06 Mar 2020 14:39 IST

AACSB accreditation transformed IFIM to a tier I B-school, says Chairman

Sanjay Padode, Chairman, IFIM

Post the accreditation, the institute was pitchforked to among the top 25 B-schools

IFIM Business School, Bengaluru, received the coveted AACSB accreditation in 2018. In this email interview, Sanjay Padode, the articulate Chairman of the business school, explains the transformational role the accreditation has played in the way IFIM functions and also how it has enhanced the quality of its learning outcomes and its ability to attract faculty from the top B-schools. Excerpts:

Why did IFIM decide to go in for an AACSB accreditation?

IFIM Business School changed its mission in 2011 to nurture holistic, socially responsible and continuously employable professionals. In order to deliver upon its mission, it introduced non-conventional interventions in the curriculum. It became imminent for the school to get such interventions validated through an accreditation body. Beside this, the school was keen to participate in global rankings and was keen to internationalise. All of these objectives required the school to be accredited by either AACSB or EQUIS. The school chose AACSB based on the popularity and the fact that it did not mandate internationalisation. The EQUIS accreditation mandates internationalisation and we were not ready for the same.

What difference has it made to your functioning/your standing et al? In what specific ways has it improved?

The accreditation impacted the school in multiple ways and they are:

1. The rigour of the accreditation process accelerated the maturity of the quality assurance processes adopted by the school.

2. It gave the school international visibility and credibility, enabling it to collaborate with some of the top schools in the world. This also helped in attracting international students and faculty.

3. It made the school eligible for participating in global rankings.

4. It made the school accountable for measuring the outcomes of learning and making suitable changes to curriculum, faculty and pedagogy to ensure that the outcomes are aligned with the mission of the school.

5. It enhanced its ability to attract faculty from the top schools of the country.

What did getting an AACSB accreditation entail for you? What were the specific steps that you needed to take?

The broad clinical steps are as follows:

1. Self-assessment of the school to arrive at the gaps between the standards of the accreditation and present position of the school

2. Development of a plan to overcome these gaps

3. Working with an assigned mentor to implement the plan

4. Presenting the outcomes in self evaluation reports on a periodic basis to the accreditation body for their review

However, beyond the clinical steps, the school had endeavoured a lot to align the faculty, curriculum and the processes of the institution in the direction of the mission. A lot of efforts were made to orient and train faculty in the newly-developed processes. The faculty had to be trained to understand the standards of accreditation. To attain accreditation, an institution has to reorganise itself and that can be painful.

How has getting the accreditation improved your standing and in what way: Intake of students, placements, getting good faculty; please give specific examples.

IFIM Business School has benefitted immensely. We have signed up partnerships with international schools which under the normal course would have never collaborated with us. We were able to build strong links with the corporate world by flaunting our penchant for quality. The result of the same was evident as IFIM Business School became the first school in this year’s season to announce 100 per cent placement in the first week of Jan 2020. The business school was able to hire top-notch faculty from the best schools in the country. The student quality has improved substantially due to the enhanced rigour in the curriculum and good quality of faculty.

In terms of work, the processes have become more transparent and fair thereby making the work environment positive and healthy. Our quality of intellectual contributions has increased significantly. Our faculty was able to produce three ‘A’ category journal articles over the last two years. The quantity of research papers has also increased by more than 50 per cent. The accreditation has transformed us from being a small tier II school to a tier I business school in the country. Post our accreditation, our Indian ranking jumped by 20-plus ranks making us a part of the top 25 business schools in the country. Post accreditation, we participated in only one cycle of rankings and decided to take a break from rankings for a period of two years. Currently, we are in the break period and hence our rankings have not moved but we are aware that we have surely moved up in the last two years as well.

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

It is an investment. It is about self-improvement and imbibing an attitude of quality. It surely costs money and it is expensive.

Why is getting an AACSB ranking considered the gold standard for a B-school? In what ways does AACSB helps you get up to scratch? In terms of advice, recommendations and processes, in what specific ways does it help the B-school?

AACSB is a gold standard because this accreditation is the oldest and has been continuously evolving to maintain its relevance. It is also the most respected accreditation standard in the world.

It is a rigorous process which helps a business school in bringing out its best. To maintain compliance with the 15 standards of AACSB, a school cannot afford to be complacent ever. The standards demand that the school continuously improves year on year and this is the most important benefit of this accreditation.

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

Schools that are aspirational and have the will to put themselves under the lens of quality surely will. We already have 14 schools which have attained this accreditation and I easily see another 10 in the next three years. A big country like India needs a large number of good quality institutions of international standards.