By Colin Nelson
In a post I made a few months ago discussing the growing number of business schools gaining accreditation from one of the international accreditation organizations we track, I noted that there appears to be a growing number of schools gaining multiple overlapping accreditations from two or more accreditors. I just completed my semi-annual update of the figures, and it seems that the trend continues:
Figure 1. Number of Schools with Multiple Accreditations
Note: The above chart includes all combinations from tracked accreditors.[i]
According to the accreditors’ lists of accredited schools, there are now a total of 173 business schools worldwide with multiple accreditations, up from 129 in 2009. Of these, 57 are now holders of the so-called “Triple Crown,” having attained accreditation from AACSB, EQUIS, and AMBA.[ii]
Amazingly, there are now four “Triple Crown” business schools that hold yet another accreditor’s seal of approval. These quadruple-accredited schools include: Reims Management School (France) and Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management (Netherlands), both of whom also have FIBAA-accredited programs; CENTRUM Católica (Peru), which also has IACBE accreditation; and Kozminski University (Poland), which also has IQA accreditation from CEEMAN. While Rotterdam has had all four accreditations since before I began keeping track, the others definitely gained the “Triple Crown” only after having already acquired their “4th” accreditation.
I should also point out here that the trend I speak of is not unidirectional amongst all the various accrediting bodies. Indeed, over the 2.5 years that I’ve been keeping track, most of the accreditors have had at least one school, and in some cases quite a few, forsake or otherwise lose their accreditation, even though they may experience a net gain in total accredited schools (the exceptions being AACSB, AMDISA, and CEEMAN). As I pointed out in my earlier post, all accreditors are definitely not equivalent. Otherwise, multiple accreditations would not be necessary, nor would the overall number of schools with them be growing.
However, since each accrediting organization has a very different mission, area of focus, and set of standards, it may be that some of the schools with multiple accreditations feel that the different emphases of their accreditation processes are complementary (e.g., EQUIS’ emphasis on internationalization strategy versus AACSB’s assurance of learning processes), and thus worth the price of having some or even all of them. Others, such as Harvard Business School, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Business School, the Indian School of Business, or The Wharton School, seem to do just fine with AACSB accreditation alone.
Obviously, all the schools I’ve mentioned here are among the best in the world. The value of the voluntary accreditation offered by AACSB, and some of the other accreditors, as an indicator of quality management education is equally obvious. I have to wonder, however, about when it is that a business school reaches a point of diminishing returns. When does the burden of accumulating additional accreditations become greater than the value added? And while I don't think we've reached the point at which we'll start seeing overlapping accreditations start to recede, when that point does come, how do schools decide which to keep?
[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).
[ii] I would like to offer corrections to the list on the website of the Triple Crown Club, which incidentally is not endorsed by AACSB, nor to my knowledge by EFMD or AMBA. It is missing seven of the 57 schools, namely: IAE Business School (Argentina); Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China); Copenhagen Business School (Denmark); Euromed Management School (France); SDA Bocconi (Italy); Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand); and Kozminski University (Poland). It also incorrectly identifies ESSEC Business School as a member of the TCC; ESSEC does not currently have any AMBA-accredited programs, though it certainly carries AACSB and EQUIS accreditations.