Examining the Other Dba: The Role of Diploma Programs in Graduate Business Education in the United Kingdom

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Within the last decade, as both undergraduate and graduate business programs in the United States have acclimated to adjustments in their curricula that address the now widely accepted need for an "international" component (National Business Education Association, 1995), many articles describing the curricula and design of business programs at colleges and universities outside the U.S. have appeared in the education literature. The implication, by virtue of geography or by virtue of student demographics, is that graduate business programs outside the U.S. tend both to cultivate and project auras of greater interna tionalization, a condition often envied by faculty members at American programs, where the largely local ("land-locked") student populations may unfortunately come across as "insular," "parochial," "domestically minded," or even ethnocentric (James, 2002; Klein, 1995; Limaye, 2000; Pettijohn, 2000).

Possibly in order to simplify cross-cultural comparisons, most recent articles have focused on MBA programs in international settings. According to Kerkovsky, Janicek, and Drdla (2002, p. 134), for example, the MBA "represents an internationally recognized standard of academic qualification in the area of management" and thus provides an easily comprehensible yardstick for international and intercultural comparison. Articles have examined graduate business education in Australia (Gniewosz, 1995), China and Russia (Mockler, Chao, & Dologite, 1996), Poland (Spillan & Ziemnowicz, 2001), and the Czech Republic (Kerkovsky et al.), among other countries. Nevertheless, Mathews, Rivera, and Pineda (2001) still perceived a lack of information on curricula for business programs offered outside the U.S.

While adding to the corpus of material on gradua te business programs abroad, then, this article also combats the perceived paucity of information on such programs. These tasks are accomplished by offering a window into the functions and curricula of two business programs in the U.K.: diploma and master's programs in business administration. Even though the concept of the British MBA indeed translates back across the Atlantic with relative ease, diploma programs in business administration may still be little known or understood in the U.S.

How can this lack of information or understanding be explained? Perhaps the educational system of the U.K. receives (comparatively) little press in the U.S. because the U.K. is simply not considered to be "foreign" enough to garner much attention in international education circles. Perhaps, because the U.K. and U.S. share a common tongue, American scholars may feel little need to supplement the materials that British scholars have written and published about their own educational system. Or perhaps, finding little within the British system that they wish to emulate, American critics choose to focus on education in other countries where they can easily identify more promising (or controversial or innovative or remarkable) methods or approaches. Underlying these possibilities may be the (mis)assumption that the educational systems of the U.S. and U.K. must be similar because, linguistically and politically at least, the U.K. appears more closely aligned with the U.S. than with much of continental Europe. Assuming too many similarities, though, can easily lead to misunderstandings, even when graduate education-or "postgraduate" education as it is termed in the U.K.-is the focus. By initially concentrating on a degree scheme that maybe unfamiliar to most Americans, then, a main purpose of this article is to alleviate some potential misunderstandings about graduate business education in the U.K.

One potential misunderstanding may stem from differing acronym usage: While "DBA" typically refers to the "doctor of business administration" degree in the U.S., in the U.K., at least, the same initials can carry a significantly different implication, as they often stand for "diploma of business administration. …