All business schools aspire to industry accreditation—it proves their business programs are rigorous and up to international standards, attracting both students and world-class faculty.
Now, one organization is turning accreditation on its head by focusing on responsible management, positive impact, and lifelong learning.
Today, the Association of MBAs (AMBA), a British accreditation body, launches the Business Graduates Association (BGA), a sister brand to the accreditation giant.
The AMBA currently accredits 257 schools around the world, but the clue’s in the name—they only credit MBA, DBA, and Master of Management programs. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), on the other hand, accredits business schools as a whole, both graduate and undergraduate programs.
AMBA’s new venture, however, changes things for business schools, as BGA will also credit business schools as a whole and not just MBA programs.
‘Our vision is clear,’ says Andrew Main Wilson (pictured above right), CEO of AMBA and BGA, 'BGA will champion the crucial importance of lifelong learning.
‘We’ll be welcoming business schools as members with a proven commitment to social responsibility and sustainability across all their programme modules.’
A step in the right direction?
It seems BGA’s main differentiating factor is its commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility, which forms a key part of the BGA Charter—their expectations for any schools wishing to become a member of the organization.
In their Charter, it’s explicitly stated that BGA-accredited institutions must demonstrate a commitment to driving social change, ethics and sustainability, impact and innovation, and equality and diversity.
‘It is the mission of the Business Graduates Association to encourage business schools and their graduates to go beyond traditional topics and include societal impact metrics in their teaching,’ explains Professor Bodo B. Schlegelmilch, chair of BGA.
BGA is also encouraging social impact in some of the world’s poorest countries, with schools ‘who can demonstrate evidence that they are making a real difference to the future of their countries’ economies’ being strongly considered for membership.
In the last year, social movements such as #MeToo and an increased global move towards sustainability have offered business schools the chance to approach social impact more head on in their graduate business programs.
“Students want to know about these big global trends that are causing so much uncertainty,” Michael Kitson, senior lecturer at Cambridge Judge Business School, told BusinessBecause last year.
“While students are demanding an ethical curriculum, business schools are demanding MBA candidates who will become ethical leaders,” he added.
But how necessary is it to introduce a new accreditation body to the mix?
Currently, the top recognition for business schools is triple-accreditation from AMBA, AACSB, and the EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS), which only 1% of business schools worldwide have achieved so far. Can a new accreditation really change the way schools operate on a social scale?
According to Peter Birdsall, president and chair of the executive board at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, it can.
‘A network of international business schools will enable individual Schools to tap into a wealth of experience, knowledge, and prospective manpower that will benefit the wider community around them,’ he said.
‘The services offered to members are focused on networking, collaborative sharing of data, and ‘best practice’,’ he adds. ‘BGA will offer us a platform that will assist us in continuing our development as a steadily growing international institute.’
Wittenborg is just one of nine global business schools who are already members of BGA, with the list also including globally renowned schools such as Rotterdam School of Management, Aston Business School, and MIP Politecnico di Milano.
But, as stated, BGA has also cast their eye to other, lesser-known, business institutions, including American University in Bulgaria and the City University of Macau, China.
To encourage smaller schools to consider BGA membership, they’ve also introduced tiered membership levels, including the option for ‘validation’, a low-cost way ($3800) for smaller business schools to prove their commitment to sustainability and social impact.
Only time will tell which business schools will chase BGA membership and accreditation in the future, but with the calibre of schools already a part of the organization, it seems likely that other schools, as part of a commitment to sustainable business, will follow suit in the future.