-class reputation for quality assurance, support, environment and resources

Our focus is on ensuring that your contribution to practice is not only of relevance to your organisation, but has the capacity to impact broader practice and/or policy within your field. To help you achieve this, the programme delivers on its world-class reputation for quality assurance, support, environment and resources.

What particularly distinguishes our Executive DBA is the level of individual attention given to each participant in the programme through a series of structured progress reviews and specialised tuition. Together, they provide participants with an enviable and possibly unique experience in the world of business education.

Quality Assurance

Our Executive DBA is a fully-resourced, structured programme with leading faculty contributing to both teaching and supervision. Launched in 1999, our Executive DBA is based upon over 17 years experience of delivering a quality programme which produces rigorous and relevant research.


As the issues addressed by Executive DBA researchers are real organisational problems, they tend to be cross-disciplinary, requiring input from a number of faculty with differing expertise. This is reflected in our use of supervisory teams rather than a single supervisor, and additional support from various research activities, centres and groups within Cranfield. This ensures you will receive the most appropriate level of support and access to a wide range of expertise with common research interests.

The School of Management’s Student Advisory Services team are committed to supporting all researchers through their learning journey from initial enquiry to graduation and beyond. Whenever you need that vital piece of information or advice they will respond directly by email or telephone. A learning portal is also available for all course materials and guidelines, accessible anywhere in the world, which is supported by the Cranfield Research Office.

The structured nature of the programme provides a clear set of milestones, which enable students to evaluate their progress and ensure they are keeping on track to complete within the timeframe.

The strength of support from other students in the cohort is invaluable. A Cohort Leader from Cranfield School of Management's academic community takes specific interest in your progress, in addition to the Programme Director, Supervisory Team and Research Training Tutors. Support is also available from the School of Management Library and the award winning Kings Norton Library. Through both these facilities, Cranfield offers access to a vast electronic library of business information and management resources. Our rich, online collections enable students to explore the ideas of many world respected management thinkers.

What particularly distinguishes our Executive DBA is the level of individual attention given to each participant in the programme through a series of structured panels and specialised tuition. Together, they provide participants with an enviable and possibly unique experience in the world of business education.

How to apply

You will need to submit a research proposal in support of your application. You will be prompted to upload your research proposal before you submit your completed application form. This should be a word file and contain the following sections:

  1. Title of research
  2. Brief description of research, including details of the management or organisational problem that your research will address (maximum 500 words)
  3. Aims and objectives of the research (maximum 500 words) Research question(s) (maximum 150 words)
  4. Literature review (maximum 1000 words) - Provide a critical analysis of the existing literature and use the literature to justify the need for your proposed research. This may address the following questions: Which literature informs your topic and why? Where specifically are you positioning your proposed research within the field? What are the key sources? What are the key theories, concepts and ideas? What are the major issues and debates about the topic? Broadly, what is currently known about the topic? What deficiencies are there in the literature and how might your proposed topic address them.
  5. Methodology (maximum 250 words) - Briefly describe how you would approach your data collection and analysis
  6. The potential impact of your research (maximum 800 words) - Who would benefit from your research? What are your plans for user engagement and communication?
  7. Collaboration/co-funding - Please name any potential partners for your research who might assist with your data collection and/or sponsorship. Please outline any sources of funding, applications to other bodies, etc., either secured or being sought
  8. Commitment to research - How do you intend to balance your research with other commitments? What agreements have you sought/secured from your employer?

Your proposal will be circulated to appropriate members of faculty for consideration.

When a member of faculty expresses interest in your proposal you can expect to receive feedback from him/her and be invited to develop your research topic further. Ideally, you will also meet your potential lead supervisor in person. We attach great importance to the researcher/supervisor relationship and this is an essential part of the recruitment process. A decision by your potential supervisor to shortlist you at this stage will require you to attend a formal interview.

Approval of your proposal by a potential supervisor does not always guarantee a place on the programme. The offer of a place is decided by the Director of the Programme and interview panel. For further guidance on this please contact the Research Office.

Read our Application Guide for a step-by-step explanation of the application process from pre-application through to joining us at Cranfield.