Is There a Doctorate In the House

 

Professional, educational business excellence threatened by business Ph.D. shortage

As lifetime members of Beta Gamma Sigma, more than 520,000 individuals achieved the significant recognition of being the best in their class in business and management subjects. Each of those BGS members can look back and point out the invaluable contributions made by the best faculty members who helped them excel during their academic careers.

However, there is a growing crisis in management education that threatens to damage the quality of education and stifle the opportunity to achieve excellence for future students in business schools across the country and around the world. In simple terms, there are too few individuals working toward their doctorate in business to cover all the predicted openings in the future. This shortage, if left unchecked, could be severe enough to permanently damage the reputation and excellence of business schools around the globe.

In writing the foreword to “Sustaining Scholarship in Business Schools”, the report of the Doctoral Faculty Commission to AACSB International’s Board of Directors in August 2003, Carolyn Woo, then-Chair of the AACSB International Board of Directors and Dean of the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, said the “…threat will not go away without intervention to change the course.”

“Let’s be clear about the real doctoral faculty issue,” Dean Woo continued. “It’s not about day-to-day recruiting challenges, escalating faculty salaries, adhering to accreditation standards, or protecting the professoriate. The real threat is to the very core of collegiate business schools and institutions of higher education – scholarship.”

Woo said that doctoral faculty produce the body of knowledge that sustains the intellectual inquiry and the ongoing development of any discipline, especially business. She said that “any diminishment of our shared objective to advance such knowledge…will be a threat to the eventual academic legitimacy of our discipline” and “such a retreat will compromise our ability to serve students and other constituents.”

So, the stakeholders in quality management education – including former students who earned their degrees at the very universities now struggling with this emerging problem – may rightly ask, “How bad is this shortage of doctoral business faculty?”

According to the Doctoral Faculty Commission (DFC), there is expected to be a shortage of more than 1,100 doctoral faculty members by 2007. By 2012, the same commission estimated a shortage of more than 2,400 doctoral faculty members. Those numbers do not represent the worst-case scenarios put forth, which estimated shortages of 3,043 and 5,689 for 2007 and 2012, respectively.

According to the DFC report, inaction will lead to the following grim consequences:

• Business doctoral production will fail to meet the growing global demand.
• All business faculty – research and teaching – will be increasingly burdened by teaching and service requirements and will be forced to concentrate less on their research mission.
• A smaller percentage of business faculty will successfully meet the research requirements for tenure in research-based universities because of the diversions away from research, leading to even higher percentages of non-tenure track faculty.
• Business school faculties, already comprised of about 50 percent part-timers, will further increase their percentage of adjunct faculty.
• The quality of learning by business students will suffer with the erosion of the research mission of the business professoriate.
• The respectability of business schools in academia will decline because of their reduced research activities and contributions to scholarship.

Doyle Z. Williams, Dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and a member of the Doctoral Faculty Commission, said there are several reasons that demand is up and supply is down when it comes to business professors.

“Demand has gone up (for individuals with doctorates) as more schools have sought to become more research-oriented,” Dean Williams said. “To meet their rising expectations, it has increased the demand for Ph.D.s.” He also said growth in undergraduate and graduate business school enrollment has resulted in higher demand.

Doctoral programs are different than MBA programs in one fundamental way: while MBA programs make money, the business school loses money on each doctoral student enrolled. Dean Williams said that, as a bottom-line business decision, many schools have cut back on their numbers of doctorates while increasing the number of MBA applicants admitted.

“In terms of supply, the high cost (for the business school) of a doctoral education, with diminishing funding for higher education in general, has had an impact by lowering the quantity of students that are admitted to Ph.D. programs.”

In addition, the time required to complete a full-time Ph.D. program – usually five to seven years – keeps many good candidates from applying.

Why should we worry about it now?

“If we’re going to continue to grow business programs, then we’re going to have to increase the supply of faculty,” Dean Williams said. “And some ask, ‘Why do we need Ph.D.s to teach business students?’

“Well, Ph.D.’s are very important to the economic development of our nation and world because they inculcate their research into their teaching. It makes the teaching relevant, it makes it current, and it gets students to think beyond current practice, which is very important for the future development of business.

“If we taught only the latest management ‘best-seller’ fads, and not what is grounded in solid research, I think we would be doing a great injustice to the future development of business practices. Ultimately, the success of business and economic development affects the quality of life of all citizens.”

Dean Williams said that for business education to remain relevant on campus, professors with Ph.D.’s are a necessity. He said that in essence, business schools are competing with other programs on campus for financial support and other resources. To remain competitive, he said, business schools must continue to show the rest of the university community that business is a discipline committed to original research. To accomplish that goal, professors with doctorates are mandatory.

So, when can stakeholders – like business school graduates – expect things to begin turning around?

“It depends on what kind of response we get on external funding for doctoral students,” said Dean Williams, currently Chair of AACSB International’s Board of Directors. He said this year AACSB International and others are working to promote the opportunities in Ph.D. programs to prospective students, and “that should be ongoing, not just a one-time event.”

“It’s going to start with small steps. The awareness issue is already getting people talking and thinking about” the relevant issues.

He indicated that only a joint solution, which addresses the concerns of all stakeholders, will begin to improve the situation.

“We’re going to need all the partners at the table,” he said. “We don’t see that there’s one silver bullet.” Dean Williams said it’s going to take a continuing effort by many parties – the schools themselves, AACSB International, relevant governmental agencies and industry – to make sure that the issue stays on the radar screen of all the stakeholders.

“It’s going to take a very long period of time, and I see it being on the agenda for many years to come.”

 

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