By Thomas Graf
Some business schools show symbols of accreditations on their websites, for example from the accreditation agencies AACSB, EQUIS, or AMBA. Some even mention their "triple accreditation" explicitly to signal the quality of the school and its programs. What do these accreditations mean and how important are they when selecting a business school and Master in Management (MIM) program?
Which accreditations should you take into account?
First of all, the aforementioned accreditations are THE internationally accepted accreditations for business schools. More precisely, the EQUIS and AACSB accreditation are certificates for the whole business school. That is, when the Vlerick Business School, for instance, receives an AACSB accreditation then ALL of its programs automatically are certified. By contrast, the AMBA certifies individual programs - MBA, DBA, and Masters in Business and Management (MBM). However, the AMBA accreditation is only granted if all MBA and EMBA programs have passed the due diligence successfully. Whether a school’s Master in Management or professional doctorate in management are also accredited can be seen on the AMBA website. The EBS University, for example, does not have AACSB or EQUIS. It offers, however, an Executive MBA together with Durham Business School - and this MBA is AMBA accredited. The HEC Schoool of Management has all of them: The school is accredited by AACSB and EQUIS, and the fulltime MBA, the Executive MBA, and the MSc in Management are accredited by AMBA.
How important are AACSB, EQUIS, and AMBA accreditations?
These accreditations are important because they require minimum standards from schools, for example, minimum numbers of case studies used in the curriculum, a minimum number of intakes (number of students every year) or a minimum number of alumni. Also, schools and program need to show a certain experience and documentation if they want to receive the accreditation. By this, accredited schools (or programs) do not provide a guarantee for excellence; nor do they guarantee that you feel comfortable there. But they provide you with a minimum quality control so that you can be sure that the respective program fulfills internationally accepted standards.
Which business school to choose - accredited or non-accredited?
The requirements of the accreditation agencies are tough. "Tough" means:
- time-intensive (the accreditation process at a business school may-last several weeks)
- cost-intensive (because the business schools pay the accreditation agency)
- difficult to implement (because of the requirements)
Relatively young schools that do not have a big alumni network, that do not get the required minimum intakes per year, or that do not have the financial resources to pay for the accreditation may not get the certificate yet. So, it may be a good school in terms of its curriculum and teaching, maybe also in terms of its connection with businesses - but still lacks the certificate. So, what can you do? How important are accreditations?
Choose an accredited school or program - unless you have a better reason
A reasonable strategy to deal with accreditations could be: Choose an accredited school unless you have a good reason to choose a non-accredited school. Why? There are so many schools with the accreditation already. These schools have invested a lot of effort in gaining that certifications - and this effort provides you as a student with reliable standards. So why not taking them?
If, however, you like a non-accredited school for SPECIFIC reasons - for example, because your favorite employer sponsors it or because you do not want to travel a lot - then screen the profile carefully (for example, by visiting the school, talking to alums, reading he statisics published on the website, or reading press articles about the school) and choose it if you come to a positive overall result.
- Advice: Be aware of schools that only mention on their website that they are AACSB member. Becoming a member is easy but it does not mean that the respective school is, in fact, accredited.
How important is a triple accreditation (AACSB, EQUIS, and AMBA)?
As for Masters in Management, the AMBA accreditation is relevant because it accredits programs such as the MBA, the DBA, and Masters in Business and Management (MBM). EQUIS and AACSB, by contrast, accredit the institution as a whole and therefore are relevant for our context. Unless you do want to go deeper into the details of the criteria of each accreditation agency, here is rule-of-thumb advise: Do not prefer one business school with two accreditations over the other with only one accreditation simply because of the number of accreditations. If a school has AMBA, EQUIS or AACSB this is a sufficient signal to know that the school fulfills international standards.
Accreditations: just a minimum requirement
An accredited business school or program with one or two accreditations can still be a school that you do not feel comfortable with or where the program is conducted in a way that you do not feel satisfied with. So, the accreditation is just the minimum requirement that needs to be fulfill (again: unless you have a good reason to choose a non-accredited school or program).
Finding the "right" program for YOU goes beyond accreditations
After having selected a list of schools with accreditation, the real job just starts: Finding out where you feel comfortable, talking to alumni and school representatives, informing about career opportunities etc. But these questions cannot be solved by a second accreditation.