Accreditation is a process of validation in which colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning are evaluated. The standards for accreditation are set by a peer review board whose members include faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. As per business dictionary, accreditation is defined as "certification of competence in a specified subject or areas of expertise, and of the integrity, awarded by a duly recognised and respected accrediting organisation".
Merely an approval by AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) or affiliation to a university/AIU (Association of Indian Universities) no longer establishes the quality of a business management program. Even an accreditation by NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) no longer enhances reputation of these programs.
Among the 15,000-plus B-schools in the world, roughly 4,000 are in India. However, less than 0.25 per cent of Indian B-schools have received any of prestigious international accreditation.
While international accreditations are a costly affair, both in terms of financial investment and resource mobilisation in addition to tedious and time-taking process; they certainly offer a whole lot of tangible and intangible benefits - both in short and long terms. These internationally accredited institutions become more attractive to global students, faculty and recruiters alike and stand with higher ability to create a price differentiation (fees and admission brochure). On the other hand, it also helps in creating diversity of students as well as faculty. Such international accreditation gives an advantage of international recognition, status and exposure.
As these accreditations are based on assessment and verification of several parameters, including rigour in admission process, learning expectations and assurance, faculty quality, course curriculum, infrastructure, international interface, ethics, diversity, innovation, placements, among others, it serves the B-schools by informing them of their strengths and weaknesses vis-a-vis their global peers.
There are three truly international accrediting organisations:
- The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
- The Association of MBAs (AMBA)
- The European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS)
While each of these use different systems on which to base their assessment of schools, all are highly evolved and provide high benchmarks for acceptance.
The US-based Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) was established in 1916 as a membership organisation for business schools.
In 1919, the first AACSB Accreditation Standards were adopted with the primary objective of improving collegiate business education. Today, the AACSB Accreditation Standards are used as the basis to evaluate a business school's mission, operations, faculty qualifications and contributions, programs, and other critical areas. AACSB accreditation ensures students and parents that the business school is providing top-quality education. It also ensures employers that AACSB-accredited business school graduates are ready to perform from day one. Additionally, AACSB accreditation provides many benefits to the faculty and staff at its accredited schools by attracting higher quality students, providing greater research opportunities, and allowing for global recognition.
AACSB's accreditation standards drive impact, innovation and engagement with students, employers, and various stakeholders. The standards are rigorous, relevant, and benchmarks of quality. Institutions that hold AACSB accreditation are committed to high quality and continuous improvement - a powerful differentiator worldwide.
Currently, the following Indian business schools are accredited by AACSB:
a. Indian Institute of Management Calcutta
b. Indian School of Business, Hyderabad
c. T A Pai Management Institute Manipal
Here is a word of caution, especially for aspiring students - there are several B-schools who are members of AACSB, but have not received accreditation.
The Association of MBAs (AMBA) is one of the major accreditation bodies for postgraduate business education and was established in 1967. The London-based group positions itself as "the world's impartial authority on postgraduate management education".
The AMBA system judges the quality of a business school's strategy, mission, faculty, students, curriculum, and assessment. For example, to be accepted as an AMBA-accredited school, students admitted to a school's program must have at least three years of work experience and three quarters of a business school's faculty must have a Masters or Doctoral degree in a relevant discipline.
It differs from AACSB and EQUIS as it accredits a school's portfolio of postgraduate business programs rather than the entire business school.
To date AMBA has accredited programmes at 210 business schools in over 70 countries. Its process of accrediting an MBA program includes reviewing compliance with over 100 criteria, most of them qualitative rather than quantitative. The criteria fall into seven dimensions: history and development of the institution; facilities and libraries; teaching faculty, teaching standards and research track record; program administration, career and alumni services; student admission standards, diversity and cohort size; curriculum content, program mode and duration; and learning outcomes.
Some of the key AMBA criteria for the accreditation of an MBA program include:
- All admitted students should have at least three years of full-time post-graduation work experience upon the start of the MBA course
- A school should have a track record of at least three years of graduating MBA students before it can be accredited
- An MBA program should have a cohort size of at least 20 students.
- At least 50% of the faculty of an MBA program (including visiting faculty as part of the total) are normally expected to have PhD degrees
- A full-time MBA curriculum should contain no less than 500 contact (teaching) hours and a distance-learning MBA program should have no less than 120 contact hours
The following business schools in India are AMBA-accredited:
a. Indian Institute of Management Calcutta
b. Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode
c. Indian Institute of Management Lucknow
d. International Management Institute, Delhi
e. Management Development Institute, Gurgaon
f. S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research Mumbai
g. Great Lakes Institute of Management Chennai
EQUIS (managed by the Brussels-based European Foundation for Management Development - EFMD) is one of the major international systems of quality assessment, improvement and accreditation for business schools that provide courses in management and business administration. EQUIS evaluates a business school's governance, strategy, programs, students, faculty, research and development, executive education, contribution to the community, resources and administration, internationalisation, and corporate connections.
The fundamental objective of EQUIS is to raise the standard of management education worldwide.
How does EQUIS assess schools?
EQUIS assesses institutions as a whole. It assesses not just degree programmes but all the activities and sub-units of the institution, including research, e-learning units, executive education provision and community outreach. Institutions must be primarily devoted to management education.
EQUIS looks for a balance between high academic quality and the professional relevance provided by close interaction with the corporate world. A strong interface with the world of business is, therefore, as much a requirement as a strong research potential. EQUIS attaches particular importance to the creation of an effective learning environment that favours the development of students's managerial and entrepreneurial skills, and fosters their sense of global responsibility. It also looks for innovation in all respects, including programme design and pedagogy.
Institutions that are accredited by EQUIS must demonstrate not only high general quality in all dimensions of their activities, but also a high degree of internationalisation. With companies recruiting worldwide, with students choosing to get their education outside their home countries, and with schools building alliances across borders and continents, there is a rapidly growing need for them to be able to identify those institutions in other countries that deliver high quality education in international management.
As of now, only two business schools in India are accredited by EQUIS:
a. Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
b. Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore
In addition to these truly international accreditation, The Association of Management Development Institutions in South Asia (AMDISA), based out of India (Hyderabad) provides SAQS (South Asian Quality Assurance System) accreditation, which involves mentoring, self-assessment documentation, peer review and apex committee evaluation.
In India, the following business schools have received SAQS accreditation:
- Asian School of Business Management, Bhubaneswar
- ICFAI Business School Hyderabad Campus
- IILM Institute for Higher Education, New Delhi
- International Management Institute, New Delhi
- Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad
- Institute of Public Enterprise, Hyderabad
- K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, Mumbai
- Management Development Institute, Gurgaon
- SVKM'S NMIMS School of Business Management, Mumbai
- Prin. L.N. Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research, Mumbai
- Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar (XIMB)
- XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur
In 1989, several B-schools found that the AACSB-accredited business schools had an emphasis on research, while most business schools had emphasis on teaching. Based on the analysis of this gap, ACBSP (Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs) was established to accredit business schools with emphasis on teaching and learning. Currently ACBSP accredits nearly 8,000 programs at over 1,200 campuses across the world. However, ACBSP accreditation is widely seen as less stringent that of other accreditation bodies such as AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA.
Currently, some programs of the following B-schools in India are accredited by ACBSP:
- Amity University, Noida
- Apeejay School of Management, New Delhi
- ICBM - School of Business Excellence, Hyderabad (Doctorate degree only)
- Jansons School of Business, Coimbatore
- Lovely Professional University, Punjab
- PSG Institute of Management, Coimbatore
- Ramaiah Institute of Management Studies, Bangalore
- Regional College of Management Autonomous, Bhubaneswar
- School of Communication and Management Studies, Cochin (Doctorate degree only)
Importantly, only doctorate degrees in some of these institutions have received ACBSP recognition.
The validity of such accreditation is also important as the accreditation can be withdrawn if the required criteria are not maintained by the institute. Considering the accreditation process, quality standards, eligibility process, accreditation criteria and scope of accreditation, the true gem in an institutions crown is an accreditation by EQUIS, AMBA or AACSB. This also explains why BT-MDRA ranking methodology gives significant weightage to these three international accreditations in its annual ranking of B-schools.
Abhishek Agrawal is the executive director, Marketing and Development Research Associates (MDRA)