DAPS in Applied Finance: Reflecting on Switzerland’s unique and innovative professional doctorate seven years on
What is a Doctorate of Advanced Professional Studies (DAPS) and what is unique about it? How does it differ from a traditional PhD?
Yves Flückiger.: The Doctorate of Advanced Professional Studies (DAPS) is absolutely unique here in Switzerland and I am proud to say that the University of Geneva was the first academic institution in the country to implement it. When the need for new advanced executive training programmes geared towards high-level professionals first appeared, we knew from the beginning that we had to be innovative. That is why we built a programme that offers a highly demanding training and research journey, tailor-made for this specific audience.
Interestingly, we ended up crafting a programme in which the partner universities transfer research results into intensive training sessions for DAPS participants who must also mobilise new skills to prepare a rigorous and exhaustive applied research thesis.
At the University of Geneva, a DAPS consists of 80 ECTS credits (at least 2,000 hours of study over 3 to 4.5 years) and ends with the defence of a professional doctoral thesis. At the moment, we only offer this type of degree in Applied Finance, but I can see such a programme responding to needs in other domains, such as management of complex organisations, to name but one example.
What are the unique characteristics of the DAPS in Applied Finance? What makes this programme special in the educational landscape?
Rajna Gibson: As the title suggests, this DAPS is a high-level executive programme that is applied in its approach and of genuine practical value to professionals who aspire to specialise in finance. It is based on current research in finance topics translated into applied courses and a professional doctoral thesis focusing on real-world problems. The current DAPS specialisation is entitled “Wealth Management and Sustainable Assets” and combines all courses that are relevant to understand and master wealth management and sustainable finance topics. To my knowledge, this programme and its specialisation are unique in the world. Another unique feature of this programme is that, for the moment, courses are delivered in China and cater to a select audience of Chinese entrepreneurs, managers and other professionals who want to deepen their knowledge in wealth management.
To date, the DAPS in Applied Finance has nearly 500 participants and more than 150 alumni and it will soon be celebrating its third graduation ceremony, seven years after the programme was first launched. Do you view this as a success story and why?
Y.F.: Yes, it is a tremendous success story, and I am not just saying this as Rector of the University of Geneva. External experts conducted a thorough investigation and certified the high academic quality and novelty of this professional doctoral program in finance. In fact, other partners at Swissuniversities are now exploring the possibility of offering a DAPS in their own institutions, so we can be proud of what we have accomplished here.
R.G.: Indeed, this programme is a wonderful success story for our Institute, the Geneva Finance Research Institute (GFRI), and for our University. This month we are pleased to host the programme’s third graduation ceremony, and welcome 50 additional graduates to our growing alumni network. I know I speak for everybody when I say that they are very proud of obtaining this degree from the University of Geneva, and the recognised expertise in wealth management that comes with it.
But the success of this programme lies not so much in its numbers as in the recognised quality of the professional doctoral theses produced. The academic relevance and originality of the theses has been recognized by a group of external experts which conducted a thorough evaluation of the programme. Today more than 155 professional theses have been published and are open to the public. This work has also enabled us to gather a deep and unique body of knowledge regarding the Chinese corporate world and the structure of financial markets in China.
How does this programme help position Switzerland and its academic and professional expertise in finance? What would you view as its main factors of success?
Y.F.: For many years, the University of Geneva has been internationally renowned for its academic excellence, particularly for the quality of its research and teaching. In 2023, it was ranked among the top 50 universities in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also known as the Shanghai Ranking. Just last year, the Fields Medal was awarded to Hugo Duminil-Copin, a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Geneva, which is a fantastic testament to the quality of his work, but also to the quality of teaching that is taking place at within our walls and well beyond.
R.G.: Switzerland is synonymous with financial expertise, particularly in the fields of Wealth Management and in Sustainable Finance which are two of the key areas that shape the curriculum of our programme. It made sense to launch the DAPS in Applied Finance here but with a window to the world and more particularly towards China, where people value higher-level executive education and the expertise that Switzerland and Geneva in particular have to offer in sustainable wealth management. Finally, a key feature of this programme is that it is mainly taught by professors from the GFRI, an inter-disciplinary institute in finance located at UNIGE, which has gained a strong international reputation for excellence in finance research since its creation in 2009.
Do you see potential in expanding the current DAPS to other countries? Do you have reasons to believe that it could serve as a pilot project, as a benchmark to follow for other professional doctorates to be developed by UNIGE and other Swiss universities?
R.G.: I would be delighted to see the DAPS model and structure adopted by other universities in Switzerland and abroad. It would be an indication that we have done something right and worth replicating to meet other high-level executive education needs in and outside the field of finance Regarding the possible expansion of the DAPS in Applied Finance to other countries, I would stress that this would be considered as an option if the appropriate admission conditions of high-quality students are met and that we have identified clear educational and professional needs that can be addressed by this programme’s unique expertise in sustainable wealth management.
Y.F.: I will be coming to the end of my term as Rector of the University so I am deferring entirely to Prof. Gibson on this topic. Of course, I wish both her and her team continued success over the years to come!