How and Why: are research-oriented degrees becoming increasingly popular?

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Universities can be traced back to the 9th century in Morocco where they have always been associated with providing higher education to students. Up until the turn of the 20th century, it was widely believed that universities provided all the necessary skills, tools and experiences for students to seamlessly transition into working life. However, in recent years such a notion has been challenged which then gave rise to universities transitioning towards practice rather than solely relying on theory to get students prepared for life after university. Sir. Alan Sugar (billionaire and is on the British television show The Apprentice) and Theo Paphitis (Millionaire and is on the British television show Dragon’s Den) have openly questioned the role of universities in supporting employability amongst students.

Universities have incorporated practical elements within courses through guest lectures delivered by industry figures, simulation gaming, internships and most recently business incubators. Such steps have allowed universities to bridge the gap between the classroom into the industry for students which have increased the level of employability amongst graduating students. In the context of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), University-Based Incubators (UBIs) have proven to be a popular choice amongst universities to engage students and support their employability which aligns with the UAE government’s vision, eg United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sir. Alan Sugar

Despite the success of improved employability for students by universities, there has been another paradigm shift noted for higher education around the world. Increased demand for research-based degrees has been identified by universities, hence, explaining the emergence of the DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) programme as one of the most popular qualifications currently offered by universities which have also been a successful addition to Westford’s portfolio of courses, eg over 100 students currently enrolled where an over 200 DBA student population at Westford is projected before the conclusion of 2022.

In most cases, universities have already added or are planning to add the DBA programme to the list of qualifications offered. This can be attributed to major cultural upheavals in the last few decades which has led to an increase in unemployment in different eras, egthe burst of the dot com bubble in the early 2000s, the economic recession in the late 2000s and the current COVID-19 pandemic era. Such instances of limited employment opportunities have led to individuals studying further or returning to education which may explain the surge in demand for research-based degrees. Additionally, employers have encouraged and promoted research qualifications through the recent emergence of industry-based research roles in sectors where traditionally there was no such demand for researchers.

Theo Paphitis

Different factors can be attributed to the demand in researchers in the industry which may include more competitive markets encouraging companies to implement calculated and research-based strategies. Events like the current pandemic having an adverse impact on employment may have led to a more competitive job market from the perspective of candidates, hence, attributing to candidates pursuing higher qualifications. Maybe an increase in doctorate level qualified celebrities may have inspired the world population to emulate their idols, eg Brian May from the band Queen(Image 3), legendary Boxing siblings Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko(Image 4), and basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal (Image 5). Regardless of what the contributing factors are towards the increased demand for research degrees, it can be agreed that the popularity of qualifications like the DBA will now be a permanent fixture along with the established MBA programme.

Brian May
The Klitschko brothers
Shaquille O’Neal

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