New PhD program in human resources sees first students

Ken McBey, director of the graduate program in Human Resources Management (HRM), had been noticing a global shortage in HR faculty for some time, but he never imagined the response to York’s new PhD in HRM would be so overwhelming.

Some 75 candidates jostled for acceptance for three spots in the PhD in HRM program launching this September. "We were surprised at how many applications we got. We never thought we’d get that many," said McBey. "We had a lot of really high-quality candidates wanting to get into the program."

The PhD in HRM program, which has been in the works for the last three years and has finally received all its approvals to go ahead, is the first of its kind in Canada. Most other PhD HR programs are lumped in with programs in industrial relations or organizational behaviour, but York’s PhD in HRM is different. It is a pure human resources PhD, which includes teaching in the core areas of HR such as staffing, strategic compensation, performance management and international HR. It also combines the best of the US and the UK models by focusing on quantitative and qualitative research methods.

"It tends to be if you go to schools in the US you get more teaching in quantitative research methods, while if you go to the UK you get a more qualitative focus," said McBey. "With this PhD in HRM we really focus on both and we think the student’s research tool kit will be really strong as a result. They will be equipped to look at research from all aspects and be able to really understand the issues using statistical as well as ethnographical approaches."

In addition, the PhD program will also offer a course in pedagogy. This will give candidates a good understanding of what’s involved in teaching. They will also have the opportunity to practice their training by teaching at the undergrad level.

It’s an interdisciplinary program that cuts across traditional boundaries linking with disciplines such as anthropology, political science, sociology, economics and philosophy. It examines HRM traditions and current practices from around the world to give aspiring academics and senior-level professionals the skills and credentials needed to succeed in HRM, said McBey. He’s hoping it will help fill the current void in highly-trained HRM faculty around the world and that HR scholarship and research will benefit.

So far the program has garnered positive attention, including good reviews from the two external HR academics who reviewed the program. "They thought the program was very thorough and comprehensive and that it would be a stellar program once it was up and running," said McBey. "As well, the stakeholders see it as long overdue."

The new PhD in HRM comes on the heels of the HRM master’s program which began four years ago. An undergraduate program in HRM is also available at York. The PhD in HRM will accept another three candidates in Sept. 2009 and up to five each year thereafter.

"This establishes York as a leader in HRM education," said McBey. "The four of us that worked on bringing the program to fruition – Parbudyal Singh, chair of the PhD HRM program, York Professor Len Karakowsky and Steve McKenna, HRM undergraduate coordinator – we are thrilled to actually see the first three students coming through the doors. It’s great. It’s almost like having your own children coming through. As a director, I’m just tickled pink."

For more information, contact Ken McBey at