Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA)

Description of the Degree

The DBA degree is an outcomes-based degree. It does not include a taught component for credit and is assessed solely on the basis of a thesis that is presented for examination. The thesis is examined by an internal examiner and two external examiners, who are approved by our Faculty Management Committee on the basis of formal criteria. The DBA is awarded in recognition of the demonstration of high-level research competence that results in a substantial and original scholarly contribution in a business discipline or field.


Entrance Requirements

An MBA degree or its equivalent, or as otherwise approved by the HOD in terms of the guidelines approved by Faculty Board. The candidate must have obtained an aggregate mark of at least 65% for such a degree, as well as a 65% for the treatise, research project or dissertation.


The duration of the degree is minimum two and maximum four years. Appeals for extension can be made to the Faculty Management Committee and Post Graduate Committee via the Business School.

Criteria for Awarding the Degree

Our degree meets the following requirements for formal government accreditation:

South African government criteria

The NMMU DBA programme was accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) in 2006. The Government Gazette of October 2007 outlines the criteria for a doctoral qualification as follows (emphasis added):

“A Doctoral Degree requires a candidate to undertake research at the most advanced academic levels culminating in the submission, assessment and acceptance of a thesis. Course work may be required as preparation or value addition to the research, but does not contribute to the credit value of the qualification. The defining characteristic of this qualification is that the candidate is required to demonstrate high-level research capability and make a significant and original academic contribution at the frontiers of a discipline or field. The work must be of a quality to satisfy peer review and merit publication. The degree may be earned through pure discipline-based or multidisciplinary research or applied research. This degree requires a minimum of two years' full-time study, usually after completing a Master's Degree. A graduate must be able to supervise and evaluate the research of others in the area of specialisation concerned.” (Government Gazette, 5 October 2007, No.30353: 29).

The Draft HEQF Framework of July 2004 prescribes the following applied competence and autonomy of learning criteria for awarding a doctoral degree:

Applied competence criteria:

  • A comprehensive and systematic grasp of a discipline/field’s body of knowledge with expertise and specialist knowledge in an area at the forefront of the discipline, field or professional practice.
  • A critical understanding of the most advanced research methodologies, techniques and technologies in a discipline/field; an ability to participate in scholarly debates at the cutting edge of an area of specialisation; an ability to apply knowledge, theory and research methods creatively to complex practical, theoretical and epistemological problems.
  • Substantial, independent research and advanced scholarship resulting in the (re) interpretation and expansion of knowledge which is judged publishable by peers.
  • An ability to identify, conceptualise, design and implement research projects that address complex, ill-defined problems at the cutting-edge of a discipline/field.
  • Advanced information retrieval and processing skills; an ability to independently undertake a study and evaluation of the literature and current research in an area of specialisation.
  • An ability to effectively present and communicate the results of research and opinion to specialist and non-specialist audiences using the full resources of an academic/professional discourse; the production of a thesis which meets international standards of scholarly/professional writing.

Autonomy of learning criteria:

  • A capacity to operate autonomously in specialised, complex, ill-defined and unpredictable contexts.
  • Intellectual independence and research leadership through managing advanced research and development in a field professionally and ethically.
  • A capacity to critically evaluate own and others' work on the basis of independent criteria.

Admission Procedures

Candidates may express interest in doctoral research by email, telephone or website information request on the NMMU Business School website. All expressions of interest are directed to the School’s Research Co-ordinator (RC, Dr Annelie Pretorius, tel: 041-504-3795; e-mail).

The RC begins a process of engagement with the prospective candidate, which can be thought of as a two-phase process. In Phase 1, the RC makes an initial assessment of the potential candidate. In Phase 2, the potential candidate demonstrates the ability to identify an original and substantive contribution to the literature and work with appropriate levels of independence and rigour.

Downloads & Other Important Matters

Please see the DBA E-brochure for the following

  • The NMMU Vision 2020 philosophical guidelines for postgraduate research;
  • The Doctoral Short Learning Programme (DSLP);
  • The rules for the appointment of supervisors;
  • The rules for assessment; and
  • The key resources available to doctoral students.

Please see NMMU Policy, Procedures and Rules for Postgraduate Research Degrees for the policies, procedures and rules that govern postgraduate research degrees at the NMMU. Candidates should pay particular attention to aspects such as the Learning Agreement document; examination processes and criteria; procedures for ethical clearance of studies; rules on plagiarism and copyright on research outputs; progress reports; and rules with regard to the submission of theses.

DBA Proposal Guidelines provide the requirements for writing the draft summary and final DBA proposals.