The University of Cambridge is planning a business doctorate that will cost students £80,000 in the first year, with a total cost of £230,000, making it one of the world’s most expensive degrees.
The new four-year degree of doctor of business, to be launched in October 2017, is aimed at the “most senior leaders around the world” and is expected to attract small classes of “one to two” students each year.
The proposal has been submitted by Cambridge’s Judge Business School and is backed by the university’s general board education committee. For the plan to go ahead, it will have to be approved by the university’s governing Regent House on 24 May.
However, the size of the fees in the degree – £80,000 in the first year and £50,000 a year in the subsequent three years – has already attracted criticism from some at Cambridge.
In a draft of a speech to be given at Regent House on 24 May, Gill Evans, emeritus professor of medieval theology at Cambridge, calls business schools “a lucrative bolt-on for a university” and says that “nearly a quarter of a million per doctoral student is a nice little earner”.
She adds: “That does not mean that a university adding to its income by having a business school should make radical changes at its request, without full understanding of the implications.
“There can be no aspect of the work of the university more important than its exercise of its degree-awarding powers and the Regent House should take any proposals to alter the rules especially seriously.”
Professor Evans calls the fees “gigantic”, asking “where is the intellectual justification for this departure into new doctoral territory?”
The course would not be a PhD – structural differences include the fact that students will not be resident in Cambridge for the whole course – so requires a new type of degree to be established.
During the first year students will be resident in Cambridge for the whole year, but in years two to four they will be required to be resident for just four weeks a year.
According to details of the plan given by the general board in the university’s official journal, the Reporter, the doctor of business degree, known as the Bus.D., “is consistent with Cambridge Judge Business School’s long-term strategy and with the university’s research impact objectives.
“The degree will meet an evident demand from highly placed senior executives in business, NGOs, charities, and similar organizations, who are accomplished leaders who have built or run major companies and organizations.”
The plan distinguishes the course from other doctoral degrees, such as DBAs. “This differentiation, coupled with Cambridge’s reputation, should make it attractive to the most senior leaders around the world, and market research undertaken by Cambridge Judge Business School indicates that the degree is likely to attract significant interest,” says the general board’s proposal.
“It is expected that over the duration of the Bus.D., the student’s total time commitment will be equivalent to the full-time Ph.D” and will lead to a dissertation of 200 pages in “maximal length”, says the proposal.
It adds that the “intensive teaching and support services would demand substantial resources, and the programme would require an annual fee comparable to the Executive MBA. Fees for the first candidates starting in 2017-18 will therefore be £80,000 for the first year (given its strong taught element), and £50,000 for each of years 2 to 4”.
Fees on Cambridge’s executive MBA programme are £63,960.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school two-year executive MBA, which has been regarded in the past as the most expensive course in the world, costs $192,900 (£133,624).