Business schools accreditor offers remedy to future threats

Largest business school accreditation organisation releases report on future of business education

April 10, 2016
Interior of Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) Business School
Source: Alamy

The largest global business schools accreditation body has released a vision for the future of business education.

Juliane Iannarelli, vice-president for knowledge development at the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), said that the idea for its Collective Vision for Business Education, arose from a realisation that business schools and other higher education institutions were “surrounded by messages about their destruction in their industry and the urgency for change”.

“Many of these messages were being termed in a way that was somewhat threatening,” she said. “We thought coordinated action [was] needed to increase ideas about what’s next and where some of the biggest opportunities might be.”

The report, the result of several years' work drawing on the “collective wisdom” of business and management education experts and the AACSB’s 1,500 member schools, identified five specific roles that business schools are well poised to fulfil.

They include being catalysts for innovation due to their role in fostering entrepreneurship; as co-creators of knowledge through interdisciplinary research; operating as hubs of lifelong learning; being "leaders on leadership" by striving for "new data-driven insights into effective leadership”; and being "enablers for global prosperity".

Ms Iannarelli said that the vision was not intended to be “prescriptive” and they were “building on existing areas of strength”.

“These are not expectations of business schools where, as an accrediting body, we intend to evaluate the degree to which the schools have moved in these directions," she added.

“The ideas are sufficiently broad to allow for a lot of different interpretations based on the context those schools are in.”

She accepted that for some schools – especially in countries with emerging economies – a wholesale change of focus was “not going to be easy”.

“If they’re truly embraced, they do call for schools to think, organise and even act differently than they have in the past,” she said. But she added that for "more resource-constrained schools", the guidance could help by allowing "a clear sense of purpose to emerge".

“Rather than trying to serve too many different missions, if a school identifies those areas of strength it wants to focus on, a lot of the vision gives them ideas as to how they might do that.”

Julia Clarke, dean of the Faculty of Business and Law at Manchester Metropolitan University, the most recent UK institution to gain accreditation from the AACSB, said that it was “great to see the emphasis...on co-production of knowledge”.

“British business schools should be in an excellent position to implement AACSB’s vision because we have a head start on the impact agenda – not just thanks to [the research excellence framework] but also because of the partnership ethos that is typical of UK schools,” she said.

“International accreditors, in my experience, have tended to be hugely impressed by the way that UK schools cross the lines between the corporate and academic world.”

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