16 Jan 2019 21:32 IST

‘AACSB accreditation provides international stamp of approval’

Tom Robinson, President & CEO, AACSB International, on how B-schools get accredited

Tom Robinson is the President & CEO of AACSB International, which accredits B-schools globally and is a much sought after accreditation in India as well. The process is extremely rigorous and, according to Robinson, can take five to seven years. As of now, nine B-schools in the country have received the AACSB accreditation. “AACSB’s accreditation standards stress the importance of active engagement with the business community and innovation in programmes to ensure graduates are future-ready and equipped for tomorrow’s business world,” he says.

Robinson was in Bengaluru last week at the release of a study by NHRD and IFIM Business School to unveil a report titled Curricula 4.0: Creating future managers. The six month-long study, supported by AACSB, aimed at developing a graduate management curriculum for industry 4.0. In this interview, post the release of the report, Robinson elaborates on what makes the AACSB accreditation a much sought after one by B-schools around the world.

What makes the AACSB accreditation the gold standard which B-schools world-wide seek?

AACSB has been around for 102 years. We started accrediting schools over 100 years ago and we continue to keep our standards up to date. We go through continuous improvements ourselves and get B-schools to take a close look at their processes, involve deans from other B-schools and bring in peer review teams. We make recommendations on how B-schools can rework their processes, their curricula, and keep up with rapid change.

How many B-schools have you accredited as of now globally, and how long is the accreditation for?

About 830 B-schools have been accredited the world over. There are 15,000 B-schools in the world, and we accredit only the top 5 per cent. It’s a very rigorous process and takes around five to seven years. Once a school is accredited, we take a fresh look every five years. It’s not that they are accredited for life... they have to be reaccredited every five years.

What do B-schools need to do to get accredited?

Our standards look at the quality of inputs, quality of processes and quality of output. On the input side, we look at faculty qualification; if they have the academic or professional qualifications to be in the classrooms teaching the students. We look at assurance of learning processes: Does the school set programme objectives based on the requirements of the business environment? And how do institutions continuously check to make sure that students are learning what they’re supposed to be learning? Then, on the output side, we look at how many students are placed after graduation and where they are five years after placements. So we look at inputs, processes and outputs.



How many B-schools are in the pipeline in India for accreditation?

Nine have been accredited and 17 more are in the pipeline. We have 53 member B-schools and many more may end up with the accreditation. In the past 12 months we had four more B-schools accredited; they are IIM Udaipur, SPJIMR, NMIMS and IFIM. From the 17 in the pipeline I would expect three or four more to be accredited in the next year.

Is accreditation an expensive process?

We are a non-profit organisation. The fee for the accreditation process is fairly modest. And the B-schools have to pay the travel expenses for the Deans to visit their campus. But the real cost is acquiring faculty and improving processes.

As a rating agency how do you gain knowledge on current business practices to rate business schools?

We have a network of 1,600 members and each has a business advisory council. You have projects, such as here at IFIM, where they collaborate with industry on the skills industry is looking for. So we share ideas across the network. You would think that B-schools are very competitive, but they are all very willing to share what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong and what can be improved. So, it’s possible for us to improve the quality of business education for everyone.

How does accreditation help a B-school?

It helps improve their processes; that’s what the Deans tell us. If you are a local student you would know what the best schools are, but if you are looking to attract students from other parts of the world, you need some sort of international stamp of approval; that’s what AACSB does, provide that stamp. And for the business world, we are trying to get the message across on why it’s important to hire from accredited business schools. For some rankings, like the FT rankings of B-schools, you cannot be ranked if you don’t have an international accreditation, either from AACSB or EFMD, an European accreditor that is similar to us but smaller.