10 things worth knowing about international accreditations

February 24, 2017

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Published in General News

For the first time ever, the School of Management will host in the same year—and over the course of just one and a half months—visits from the three most influential business school accreditation agencies: AMBA (the Association of MBAs), EQUIS (the European Quality Improvement System), and AACSB (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business).

These accreditation bodies evaluate the aspects that distinguish our School from other business schools in Colombia and that have elevated us to a privileged position worldwide.

Below is the most pertinent information about the exhaustive evaluation process, which begins on January 26 with a visit from AMBA’s peer review team.

What are accreditations?

International accreditations are certifications that attest to the quality of business and management programs and schools around the globe.

What do they evaluate?

They evaluate all aspects of the School of Management—our professors, students, and programs; the research conducted at the School; our admissions process, including the exams we use and the work experience we require of our applicants; the career assistance we offer to graduates; and how we help build relationships between students and companies; among other factors.

In terms of faculty, the accreditation bodies look at the percentage of professors with a doctorate, the number of international professors, the number of articles published in international journals, and the number of articles that appear in the Financial Times’ top 45 business journals list, among other aspects.

They also evaluate the School’s governance, strategy, and structure; its programs and resources; and its relationships with businesses and organizations.

When will we be evaluated?

  • From January 26 to 27, four representatives from AMBA will visit the School.
  • From February 10 to 12, four representatives from EQUIS will visit the School.
  • From March 1 to 3, three representatives from AACSB will visit the School.

What is EQUIS and what will it evaluate?

EQUIS is operated by the largest international network association in the field of management development: the European Foundation for Management Development. Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, this nonprofit association has more than 800 member organizations from the corporate, public, and academic sectors. EQUIS, the association’s system for assessing and improving higher education institutions, has accredited 149 business schools in 40 countries.  

EQUIS looks at the School as a whole, evaluating our progress in a range of areas, such as strategy and governance, programs, students, professors, research, executive education, ethics and sustainability, internationalization, relationships with companies, and resources.

First earned in 2003, EQUIS is the School of Management’s longest-standing international accreditation. We received our last renewal in 2012 for a period of three years.

What is AMBA and what will it evaluate?

AMBA’s evaluation is focused solely on our full-time MBA, part-time MBA, and executive MBA programs. Just 711 business schools worldwide enjoy this accreditation—less than 5% of all schools that offer these types of programs. Its criteria focus on professors, students, program management, teaching quality, curricula, research, self-evaluation capacity, and the quality of administrative support.

We received our first AMBA accreditation in 2004, and in 2009 had it renewed for an additional five years.

What is AACSB and what will it evaluate?

Like EQUIS, this accreditation assesses the School of Management as a whole. However, AACSB has a more quantitative emphasis and gives special attention to innovation and engagement—for example, the School’s interaction with companies, interaction among professors and students, and interaction between the School and its graduates.

It also evaluates the alignment between the School’s strategy and our broader mission and vision, the qualifications of our faculty, and the quality of our intellectual contributions.

“AACSB has a distinctive characteristic called ‘assessment,’ which is a way of ensuring that students are learning what they should be. It is not the same thing as professors’ evaluations of students; it’s a process whereby certain learning objectives are identified and our level of compliance with them is measured by the students themselves using specific tools. For example, if one objective of the undergraduate program is oral and written communication, there are special quantitative rubrics for measuring it, explains Carolina Dávila, director of the International Office at the School of Management.

The School obtained its first AACSB accreditation in 2010 and hopes to renew it in March 2015. 

Why are these accreditations important?

  • They set quality standards.
  • They foster a culture of self-evaluation.
  • They encourage collaboration among schools(such as exchange programs, visiting professors, networks, etc.).
  • They establish indicators for continuous improvement and performance.
  • They broaden and clarify a comparative perspective vis-à-vis other schools.
  • They foster teamwork between professors and administrators.
  • They build international recognition and credibility.

“I am an advocate of the accreditations not because of the accreditations themselves but because they generate change,” says Carolina Dávila. “I began working here in 2007 when all we had was the EQUIS accreditation. Since earning all three, the School is seen in a different light—something that can be felt when you travel abroad and say, ‘I come from Uniandes.’ But the most valuable element is the continual improvement and the culture of self-evaluation—the critical eye—that is developed.”

Can the School be denied an accreditation?

Yes. If the accrediting agencies cannot find improvements, they can refuse the accreditation. Each agency has its own unique and exhaustive standards for evaluating the School.

How does the evaluation process work?

Each accrediting agency sends a peer review team comprising three or four individuals, largely academics, including one person from the corporate world (given the agencies’ emphasis on schools’ relationships with companies) and one Spanish-speaking Latin American. Each peer review team, led by a team chair, holds a series of meetings with key stakeholders, including the rector, dean, professors, graduates, and students. It also holds formal meetings—for example, with the vice-rector of research and with administrative and finance staff—regarding operational aspects.

The peer review team absorbs everything around it and asks specific questions such as, “Three years ago you said that X percent of your professors would have a doctorate. Why haven’t you met this goal?”

If we pass, how will the visit conclude?

At the end of each accreditation visit, the bodies issue a series of recommendations. For example, in the past, EQUIS has recommended that the School increase its internationalization efforts (e.g., increase the number of foreign students in our full-time MBA program, offer courses in English, host visiting professors, develop exchange programs and international events, and embrace an international academic perspective). And even though it is more difficult for a Colombian business school to internationalize than it is for a European school, we are judged by the same standards.

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