Hult International Business School has joined the upper echelons of business education—recognition by the European Foundation for Management Development’s (EFMD) Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) has given the school the coveted ‘triple crown’ accreditation.
Hult joins the less than 100 business schools worldwide to have received accreditation by EQUIS, alongside the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), and the Association of MBAs (AMBA). It is the only school in the US to do so.
BusinessBecause caught up with Johan Roos, Hult’s chief academic officer and professor of general management and strategy, who offers his insight into just how challenging the accreditation process is for a business school.
"Business schools are extremely scrutinized,” he says. The three awards, Johan explains, mean that you have successfully achieved certain quality standards, which differ for each body.
Accreditation indicates you’ve met a range of institutional criteria. For AACSB, everything you do should be mission-driven, and EQUIS means a school has also been recognized for its strong international identity and engagement. AMBA focuses only on a school’s MBA program.
With campuses in Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, Shanghai, and New York, and a student body representing over 160 nationalities, Hult International Business School has a truly global presence. The process of achieving the EQUIS accreditation, however, is intensively rigorous.
"There is a long pipeline of people wanting to enter the EQUIS process,” says Johan. “Schools are first required to show that they take the three overall themes of the assessment—corporate connections, internationalization, as well as sustainability, ethics, and responsibility—seriously. They then have to fill out an eligibility application, collecting data that evidences adherence to a set of quality criteria and these themes."
Johan adds that a representative from the accreditation body then visits the school, and a subsequent report is cross-scrutinized by a committee of business school peers. “This is to decide whether the school will even enter the application process for accreditation,” explains Johan. “From what I understand, 75% of these eligibility applications fail.”
At this stage, the clock starts ticking. A school has 18 months to get its ship in tip top shape—they then submit a detailed self-assessment report, and another visit takes place in which a team of three experienced deans and a corporate executive investigates the school from head to toe.
They will write an independent review for an independent accreditation board with their recommendation. The board will then either reject the application or approve with recommendations for improvements. A few years after the award, the assessment takes place again.
The process highlights the benefits of intense peer-to-peer scrutiny. “Of course, institutions are competing for students, but these awards are also about collaboration,” says Johan. “There is a really fine spirit of helping each other improve the quality of business education and how schools are run through the accreditation process.”
Hult's position as the first US school with triple accreditation begs the following question: why have other US schools not been equally recognized?
"America is a very large economy, and all schools might not care about being international in the first place, which is the ultimate EQUIS criteria. Being international used to mean that you only have student exchange programs, then it included diversity of faculty members, followed by global branch campuses or alliances with international schools,” says Johan.
For the EQUIS accreditation, it's about the school's strategy, he explains. “It depends on the profile of the school, and the direction it wants to take."
It also comes down to one of the requirements for AMBA accreditation—that schools should only admit MBA applicants with at least three years of full-time post-graduation work experience. Many top US business schools adopt a different approach and admits younger students, which may explain the lack of triple-accredited US institutions.
Accreditation sends various positive signals to Hult International Business School's different stakeholders; it can be an important factor in selecting schools for international students; it can help an institution attract and retain world-class faculty; and it boosts the morale of current staff members whose efforts are recognized.
"The awards mean that you are through a very small keyhole, and have met rigorous, objective standards,” concludes Johan. “How does it feel to be part of the 1%, to have your peers recognize that you have been through a process of scrutiny and made it out successfully? It feels great!"