Is an international accreditation a MUST HAVE when you choose a Business School?

Published: 29 July 2021 | by Thomas Graf

So many Business Masters in this world... so many Masters in Management (MIM) and MBA programs, for instance, and so many business schools. Which one should you choose? One selection criteria can be whether or not a school is internationally accredited.

What does international accreditation mean?

An international accreditation is a certificate granted by an accreditation agency. This agency is a private business that makes money by accrediting educational institutions: by asking a business school for statistics on a certain program, for instance, or by interviewing professors along certain criteria such as "In which language do you teach?". At the end of this "due diligence" process, the agency assesses the degree to which the respective school fulfills the agency's education standards. If the fulfillment is satisfying, the school becomes accredited and can hold the accreditation certificate from that moment on.

Which accreditations play a role internationally?

Although there are many regional accreditations, only three accreditations play a role in international management education: the US-American AACSB, the European EQUIS and the British AMBA. These accreditations require the programs, for instance, to teach 100% in English and focus on diversity, ethics, peer review judgement and many more aspects of international management education standards.

What's the advantage of an accredited business school?

If a business school holds an international accreditation, it means that this school is organized, teaches, and offers studies according to international management standards. Is this good or bad for you? It is good because you know in advance that this school provides a certain quality. This quality is not relevant for you? You don't aim at studying 100% in English, for instance, and maybe you don't want to pay for this accreditation in terms of higher tuition fees? Fair enough. But it's good to know the potential benefits of an accredited business school before you make your decision. Now you also know the disadvantage of an accreditation: It ususally means higher tution fees.

Is an accredited school good and a non-accredited school bad?

An accredited business school can be the worst school for you and a non-accredited school the best. Why? An accreditation does not tell you how comfortable you will feel on the campus of a specific school or if you reach your career goals. Maybe you aim at working in a technology firm and the specific school has no contacts to the industry. Very likely, you will not be satisfied with this school. On the other hand, imagine you find a school without an accreditation, a school where your brother or sister or friends already studied and where you know that your favorite employer recruits. It could be a family firm in the region, for example, or a global company that has private connections to this business school. Also, you pay much less than for an accredited school. Then studying here may be the optimal option for you. An accreditation only provides you with a general minimum guarantee but does not guarantee a private fit with your goals and preferences.

My personal recommendation: Accredited or not?

My personal recommendation: Take a AACSB-, EQUIS- or AMBA-accredited business school at least on your short list and compare it with non-accredited schools. Why? Because there is a reason for accreditations. And this reason goes beyond the profit-orientation of accreditation agencies or the marketing strategy of educational institutions. The reason is that accreditations make it easier for you to identify quality. Whether this quality is relevant for you and whether the respective school helps you reach your individual career goals is a different question. But accredited schools provide a fundamental quality that, in my opinion, is worth considering.

What's a triple accreditation and is it relevant?

Busines Schools with AMBA, AACSB, and EQUIS accreditation are called (or rather call themselves) "triple-accredited". Is a triple-accredited business school better than a school with only one accreditation? My personal opinion is: no! Of course, a school with all three international accreditations made an extra effort to run through these assessment processes and deserves respect. Since the standards of AMBA, AACSB and EQUIS are quite similar, however, it may be a nice marketing maneuver but without much relevance for a potential student. What may be more relevant, in fact, may be how long a business schools holds its accreditation. Keep in mind that an accreditation is not granted for good but only for a certain period such as 3 or 5 years. The longer a school holds its accreditation the more stable and reliable its quality seems to be.

Membership is not the same as accreditation

Some business schools are not accredited but a member of an accreditation agency. They may publish "AACSB-Member" on their websites but this is not the same as "AACSB accreditation". Any school can become a member as long as it pays. But only schools that run successfully through the accreditation process receive the accreditation certificate and can call themselves "AACSB accredited".

By Thomas Graf