MBA accreditation has existed for well over a century, but the booming post-war economy of the US—where the concept initially took hold—was the catalyst that inspired business schools to take accreditation seriously.
The 1950s saw all tiers of business school take strides to step up the educational rigor of their curricula to handle the exploding demand for management leaders.
Several decades later, a major media spotlight was shone on business schools in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Public scrutiny was aimed at illuminating what role the structure and content (or lack thereof) of MBA programs may have played in the strategic decisions that contributed to the global financial fallout.
In both instances, people looked to accreditation bodies for answers. But what role does accreditation actually play in informing us of the quality of a business school education, and of a school’s ability to drive innovation?
Accreditation as a proxy for quality
Broadly speaking, accreditation bodies serve to establish and assess the various standards and practices of business schools, in order to ensure institutions and programs aspire to and maintain quality across the field.
Internationally, there are three MBA accreditation bodies whose seal of approval is highly sought-after—The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Association of MBAs (AMBA), and the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS). “Triple (crown) accreditation” is seen as the holy grail, referring to MBA programs that have gained and maintained accreditation by all three of these organizations.
These bodies function both on national and international levels, and offer a sturdy catalogue of guidance to schools, students, and employers. BusinessBecause recently wrote an article on what the nitty gritty aspects of accreditation actually means, both for students and business schools alike.
What do accreditors look for?
As accreditation bodies hold institutions to quality standards, they influence the experience, benefit, and mobility of students both within and beyond the walls of a school.
Accreditors focus on areas including program curriculum, faculty credentials, and various other student services, such as a school’s ability to compose constructive classmate cohorts, support international students, and aid in career development.
Admissions criteria is also a focus of some accreditors. For example, for a student to be admitted into a school accredited by AMBA, they must demonstrate a minimum of three years of post-graduate work experience.
Campus rotation and careers
One of the lesser-recognized benefits of accreditation is inter-institutional mobility. By maintaining a standard of quality across b-schools, accreditation can facilitate a student’s ability to transfer credits in the case they seek to move from one school to another.
And the benefits don’t stop there.
Using accreditation status to verify the credentials of MBA-holders is an efficient way for employers to evaluate preliminary job candidates. Accordingly, graduates who hold a degree from an aptly accredited institution can look more attractive to target employers.
Emphasis on innovation is reflected in the focus of certain accreditation bodies. The international accreditation standards of the AACSB state that they look for “high-quality intellectual contributions that are consistent with its mission, expected outcomes, and strategies that impact the theory, practice, and teaching of business and management.”
In its 2018 Standards and Criteria Manual, EQUIS requires applicants to “summarise the key achievements in the area of innovation, including the development of new courses, educational materials, and new learning and delivery methods that may or may not be based upon information and communication technologies.”
Accreditation is more than a seemingly arbitrary measure of a school or program’s quality; it plays an important role in both identifying and influencing the make-up and practices of business schools. In turn, this has an enormous bearing on what role educational institutions and their agents play in inspiring innovative practices and technologies within the world of business.
As business school applicants consider their options, they would do well to consider taking the time to note the accreditation status of schools and programs, and the focus of the associated accreditation bodies.
This information offers additional insight into the character of a school, and whether it could be the right fit for an aspiring MBA candidate.