Doctorate in Business Administration

Turn experience into knowledge to make a real impact on your business

If you’re ready to become a thought leader in your field, deepening your business understanding with theoretical perspective, then the Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) will allow you to create even greater impact. 

This blended doctoral programme gives you the opportunity to carry out research alongside your current role. You’ll live and learn the skills to dive deep into your chosen specialism, so you can take the leap into the academic world of research. You’ll develop the skills and approaches to re-energise your organisation with original insights and fresh perspectives. 

Detailed programme

The partners

Vlerick logo coloured square green aquablue
Ghent University logo

The DBA is a five-year programme made up of two stages – a learning stage and a research stage. Participants have the flexibility to take an accelerated track, and finish in less time, or to extend their study beyond the standard timeframe. 

Learning stage

The objective of the first stage is to develop your research capabilities. You’ll take part in five week-long, courses that cover the entire research cycle. In these intensive sessions, you’ll develop the knowledge and skills you need to complete your doctoral journey. You’ll be supported by our online learning platform, where you can discuss content and ideas with colleagues and submit your assignments. 

You attend all five courses – and dedicate time to preparing beforehand, studying afterwards and completing assignments, papers and exams. At the end of the learning stage, a formal progress assessment is conducted to admit you to the research stage . 

Research stage 

In the second stage of the programme, you work on three doctoral assignments and put your research proposal into practice and develop your thesis. You’ll collect and analyse data, draft your results – and, with the help of your supervisors, present your work to different audiences. You’ll also need to present your research to your supervisory committee in three doctoral seminars. A unique feature of our programme is that a significant number of the requirements are part of an elective system. You can tailor the programme to your needs and ambitions.

At the end of this stage, you’ll take part in a PhD defence at either Ghent University or KU Leuven. You can present your thesis in different ways. It can either be made up of different papers, or be presented in book format with content for three high-level papers. 

Why this programme

  • Develop the skills and knowledge to carry out innovative, ground-breaking and impactful research
  • Gain academic expertise in a topic relevant to your organisation
  • Join a community of international academics and professionals from industries all over the world – with plenty of opportunities to build connections and further your research
  • Put together your own tailored package of research, business and teaching electives to meet your needs and ambitions
  • Earn a Certificate of Management Research from Vlerick and a Joint PhD degree from Ghent University and KU Leuven  

Who should attend

The DBA is for experienced professionals who want to:

  • Deepen their business understanding from a theoretical perspective
  • Engage in academically robust, practice-based research
  • Create new knowledge – and make an even greater impact on their organisation, sector or even society
  • Become part of a diverse community of academics and professionals from over the world
  • Obtain a PhD degree from two top institutions 

Fees and financing

The tuition fee for the DBA is €66,000: 

  • First year: €6,000 non-refundable commitment fee + €18,000 
  • Second year: €12,000
  • Third to fifth year: €10,000 per year

The DBA is designed to be flexible and fit around your schedule – so if needed, you can have more time to complete your qualification. The fee for each extra year is €6,500.  

Your fees include: 

  • Tuition to and guidance at the three institutions for five years
  • All course materials  
  • A voucher towards your personal growth package – so you can attend conferences at Vlerick and other institutions 
  • Access to business and research databases and specialised collections 
  • Use of campus facilities 
  • Vlerick Alumni network membership 
  • Online subscription for the Financial Times  
  • Food and drinks during on-campus course weeks and activities 

The fees do not include travel or accommodation. 

To join the DBA programme, you need: 

  • A Flemish Master’s degree or equivalent (inter)national higher education degree
  • To have graduated with distinction 
  • At least 10 years’ managerial experience – with some experience at executive level 

You also need to: 

  • Submit an initial research topic that relates to our expertise and is academically challenging 
  • Explain your motivation for joining the programme 
  • Submit a GMAT/GRE test score gained no more than five years ago (unless you’re eligible for an exemption) – or show you’ve achieved a second distinction during your studies 
  • Prove you’re fluent in English  

Start your journey 

We accept admissions on a rolling basis – and discuss applications during our monthly DBA team meetings.  

The DBA is a significant commitment – which is why you go through two stages before you begin the full programme. This gives you the opportunity to experience academic research before committing to the full programme. 

1. Eligibility stage 

First we assess if you meet the admissions requirements – and learn more about your ambitions. 

Here’s what you need to do: 

  • Fill in the eligibility form online, and upload your: 
    • CV 
    • Diplomas and transcripts 
    • GMAT/GRE report (if applicable) 
    • English Language Proficiency Exam score (if applicable) 
    • Write a short essay with your motivation and – if you know already – your research question.
      However, we now also offer an alternative approach, where candidates can choose a research topic proposed by a faculty member. Discover the available faculty-proposed projects here.

If you meet the criteria – and we think the programme is a good fit for you – we’ll set up an in-depth interview with your academic director and some content experts. They’ll talk to you, suggest relevant academic papers for you to read – and help you to refine your research topic. Based upon these conversations, you submit your research idea with reference to two academic papers.

The DBA team will then discuss your file – and if you’re eligible, you’ll be accepted onto the programme. 

2. Commitment stage 

Once you’ve been accepted and paid your commitment fee, you can access our online resources immediately and start working on your initial research topic with our content experts.  

After the first course in September, you’ll write a paper on your research idea – and get feedback from the course holder. At this point, we’ll ask you to confirm your commitment to the four-year programme – and to pay the remaining fee for the first year. 

Success stories

Sofie De Beule - Roloff

I want to give something back to society and transfer my passion and knowledge to the next generations. For me, it's about giving, taking, giving back, and so on. A DBA is not a ‘free lunch’. The programme will cost me blood, sweat and possibly tears. But if it lets me give something back to society, no matter how small, I’ll be motivated to keep toiling and sweating.

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Academic research is all about focusing on a particular element of a puzzle. It's an entirely new approach to anyone who comes in from the business world, because we tend to cultivate a broad view in business. Personal motivation aside, I want this project to have some real significance. In my current job, of course. But I’m thinking further ahead too. I think I can be of inspiration to other businesses in a consultancy role.

Benjamin De Brabander (002)

What do I hope to achieve with my research? To begin with, I see it as an enrichment for my team. When young people come aboard, it’s an added benefit to train them through the lens of your practical know-how – and by adding your academic experience you bring them to a higher level. I also see it as personal development. And thirdly, a PhD opens doors. It gives you a way into teaching, which I certainly see myself doing in the future.

Luc Wynant

I have been a lawyer in a corporate environment for almost 30 years, working with private equity and venture capital. Over time, I’ve started to see interesting patterns emerge in management buyout situations. The DBA has allowed me to trace these patterns – and also apply and generalise them. 

Get in touch!