27 Feb 2020 19:09 IST

A school’s standing is greatly enhanced by an AACSB accreditation

Geoff Perry, chief officer, Asia-Pacific, AACSB, explains the accreditation process and why it is sought after

Geoff Perry is executive vice-president and chief officer, Asia-Pacific, AACSB. Perry has a Ph.D in economics from the University of Auckland with a focus on labour and international economics. He has academic and private sector experience and has worked, consulted, and researched in his home country of New Zealand as well as more broadly in the Asia Pacific region.

Perry has served as business school dean, pro vice-chancellor, and deputy vice-chancellor at Auckland University of Technology — a 28,000 student, research-intensive university. Before joining AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) in January this year, Perry took his own business school at AUT through the initial and continuous improvement accreditation journeys.

In this e-mail interaction, Perry outlined how Indian B-schools are seeking the AACSB accreditation to put themselves on an international plane.

Why is an AACSB accreditation considered the gold standard for management education?

Founded in 1916, AACSB is the longest-serving global accrediting body for business schools, and the largest business education network connecting students, educators, and businesses worldwide. AACSB accreditation is attained through a rigorous peer review process that ensures business schools are improving business practice through a commitment to strategic management, learner success, and impactful thought leadership. Our accreditation process requires schools to demonstrate that their curriculum is current and relevant, and that both contemporary and emerging technology is infused, as appropriate.

Schools must demonstrate excellence in teaching through measured student learning outcomes and that highly-qualified faculty are engaged in scholarship and thought leadership to positively impact the theory and practice of business. We require active engagement with the business or accounting community and demand faculty who are experts in their field. Lastly, consistent with AACSB’s vision for business education to advance global prosperity, we expect business schools to engage in activities that contribute to a better society.

This approach to accreditation has been developed by AACSB over many years and is recognised by schools internationally for its relevance, effectiveness, and leading-edge positioning. Further, AACSB accreditation is ISO certified, unique in the global accreditation landscape

What do you recommend a B-school should do to get accredited, and how does this improve its functioning and standing?

Continuous improvement is a key element of AACSB accreditation. AACSB offers support throughout the process, including an assigned mentor with significant experience with the accreditation standards, learning and development opportunities at AACSB conferences, seminars, and through online learning, and peer networking through AACSB’s business education alliance. Each of these activities provides schools with guidance specific to their goals. Once a school has achieved accreditation, the initial review is followed by an equally rigorous peer review every five years to confirm the school is still in alignment with the accreditation standards.

The standing of the school is greatly enhanced as a result of AACSB accreditation. It becomes a member of the elite five per cent of business schools that have AACSB accreditation, placing them in quality company that includes the world’s leading business schools. The school joins an international network of quality business schools, and the evidence is clear that membership opens doors to ties with international business schools, leading to student exchange, research collaboration, and joint programme development.

What specific improvements does AACSB Intl seek in a B-school?

A unique element of the AACSB accreditation process is that the standards are mission-based. A school’s mission outlines its core purposes, aspirations, and distinguishing features, which can be a helpful differentiator as students consider various business schools. The school then needs to ensure that its strategy, programmes, intellectual contributions, outreach, and faculty qualification align with the mission. AACSB’s accreditation standards are to be applied with regard to a school’s mission, strategies, and expected outcomes. This means that a school is judged against its peers, not against schools that have a different mission from their own.

Throughout the process, multiple volunteers become very familiar with the school, its context, and its strategic goals. The consultative approach provides insights and suggestions related to strategic positioning, opportunities, and process improvements to support the school’s goals.

Is getting this accreditation an expensive process for a B-school?

Accreditation fees paid to AACSB are generally a fraction of the costs that business schools incur. As part of the self-assessment process, schools identify areas related to their mission and strategies where investments are required. Therefore, often, the most significant cost is strategic spending to build the quality of the institution, such as attracting highly qualified faculty, developing innovative teaching delivery methods, or implementing data systems to assess student learning outcomes. Other costs may include travel expenses of visiting peer review teams. The review teams comprise the heads of accredited business schools who volunteer their time to conduct the review. Reviewers are not paid for their service, yet schools often remark that their feedback and advice is of more value than any paid consultant the school might engage otherwise.

If AACSB is a big differentiator, would more and more Indian B-schools securing this accreditation dilute the differentiation?

Only 874 schools in 56 countries and territories have achieved AACSB accreditation. This represents less than 5 per cent of the estimated number of schools offering business degrees worldwide. It is a highly sought-after distinction and the rigorous process ensures differentiation among business schools. The quality of the standards ensures that only quality business schools obtain AACSB accreditation.

There is tremendous demand for business education in India. As schools seek to differentiate themselves to learners and employers, we expect schools to display a continued interest in pursuing AACSB accreditation as an indicator of high quality.

How will this accreditation help in the ultimate destination of placements and for recruiters?

AACSB accreditation makes a statement to external constituents, including employers, about the institution’s commitment to quality and continuous improvement. AACSB facilitates collaboration among the business community and business schools, resulting in industry-relevant degree programmes and learning solutions designed to support today’s workforce and to ensure continued employability of graduates. These partnerships create opportunities for lifelong learning and technology agility to support future success. AACSB-accredited schools are recognised worldwide by top employers and some employers choose to hire only their graduates.

Which are the Indian B-schools lined up to get the AACSB accreditation? How many in the pipeline are on the verge of securing the accreditation?

AACSB does not disclose publicly which schools are seeking accreditation, but schools are allowed to share their progress if they wish, and many do so. More than ten schools in India are actively pursuing accreditation, with six schools scheduled to be reviewed within the next 18 months.