A group of top European business schools this week launched a European Quality Improvement System which aims to establish a clear and internationally recognised elite within the business school market, writes Stella Hughes.
A "pioneer group" of schools will start self-assessment, the first phase of the Equis accreditation process, in May and June, to be followed by an external audit in the Autumn. The first accreditations will be awarded by the end of the year.
A team of 50 auditors is ready to assess the pioneer schools, which includes London Business School, Ashridge Management College, Insead in France, Esade in Spain, the Rotterdam School of Management and several Scandinavian colleges. The auditors are unpaid volunteers and are often former senior deans of business schools whose prestige is expected to count towards the success of the new quality label.
"Although the system will in no sense attempt to impose uniform standards, it will encourage convergence on the best practice," said project manager Gordon Shenton of the Groupe ESC Lyon, France.
Top schools are willing to pay 15,000 ecus (Pounds 10,714) for an audit and donate a further 8,000 ecus to Equis running costs because of the growing pressures within the business education market.
"There are too many providers. Five years ago, an audit system would not have been accepted but now all the schools say it's necessary," said Nicole Hijlkema at the European Foundation for Management Development which set up the Equis unit. "We are unwilling to look at ranking but there is a European elite and this formalises it."
The quality benchmark established by the audit process aims to foster an internal European market for management education and to project a European profile of the management education systems concerned to the world. Schools competing with the United States' MBAs in Asia and the Arab world can point to the international dimension and corporate involvement that characterise schools with the Equis label, say its promoters.