By Colin Nelson
One of the most difficult aspects of analyzing the data from AACSB's Collaborations Survey is that there is little to indicate how active a reported partnership is. "Active collaborations" are considered to be those in which the partner schools are habitually engaged. For example, a British school may have a formal agreement for collaborative faculty research and shared resources with a school in Malaysia, but do the faculty on either side take advantage of it regularly? Tougher to tell.
One possible proxy measure for the activity level of a collaboration is the complexity of the partnership agreement itself. The Collaborations Survey asks respondents to identify all applicable activity types of each collaboration they report. Possible types include:
- Articulation/Twinning Agreements;
- Dual Degrees (or Multiple Degrees);
- Faculty Activity;
- Franchise Agreements;
- Joint Degrees;
- Non-Degree/Executive Education;
- Shared Resources;
- Study Abroad/Student Exchanges;
- Validation Agreements; and
Reported partnerships may include only one of these elements, or (conceivably) all of them. While a relatively simple, one-dimensional agreement may or may not be very active, collaborations that feature a large number of the above elements imply that the partner schools are more actively involved, due to the deeper level of commitment required by more complex arrangements. Additionally, there are certain elements that are likelier than others to be part of deeper, (presumably) more involved collaborations:
Figure 1. Element Types as Proportions of Collaboration Complexity
As you can see, only three activities, namely Study Abroad/Student Exchanges, Franchise Agreements, and those categorized as "Other," were the sole element of the majority of reported collaborations involving those activities. The other seven were more likely to be one of multiple elements, though four of these seven (namely Articulation/Twinning Agreements, Dual or Multiple Degrees, Validation Agreements, and Joint Degrees) still were the sole reported element in a plurality of cases.
However, on page 161 of its recent report, the AACSB Globalization of Management Education Task Force notes that "collaborative agreements tend to be one-dimensional in purpose," and this is certainly borne out by the data in the most recent Collaborations Survey (2009–10). The vast majority of the 3,950 reported collaborations were indeed simple:
Figure 2. Percentage of Reported Collaborations by Number of Elements Incorporated
Less than a quarter of all reported collaborations involved multiple activities. It may be that complexity can serve as a proxy measure for activity, but given how few collaborations are multi-dimensional, its usefulness as a measure is inherently limited. Sometimes the only thing we can know for certain is that not much is certain when it comes to business schools and their globalization efforts.