U P P S A L A U N I V E R S I T E T
U P P S A L A U N I V E R S I T Y DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS STUDIES
VÄSTHAGEN AND AFTER
Department of Business Studies Uppsala universitet
Denna uppsats har tidigare presenterats vid Nordisk
Företagsekonomisk Konferens-90 vid Svenska Handelshögskolan i
Vasa 21-24.8 1990
This paper reports on the main results from a survey of the 270 authors of doctoral dissertations in Sweden until the end of 1985. It points to an increasing tendency to focus on organisational problems and to use organisational theory as the main frame of reference. Data collection interviews, secondary material and questionnaires have been dominant. In dealing with the data qualitative methods have grown considerably in importante.
In 1950 Nils Västhagen defended his dissertation on the concepts of income and expenses in accounting (Västhagen, 1950). He thereby became the first in Sweden to take a doctor's degree in business administration.' A prerequisite for this event was that the Stockholm and Gothenburg Schools of Economics had been permitted to award research degrees in 1946 and 1950, respectively. The latter in turn constituted an important event for the discipline, sinte it definitely
incorporated the business schools among the established
academic institutions. The Swedes thereby followed the pattern already begun in many other countries. The German
Handelshochschulen had obtained "Promotionsrecht" already in
the late 1920s (ter Vehn, 1959, Inl. 1, kap. 1). But also in
the United States similar ambitions were at hand: Harvard
Business School awarded its first Doctor of Commercial
Sciences in 1928 (Lyon, 1986, p. 43). Later on, particularly
in the 1950s and the 196Os, the introduction of doctoral
'The first person to defend a thesis at a Swedish business
school was Folke Kristensson at Stockholm School of Economics
in 1946. Although he later, in 1949, became professor of
business administration, his dissertation on the structure of
the Swedish textile industry (Kristensson, 1946) was, however,
programmes has been an important instrument to raise the status of a number of US academic institutions teaching business administration (Whitley, 1984, p. 733).
With the passage of time Västhagen had 32 followers, who defended their theses for the doctor's degree. After the replacement of this deqree in the late 1960s by the doctor's exam, modelled on the American Ph.D, he also until the end of 1985 got another 237 successors of the new type.2 Thus there were altogether 270 persons in Sweden, who by the end of 1985 had defended a Doctor's thesis in business administration.
These dissertations can no doubt be considered relatively to reflect well the research within the discipline. First, dissertations constitute an important part of the research undertaken by business administration schalars. Setond, dissertations can be said to constitute the meeting-point between different generations of researchers: the tutors and the doctoral students. In this way the dissertations m,ay throw light upon the mechanisms of change; whether they have been of a revolutionary type as suggested by Kuhn (1962) or more of a
"muddling through" or "garbage can" type in accordance with the reasoning of Lindblom (1959) and March & Olsen (1976).
In these circumstances the above 270 dissertation authors have been surveyed by a mail questionnaire (cf. Appendix).3
2For a summary of two systems for post-graduate training, cf.
Engwall (1987) and Zetterblom (1986).
3This study is part of a larger research program on the
development of Swedish business administration. Earlier
publications include two dissertations, one treating the
development until the foundation of Stockholm School of
Economics (Gunnarsson, 1988), the other focusing on the later
development. A publication in English summarizing the results
of the project is in progress.
The present paper Will present the results from this survey in terms of three fundamental issues: research problems,
theoretical foundations and methods.4
2. Research Problems
The fatt that Västhagen wrote a dissertation within the accounting field is rather significant, sinte this was the basis for the early discipline (cf. e.g. Engwall, 1980). With the passage of time other problems have been added to both the curriculum and the research agenda, however. For the latter it is quite clear from the dissertations that the organizational issues have become increasingly in focus (Table 1). While only 4% were oriented towards administration before 1966 the
proportion had continuously risen to 43% in the period 1981- 85. Losers have been accounting/finance (from 17% to 8%) and marketing (from 54% to 20%). In both cases, but particularly in the former, a probable contributing factor has been the advantageous labour market. Students with these specialties have therefore found doctoral studies less attractive. The backward trend for managerial economics, on the other hand, is more likely to depend on the changed position for Management Science and Operations Research. After a period of expansion in the late 196Os, the research in this area gradually moved to departments of statistics and institutes of technology, whereas departments of business administration were more apt to stress the implementation problems, i.e. the difficulties
4For discussions of the dissertations from the Gothenburg School of Economics, cf.
Gandemo & Mattsson (1990) and Jönsson
to use mathematitally sophisticated models in practice. Some