By Colin Nelson
Accreditation serves many purposes for business schools, including quality assurance for themselves and their stakeholders, marketing advantages, and the ability to benchmark and network with their peers. While most nations have some form of basic quality assurance agency or agencies that are required to oversee higher education institutions, voluntary management education-specific accreditation by non-governmental, international accrediting bodies has grown increasingly popular as a marker of distinction by business schools the world over.
The Research Department at AACSB has been taking semi-annual snapshots for the last couple years of the lists of accredited schools of several international organizations that offer some form of accreditation specific to business schools:[i]
Figure 1: Number of Accredited Business Schools by International Accreditor
Note: Schools are counted for program-level accreditations (AMBA, EPAS, and FIBAA) if at least one of their programs has been accredited. ECBE accreditation was not tracked prior to 2010. 13 more institutions have earned AACSB accreditation since July 1, 2011.
As you can see, the overall number of business schools holding one or more of the above accreditations has risen over time, although such schools still account for less than 10% of all schools known to offer business degrees at the bachelor level or higher. We estimate that over 13,600 institutions worldwide offer at least one bachelor-level (or higher) business degree. Of these, only 1,338 held at least one of the above accreditations as of July 1, 2011, although that’s up from 1,216 two years prior.
Additionally, Figure 1 does not account for another trend, namely the increasing number of schools with multiple overlapping accreditations:
Figure 2: Increase in Business Schools with Multiple Accreditations
Of the institutions with at least one of the above accreditations, those with multiple accreditations have risen from 10.7% of the 1,216 that were accredited on July 1, 2009, to 12.8% of the 1,338 that were accredited as of July 1, 2011.
Now I certainly don’t mean to imply that all accreditors are created equal; after all, if they were, multiple accreditations would not be on the rise. Each organization above has a very different mission, area of focus, and set of standards. Nevertheless, the very fact that more and more institutions are reaching out for some means of holding themselves to an internationally recognized standard is to my mind an encouraging sign for the management education industry.
[i] Organizations tracked include: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International); the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP); the Association of MBAs (AMBA); the Association of Management Development Institutions in South Asia (AMDISA), offering SAQS accreditation; the Central and East European Management Development Association (CEEMAN), offering IQA accreditation; the European Council for Business Education (ECBE); the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), offering EQUIS and EPAS accreditations; the Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation (FIBAA); and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).