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The Manchester DBA

The Alliance MBS DBA is 'research in action' - an opportunity to gain a doctoral degree while you continue working.

It offers you the chance to tackle an important, unresolved business and managerial problem in a rigorous and systematic way and to contribute to your organisation’s success while developing academic knowledge and theories.


Become an expert in your field

Research in action

Research in action
Gain a doctoral degree without putting your career on hold, and apply your learning for immediate professional impact.

Experts in many areas

Experts in many areas
Our research spans a wide variety of areas of business and management – from banking and finance to healthcare and fairness at work.

Global perspectives

Global perspectives
Draw on different global perspectives to enrich your research – our research community represents over 35 nationalities.

Blended delivery

Blended delivery
A flexible combination of face-to-face teaching, online tuition, supervised research projects and independent study.

Dedicated support

Dedicated support
We’ll match you with an academic supervisor who shares your passion and has the right expertise to shape your research.

Study with the best

Study with the best
Our rigorous admissions process only admits the most motivated, experienced and committed senior talent.

About the Manchester DBA

The Alliance MBS Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programme is aimed at senior-level individuals interested in the application of theory to practice. The Alliance MBS philosophy can be encapsulated in our tagline Original Thinking Applied.

Your originality is key in developing a research project that addresses new and important problems in business and management.

You will need to engage in rigorous thinking to work out the theoretical framework structure for your project to meet the high standards of the programme.

Your research project will emphasise the application and impact of your original thinking to guide present and future practice.

The Manchester DBA is for individuals with substantive business, management and/or policy experience. You must be interested in working on an academically rigorous, bespoke research project that has the potential for influencing management, business and policy practice.

As a potential DBA student you should:

  • have 6+ years of senior-level business, management and/or policy experience
  • have been involved in substantive and material decision making throughout your career
  • be intellectually curious and not interested in simply looking for a quick solution
  • be motivated by a desire to understand the cause-and-effect chain that ensures that decisions, when made, have a logical evidence-based foundation for being made
  • be driven by the personal motivation that allows you to meet the intellectual and time demands of the programme
  • be able to work in a flexible manner throughout the programme, engaging in intensive interaction with academic supervisors while working towards the completion of your research project.

DBA testimonials

Read about the experiences of some of our current students and graduates:

An overview from DBA Director, Professor Timothy Devinney:

As a potential DBA student you should:

DBA programme structure

The Manchester DBA programme is a mixture of online and residential coursework and interaction, combined with a supervisor-guided dissertation project. It is structured over four years with a focus on the coursework components in Years 1 and 2. The programme offers flexibility in that you can supplement, and in some cases substitute, your Alliance MBS coursework with elective modules available elsewhere.

Year 1

There are two four/five-day residentials held in September/October and January/February.

These residentials include components of the course work alongside specialist seminars on topics relevant to your research. They also provide an opportunity to work face-to-face with your supervisory team and other DBA and PhD colleagues. The residentials also include a social element to help build connections with your colleagues.

There are four assessed core modules which are all offered in Year 1.

  • Evidence Based Practice Research
  • Research Theory and Methods
  • Statistics and Econometrics
  • Qualitative Research Methods

You are required to choose two theory-based modules and one methods-based module. There is flexibility in substituting one for the other based upon the recommendations of the supervisory team. Some of these modules can be taken in Year 1 but most are normally taken in Year 2.

Elective modules can be chosen from a wide range of courses offered by Alliance MBS and The University of Manchester. Some are offered across the term, while others are in concentrated block 'masterclass' formats over the course of a few days.

There are opportunities for you to choose modules outside of Alliance MBS and The University of Manchester with pre-approval from your supervisory team. Most elective modules are assessed, but they can also be audited or evaluated separately by your supervisory team.

The Alliance MBS Doctoral Conference is a joint DBA and PhD conference that usually takes place over a number of days in May. It provides a mix of student presentations, external presentations, short workshops and the opportunity to interact with other doctoral students, AMBS academic staff and DBA Alumni.

The conference is a required part of the DBA programme and your attendance is compulsory.

You will have a mid-year review by the end of January and an annual review by mid-July.

DBA research themes

The Alliance MBS DBA has a focus on specific thematic areas. This is done to ensure that you can be involved with others working on similar and related topics that align to the research strengths of Alliance MBS' academic staff. Your research doesn't need to align closely with one of the themes below, but you may get more benefit from the programme if it does.

Accounting and Finance

  • The impact of developments such as automation, artificial intelligence and big data analytics on accounting and auditing.
  • Data quality and assurance.

Work in this theme is aligned with the Centre for the Analysis of Investment and Risk.

Keywords: Accounting; Auditing; Technology; Data

  • Financial investments
  • Issues of decision-making
  • Issues of ambiguity and uncertainty

The theme will be of interest to colleagues both in finance and accounting and covers a broad range of topics and sectors, potentially reaching all kinds of investments (e.g., financial, infrastructure).

Work in this theme is aligned with the Centre for the Analysis of Investment and Risk.

Keywords: Investments; Decision-making; Uncertainty

  • The role of environmental, social and governance issues in the investment and financing decisions of individuals and corporations.
  • Spans both asset pricing and corporate finance studies

Keywords: ESG; Investment; Corporate Finance

DBA entry requirements

The basic DBA entry requirements are:

  • A Bachelor's Honours degree (normally equivalent to a UK First Class or 2:1)
  • A Master's or MBA degree (a minimum final grade equivalent to a UK 60%; or B; or GPA of 3.0 out 4.0)
  • A minimum of 6 years full-time management experience, showing significant career progression
  • Spoken and written English-language competency equivalent to IELTS: 7.0 or TOEFL: 623 paper-based (or 106 internet-based). These tests are not required as standard; however, all English language skills are automatically assessed through the nature of the admissions process and you would be advised on an individual basis if you were required to provide further evidence of your competency.

Meeting these requirements does not guarantee entry to the programme, but failure to meet them lowers the likelihood of acceptance. In limited circumstances, there is a degree of flexibility on some aspects of the requirements which is at the DBA Programme Director's discretion.

How to apply for the DBA

We are not currently accepting applications to this programme but please complete the DBA enquiry form to lodge your interest for us to contact you with updates on the DBA programme in the future.

We are not currently accepting applications to this programme.

Guides for supporting documents

You will be required to provide the following as part of your application to the DBA Programme:

A Meaningful Title (this is outside the word limit)

This should not simply be a long descriptive title, but one that is informative and interesting and catches the reader's attention. It should be under 10-15 words in length and should be clear in reflecting your proposed area of study and, if relevant, the approach you wish to take.


In addition to your title, you should specify 3-5 keywords that enable us to identify which areas your work will fit into. These keywords should align with those given in the DBA research themes above.

An overview of the research (approx. 500 words)

You should state why your research is important, why it has value to both scholarship and practice and how it will make a valuable contribution to business and management practice. You should also specify exactly which of the Alliance MBS DBA thematic areas your work fits into. You can specify a maximum of two thematic areas.

Positioning of the research (approx. 1,500 words)

This should reference the most important texts related to the research, demonstrate your understanding of the research issues and identify existing gaps (both theoretical and practical) that the research is intended to address. You should clearly articulate your research questions, why these are significant and how they make an original and useful contribution.

Research design and methodology (approx. 1,000 words)

You will need to provide details of your proposed research methodology, giving consideration to any data requirements, fieldwork, access issues, etc. for any empirical work.

References (these are outside the word limit)

It is important to reference the content of your work appropriately. Note that work that references the related work of Alliance MBS academic staff is more likely to generate interest in your application.

Proposed timetable of study (this is outside the word limit)

You will need to provide a timetable illustrating how you anticipate undertaking your research, leading to the submission of your thesis within the 4-year timeframe of the DBA Programme.

How the proposed research will create impact (this is outside of the word limit)

You will need to articulate a paragraph on how your research will create impact.

250 words

Your statement should present the reasons for applying to the Alliance MBS DBA Programme. You should explain how your background, experience and training qualify you for the rigours of the programme.

If you are employed, you will need to provide a letter from your employer indicating that they understand that you will be studying for the DBA programme at Alliance MBS. It must acknowledge that time is available to you (in whatever form) to be able to meet the demands of the requirements of the programme, in particular the mandatory residential components in January/February and September/October and the annual Alliance MBS Doctoral Conference.

If you are self-employed or retired please provide a document stating so.

These could both be non-academic if you have been out of academia for a long period of time. However, it is generally good to have one academic and one non-academic reference.

The letter writers should, collectively, write something about your:

  • intellectual capabilities
  • work ethic
  • business/management experience
  • experience with research and analysis
  • ability to work on long timeframe projects

The more they can tailor the letter to aspects of the programme the more valuable the letter is to the admissions committee.

Dr Simon Hayward, CEO, Cirrus

"I have been delighted with how the DBA has benefited my professional life. My research led to the development of the Connected Leadership model, which we are now using with clients around the world to help develop leadership practices for the 21st century."

Dr Simon Hayward, CEO, Cirrus

Research topic: Factors affecting the transition towards distributed leadership