Business Schools have been a major higher education success story. Having been in existence for two centuries, they have spread from Europe to North America and around the globe. But it has been in the last 50 years that Business Schools have really proliferated. They have grown at such a rate that no-one seems to know exactly how many there are, but certainly over 13,000 with more constantly being added. They exist in a highly competitive market and it is hardly surprising that some Schools have turned to accreditation as a means of standing out from the crowd. But are these quality stamps worth having or just a marketing tool?
What is an MBA Accreditation?
Even though it is generally agreed that accreditation has had a positive influence on the quality and improvement of Business Schools, there has been criticism. For example, some have argued that the perception of quality has become more important than actually providing it whilst others argue that voluntary accreditations are unnecessary and add to student costs.
Accreditation varies considerably around the world and can be at institutional, departmental or programme level. So in this blog, I’ll take a look at the pros and cons of Business School accreditation focusing on UK institutions, the MBA programme, and the three big names in the Business School accreditation world: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Association of MBAs (AMBA), and the European Foundation for Management Development’s (EFMD) Quality Improvement System (EQUIS).
But firstly, what is accreditation and how do UK institutions become accredited? Accreditation is an independent evaluation process designed to ensure colleges and universities meet rigorous academic standards. In the U.K., the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) is the independent body entrusted with monitoring, reviewing and advising on standards and quality in UK higher education. It provides advice to the Government on institutions’ requests for degree awarding powers and the right to be called a University. This accreditation is mandatory, unlike other accreditations such as AMBA, EQUIS and AACSB which a Business School will choose to undertake voluntarily.
What are the types of MBA Accreditations?
AACSB accreditation in business evaulates a school’s mission, operations, faculty qualifications and contributions, programs, and other critical areas. AMBA accredits MBA programmes (and more recently MBM and DBA) and judges the quality of a business school’s strategy, mission, faculty, students, curriculum, and assessment. EQUIS evaluates a business school’s governance, strategy, programs, students, faculty, research and development, executive education, contribution to the community, resources and administration, internationalization, and corporate connections.
So what’s in it for the students? Should you choose an MBA or Business School with one of these voluntary accreditations? Let’s look at the pros and cons:
Pros of an MBA Accreditation
- A further indicator of quality education
- A signal to employers of a high quality degree
- Provides global recognition
- Helps narrow a prospective student’s search
Cons of an MBA Accreditation
- Is another layer of accreditation needed at UK institutions?
In the U.K. the ability to be called a University and award degrees is legally protected and regulated. Universities already go through a stringent, mandatory accreditation process. This is unlike the U.S. where almost anyone can set up a University. Hence, accreditation in the U.S. is highly prized. But are the voluntary accreditations as relevant to UK Universities?
- Is it worth the premium?
- Do employers really care about these accreditations?
How do you Choose an MBA?
Overall, you need to think about both the pros and cons and choose depending on your circumstances and goals. Accreditations will only be one aspect of your decision making. There are many other factors such as length, price, mode of delivery etc. that need to be taken into account to choose an MBA that is right for you.
The top-tier MBA programmes with the voluntary accreditations have their place and may set you apart in highly competitive industries. But for others, given that all UK Universities are, by nature, accredited then these ‘added extras’ may not be necessary for your career ambitions.