Department of Management Studies

Doctoral Studies in International Business

The International Business (IB) unit at the Aalto University School of Business is one of the leading IB units in Europe. As one of the twelve majors of the Doctoral Program in Business, Economics and Finance, international business offers four-year training that fosters passion for multidisciplinarity, multiculturalism and creativity.

The goal of our Doctoral Program is to train well-rounded researchers who are able to pursue academic careers and obtain employment at top business schools. Doctors from our Program have also been recruited in leading roles in the corporate sector. We host and organize modules of the Nord-IB (Nordic Research School of International Business) program in which most of our PhD students participate. The dissertations and thesis proposals of our students have won and been nominated for a number of international awards granted by AIB, AOM, EIBA and EDAMBA. Doctoral researchers will also gain teaching experience with our faculty.
an outside picture of väre building in Otaniemi

Research areas

Our IB faculty is well known for their phenomenon-based, cutting-edge contributions to research that explores the effects of global challenges such as the energy transition, sustainability and geopolitical tensions on business and society. Meeting these challenges requires increasing public-private sector cooperation at all levels of governance. Our recent research has explored themes such as sustainable cities, the locational competition for strategic activities, including headquarters and green investments, and how the strategic decisions unfold within the international arena amidst the pressures of the changing global landscape.  Our ongoing projects include:

  • Attraction game for green foreign direct investment (FDI): Cities play an important role in the energy transition. Whereas the EU and the US try to attract green FDI with incentive packages such as the European Green Deal and the Inflation Reduction Act, the competition culminates in cities. Green investments are largely attracted to locations other than global cities, which have traditionally attracted most of the investment, providing prosperity to these peripheral locations. However, green investments such as windmill parks may also face local resistance because the local citizens are the ones who pay the social or environmental costs on behalf of the global carbon emission reductions. In this project we examine these challenges and opportunities related to the FDI that facilitate the green transition.  
  • Sustainable buildings of the future: Today’s cities and international businesses are undergoing a paradigm shift driven by the global megatrends of sustainability and digitalization. Sustainable office and public buildings aim to minimize natural resource use, maximize socio-cultural well-being and merge physical spaces with virtual spaces centered around user needs. Also, the ‘third space’ – communal, inclusive space between home (first space) and work (second space) – is becoming increasingly important in attracting people and international firms to specific cities. In this project we focus on sustainable headquarters and museum buildings of the future.

Additionally, we are a home to the Qual+ Aalto Center for Qualitative Management Research. This is a hub of excellence in qualitative management and organization research that serves as a resource and a training center for researchers. 

Fully funded scholarships

Funding for doctoral studies is guaranteed for two years after which it is available either from the School or through external foundations. There are a number of foundations that provide funding for doctoral studies and conference trips. 

Finland as a place to study

Finland is a great place to live with or without family – it is a politically stable and well-organized Nordic society. Finland is consistently ranked high in quality of life and was just listed again as the happiest country in the world: 7 reasons why you can find happiness in Finland | Visit Finland. Finland offers many excellent state-subsidized services including affordable daycare and education free of charge. Finnish schools and universities are consistently ranked among the best in the world. Finland is also a research-friendly country, where companies are willing to participate in academic research and, in general, data is easily accessible.

Pihlajasaari Island, two men standing on a cliff looking out at the sea during sunset.


Our faculty members supervising doctoral students

Rebecca Piekkari photo /Roope Kiviranta

Rebecca Piekkari

Marcus Wallenberg Professor

Head of the International Business Unit

Rebecca Piekkari’s research is in the field of multinational management and she approaches cross-border phenomena from a social sustainability and interactional perspective. She is interested in how organizational and structural change affects management processes, communication and cohesion in geographically dispersed organizations. She has investigated the shifting roles and responsibilities of headquarters and subsidiaries in multinationals, new meanings associated with location and place as well as politics of place. She is also interested in diversity, equity and inclusion, especially in terms of gender and language diversity, and international mobility. Together with her colleagues, Rebecca has advanced the use of qualitative research methods, especially the case study, in international business research.

Picture of Tiina Ritvala

Tiina Ritvala

Associate Professor

Assistant Dean of Teaching and Education

Tiina Ritvala’s research is in the field of sustainability in international business, focusing on cross-sector partnerships between multinational corporations, non-profits and governments. Her research is phenomenon-based and theoretically ambitious, drawing upon a broad range of theory (e.g. sociological and institutional theory). Together with her colleagues she is studying the construction of sustainable cities of the future at the nexus of global and local influences and value chains. Her research interests also cover non-market (political and social) strategies, energy transition, internationalization of cultural organizations, sustainable headquarters and future-facing research methodologies.

Picture of Iiris Saittakari

Iiris Saittakari

Assistant Professor

Head of Doctoral Studies in IB

Iiris Saittakari’s research focuses on multinational corporations’ (MNCs’) locational strategies. In addition to physical aspects, she is interested in the political, social and emotional dimensions of location. She is looking into location of high value-added investments such as green energy investments and headquarters, cities’ involvement in an attraction game when competing for these investments, and stakeholder pressure mobilized against MNCs during the location choice process. She is also interested in understanding how green transition changes the global value chains and what are the global and local influences of the investments. She’s deeply involved in the research project on the attraction game for green foreign direct investment (FDI).

Aleksi Niittymies

Aleksi Niittymies

Assistant Professor

Aleksi Niittymies’ research lies at the intersection of managerial decision-making and international business. He studies how managers’ decision-making processes unfold in the international environment, where the decisions are made under heavy uncertainty as the managers struggle to make sense of the complexity of multiple different markets. Aleksi has especially focused on firms’ internationalization strategies and responses to shocks or disruptions. To gain novel insights into these decision-making processes, Aleksi is interested in using diverse, even unconventional, qualitative research methods. For instance, his most recent works draw from historical research methods and gamification perspectives to shed new light on how managers’ decision-making processes unfold.

Picture of Hannu Seristö

Hannu Seristö


Associate Vice President of Aalto University, External Relations

Head of the CEMS Program

Hannu Seristö’s research has been, for instance, in the  field of international partnerships. He has approached the phenomenon from strategy perspective. The issues of global growth of companies are of interest, and as a more specific research theme the issue of university globalization is currently being worked on. He is leading the Globalization of Universities project.

Picture of Perttu Kähäri

Perttu Kähäri

Professor of Practice in International Business

Head of the Master’s Program in Global Management

Perttu Kähäri’s research interests are related to management of multinational corporations. He is interested in change and dynamics both at organizational and individual level. He has investigated the dynamics of headquarters in multinationals, and relocations and regional headquarters in particular. Perttu has also studied concepts of location and place as well as politics of place. He is also interested in diversity, equity and inclusion, especially in international institutions of higher education.

Portrait of Aalto University's Provost Kristiina Mäkelä

Kristiina Mäkelä


Provost of Aalto University

Not accepting new doctoral students 2024.

Degree structure and coursework

The degree requirements of the International Business PhD Program consist of coursework of 60 ECTS which include General research studies (18 ECTS) and Research field studies (42 ECTS).

The core of the Research field studies is taking part in the NORD-IB Doctoral Program which is a set of six short doctoral courses totaling 30 ECTS run collectively by leading schools in the Nordic region. Taking part in NORD-IB facilitates both learning important IB knowledge and networking with scholars from around the Nordic region and beyond.

For more information on the NORD-IB Doctoral Program see:

NORD-IB Doctoral Program


The application period for the studies starting on Fall 2024 is now closed. Thank you for the applications!

Detailed information about the application process for our doctoral program and online applications may be found:

Information about the application process 

For more information please contact the Head of Doctoral Studies in IB, Assistant Professor Iiris Saittakari ([email protected]).

Insights from current doctoral researchers

    Hilla Back

    Hilla Back

    I am a late-stage doctoral researcher in the International Business-unit of Aalto University School of Business. My PhD focuses on language diversity and inclusion of foreign employees and university students. I am especially interested in how language proficiency impacts inclusion into local groups in different types of organizations. Research on social psychology and discrimination also play a large role in my dissertation, and I can truly say that my topic is multidisciplinary. Aalto University and the IB-unit have enabled me to pursue the type of research I am passionate about. Most importantly, I am able to carry out top-level research that is beneficial for both the academic audience and society at large.  

    I started my PhD studies at Aalto University School of Business in 2018. Along the years I have had the chance to attend multiple international conferences every year, join the international NORD-IB program through which I have visited many universities in northern Europe, and conduct empirical research in various organizations. Not only have I written many papers with both colleagues and by myself, but I have also taught both bachelor- and master -level students, reviewed papers for conferences and journals, and attended world-class seminars from various departments in our school. Next year I will be spending the Fall semester at Stanford University as a visiting researcher. In other words, participating in the PhD-program in the IB-unit of Aalto University has offered me as many possibilities as I have wanted to seek out. If I were to describe my PhD-journey in a few words, they would be: exciting, challenging, and rewarding. The program offers a great balance of responsibility and autonomy in an international setting with many supportive colleagues. I have greatly enjoyed my time in the program and have developed immensely both academically and personally.

    Picture of Liu Linuy

    Linyu Liu

    My current research is to explore how multinationals could accommodate both Talent Management and Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion policies that are theoretically built on competing employment ideologies. Aalto offers a supportive environment where you are encouraged to explore whatever you find relevant and interesting. Here I meet lots of great people, some are my friends, and some are my role models.

    Picture of Xiaoshi Xu

    Xiaoshi Xu

    I am a PhD Candidate of International Business at the School of Business. My research is focused on what and how managerial practices facilitate innovation. The studies explore this topic from multiple theoretical perspectives, including dynamic capability theory, institutional theory, and paradox theory. Empirically, my research draws on both qualitative and quantitative methods.

    Picture of Riku Reunamäki

    Riku Reunamäki

    I have found that studying at Aalto is an excellent preparation for a future academic career. Our IB unit is a tight-knit group with very low hierarchy and a collegial atmosphere. My own research concerns how management ideas travel globally and are translated and legitimized as practices locally, with a particular focus on employees who translate the ideas in their daily work. In my dissertation, I explore how the global "agile" management fashion is translated at the largest financial group in Finland. I performed ethnographic observations during times of social distancing and remote work, which was methodologically interesting!

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