New AACSB accreditation standards focus on outcomes and industry engagement

Photo Credit: Jvleis (Flickr)

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), one of the foremost accreditation agencies in the world, has made its terms tougher. The new fundamentals include paramount importance to ethics, tougher curriculum, sustainability etc. While most of these were part of the rating strictures even before, they have now been given super importance.

The AACSB members which sat on the amendments felt that since the way, both, b-schools and corporate are run have changed, even rating considerations needed to change. The new AACSB standards will affect new programmes and also those seeking renewal. As yet, about 672 programmes worldwide have been accredited by AACSB.

Recognising that there is perhaps no one way to deliver excellent business school education anymore, the new AASCB standards place more stress on a b-school’s outcomes without being too prescriptive about how the b-school should go about delivering those outcomes. For example, a b-school’s faculty need not be full of tenured PhDs publishing in peer-reviewed journals. The standard would also reward non-PhD faculty who work on applied research funded by the industry. The flexibility extends to recognising courses delivered using Massively Open Online Course platforms, resource sharing between a group of b-schools, etc.

The older standard rewarded academic ivory towers deeply rooted in the traditional university structure. The new standards seek to encourage b-schools to innovate and drive engagement among students, faculty and the industry. “If nothing has changed in a b-school between two review periods, you know that the b-school hasn’t innovated,” explained a member on the standards creation committee.

While the numbers of measures in the standard have been reduced from 21 to 15, AACSB argued that it wouldn’t make getting the accreditation any easier. According to committee member and dean of Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University Linda Livingstone, the new standards would make accreditation only tougher. As an example, she explained how the new standards would ask b-schools to measure the impact of their research activities instead of just counting research contributions in the older standards.

Another notable change is that universities/government which run many programmes can apply for accreditation for even one of the programmes. Earlier, all business schools from one institution had to satisfy AACSB standards at the same time. This new move, it is expected, will help Indian Institutes of Management to apply for AACSB individually, and also institutions abroad which run many business schools at the same time. The only criterion to be met is that the different programmes must be different in nature with different administrative powers.

The changes were brought about after more than 24 months of lengthy debates and discussion among AACSB members in Chicago. Incidentally, Indian School of Business and TAPMI are the only two Indian institutes which have been awarded the AACSB endorsement in India.

Some of the IIMs are in line to secure this accreditation. While the research part is interesting, considering that most Indian b-schools have dismal showing, that ethics is going to play a major role, is interesting to watch.

The biggest change in the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) standards can be described like so: the older standards used to say, “We will check if you adhere to our standards of excellence”. The new standards say, “Tell us why you exist, and we’ll tell you if you do a good job of it.”

Below is what TAPMI’s Director, Dr. R C Natarajan has to say about the changes.

“The new standards are in fact a blessing. Firstly, the duplications have been removed. Secondly, Faculty adequacy has been broken into more combinations instead of a linear AQ-PQ classifications. They have woken up to the reality of the need for ethics being a part of the business school mission, and they seek the schools to demonstrate this through their mission statement, policies and actions. The focus of research work has now become the impact factor, which is expected to be left to the school to define what the impact factor they aim at in fulfillment of the mission. These are the three crucial changes that have been debated sufficiently. There is a fear that the impact factor may subtly encourage publication only in American Journals in particular and Western Journals in general. This is a matter to be reckoned with by the editors of the Indian journals who have to bring up their standards to demonstrate the high citation levels of the articles published in their journals. If Indian journals do not stand to scholarly scrutiny, we cannot blame the scholars for it. After all, this is an era of global educational standards. The accredited schools have nothing to worry at this stage as these standards will be applied for review at the end of the five year maintenance-period, which, in the case of TAPMI, is 2017. TAPMI plans to start working on these standards immediately. There will be a workshop for Faculty in April 2013.”

We will get you more updates on this article in the next few hours.