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What Is AACSB Accreditation, Anyway?


Posted November 19, 2015 by Staff Writer - AACSB International

You’ve heard the word before: accreditation. A lot of schools say they have it, or that they are the “only” one with a certain accreditation. But what does it really mean? And can attending an accredited school actually help you, once you start looking for a job?

The answer is, it depends. It depends on which accrediting body has recognized that school, and how the process of accreditation has improved—and continues to enhance—the quality of the education you will receive. Today’s employers are looking for graduates who will perform, starting on their first day on the job. Only the best business schools in the world are qualified to earn AACSB Accreditation, and the programs and curriculum offered by these schools ensure that graduates are not only knowledgeable in the foundations of business but that they also are collaborative, effective leaders ready to make an impact.

Here’s what it means for a business school to be AACSB Accredited.

What Is Accreditation?

Accreditation (in general) is a voluntary, nongovernmental process that includes a rigorous external review of a school’s ability to provide the highest quality programs. The accreditation process is a comprehensive review of a school’s mission, faculty qualifications, and curricula, and includes in-depth self-evaluations and reviews by peers and committees. Accreditation ensures that students are learning material most relevant to their field of study, preparing them to be effective leaders upon graduation.

Why Should AACSB Accreditation Matter to Me?

AACSB Accreditation is the largest and most widely recognized business accreditation in the world. Not just a “stamp of approval,” the process of earning AACSB Accreditation requires a serious, long-term commitment by the school to develop, implement, and maintain the highest level of quality education delivered to its students.

The three pillars of AACSB Accreditation—engagement, innovation, and impact—are key drivers and measures of quality that every AACSB-accredited school strives to achieve each year. But what does that mean to you? It means that AACSB-accredited business schools are integrating those three themes into your curriculum, your syllabus, and your assignments. The work that you do at an AACSB-accredited business school prepares you to make an immediate impact on the world upon graduation–whether you’re working for a Fortune 500 company or starting your own business.

Whether you are searching for business degree programs at the undergraduate, master’s, or doctoral level, your search for the right school to fit your personal and professional goals should include AACSB Accreditation as part of your evaluation process. Ask the business schools you are interested in attending how AACSB Accreditation has enhanced their curriculum, their faculty, and their institution. And be ready for the challenge of becoming a collaborative team member, a decisive manager, and a global leader.

What Does a Business School Have to Do to Become AACSB Accredited?

Achieving AACSB Accreditation is a rigorous process that requires a total commitment by everyone in the institution—from the faculty and staff to the dean and all the way to the president or provost. The accreditation process can take anywhere from three to five years; once a school earns AACSB Accreditation, it is reviewed by a team of peer schools (who are also AACSB Accredited) every five years. The five-year review process ensures that business schools are not just “maintaining” their accreditation but that they are continually finding ways to innovate, have an impact on the community (and the world) around it, and challenge students to develop the skills required to be successful in business.

Here's a simple way to think about AACSB’s Accreditation process:

  • AACSB and the school work together to align the accreditation standards with its strategic goals.
  • Committees and mentors are assigned to help the school implement their accreditation and strategic plans.
  • In many cases, a school will have to return to the mentors and committees for further development of their strategic goals, and how they plan on acting on them.
  • A review team (comprised of highly experienced educators and business school administrators) visits the school, meeting with various members of the business school and the institution—faculty, leadership, and even students. Once the meetings are completed, the review team makes a recommendation to the accreditation committee and the AACSB Board of Directors for final approval.
  • Finally, if all parties believe the school has satisfied the standards, the school is granted AACSB Accreditation for all of its business programs.
  • The business school is then reviewed every five years to ensure it continues to demonstrate engagement, innovation, and impact to meet the standards.

The search for the right business school isn’t easy—there’s a lot of information available to you, coming from many different sources. Getting through all of it to reach a decision can be daunting. Take your time, evaluate each of your target schools carefully. Pursuing higher education is costly but can bring you to new heights of success. Just make sure you are, in fact, receiving the education that the school is committed to delivering—and that AACSB Accreditation is part of your search.

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