Understanding accreditation of MBA programs

We often face the choice of an MBA program, but are the programs so good?

What is the accreditation of MBA programs?

A program accreditation provides a guarantee of high quality education from a university. Obtaining of the required accreditation involves the passage of a plurality of inspections for compliance with the requirements set forth to the education process of the university.

The university may accredit programs in the national system according to the norms and rules established in each particular country or obtain international accreditation according to international standards in the field of education. Thus, there is the accreditation of programs in the field of: medicine, various technologies, and others.

Accreditation of MBA programs is currently the most relevant and of great interest among the students, who want to study abroad and who have every reason to get the most complete information about this accreditation in order to not make the wrong choice.

How accreditation is carried out

The accreditation commission usually consists of university deans. At the same time, universities should be selected from the same education area as the university, which is subject to the passage of accreditation. A business school with an MBA program in each case is assessed for compliance of the education system with the requirements established by an accrediting association. An accrediting association is a community of universities around the world, with a similar education system and, consequently, carrying out its activities in accordance with its charter and evaluation criteria. Upon getting a positive assessment an educational institution's candidacy to be discussed and can obtain proper accreditation. If the assessment is negative, the educational institution is considered failed.

Accreditation is usually valid for 3 to 5 years, and then again updated when necessary. The accrediting process of is built on a voluntary basis and, of course, on the desire of university experts and management and, in many cases, is quite costly.

Purpose of accreditation

Availability of accreditation is often a fundamental factor of the key to success for both the institution itself, and students and employers. Let’s consider the priorities of university’s accredited system available:

  • For students, the availability of a university’s accreditation is a guarantee of obtaining education of appropriate quality on the MBA program

The increase in recent years in the total number of universities offering MBA programs complicates the opportunity to make the right choice of a university abroad for students. Accrediting organizations provide great help in this matter to students, helping save time and money and find the right program providing all the necessary information for that.

  • For employers, the availability of a required university’s accreditation is a real help in the selection of the necessary staff

This is due to the fact that accredited MBA program graduates have the necessary qualities and meet the requirements for ability to lead and be engaged in management activities. In addition, to obtain the MBA program accreditation the institution has to have high rate of academic progress among students.

  • For a higher educational institution itself accreditation is a real opportunity to take a proper competitive position on the market of educational services

Obtaining international accreditation which itself involves obtaining the best quality education in the world plays a great role for a university. Especially it has a great value within a single region or country.

MBA program accreditation organizations

The number of universities with MBA programs increases faster and faster every year. The dynamics of growth of organizations providing services in the field of accreditation is not far behind it. In this regard, it is quite difficult to navigate in the selection of a competent accreditation body which activities really give confidence in the correctness of the choice of the MBA program of a proper university. There are cases that European and American logos do not always guarantee the required quality of education.

The existing international associations, both public and independent ones, established on a voluntary basis of universities in different countries and regions of the world, carry out international accreditation. The most famous and reliable associations in the field of MBA program accreditation are considered to be:

  • AACSB International-The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • АМВА - Association of MBAs
  • EQUIS -European Quality Improvement System
  • CEEMAN - International Association for Management Development in Dynamic Societies
  • ECBE - European Council for Business Education
  • CEMS - The Global Alliance In Management Education

The first three associations can be considered as the most preferred of the above ones 

Passage of the accreditation process at the three most famous international authorities at once gives a university the highest priorities as compared with others. Winners of the "Triple Crown" as such universities are called are considered extremely reliable as unique educational institutions accredited by three leading international organizations at once, namely by AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS. Obtaining of even one accreditation is a great indicator of seriousness of university intentions in terms of providing for itself a solid reputation as a preferred institution, the more solid is the obtaining of accreditation from all the three organizations. Now in the world there are only 64 business-schools, which have become the happy owners of a triple accreditation. Admission by and study at these schools is considered to be very difficult, but also prestigious and provides the greatest guarantees in building a successful career.

Abbreviations of the three leading accreditation associations in the world  

AMBA (Association of MBAs) – a UK accreditation body, which for 30 years has been dealing with confirmation of successful completion of accreditation processes. AMBA is an association of MBA program graduates, and its primary goal was quality education of certified managers. Now it is included into the elite three and accredits MBA programs in more than 237 universities in more than 49 countries according to data of 2016. An AMBA accreditation group includes: university deans, their deputies, a program director and one AMBA representative. AMBA assessment criteria are quite high and strict in terms of requirements, they are:  

  • university strategy and mission;
  • infrastructure, scientific and research facilities and additional capacities provided;
  • professional level of the teaching staff (at least three-quarters of professors must have master's or doctor’s degree in teaching and experience in consulting or research activities);
  • the contents, internationalization and quality of the curriculum (at least 500 hours of direct contact of students and professors, at least 120 hours of distance teaching);
  • qualification and competence of students themselves (trainees must have at least 3 years of work experience).

The requirements are so high that even Stanford and Harvard universities can not meet them in full, for example, attending individual courses in these universities is open to students with no relevant work experience. However, the availability of the university’s AMBA accreditation icon means teaching in accordance with the program of study that is practical, comfortable and demanding, and meets modern requirements of constant dynamism of global business market changes.

AACSB International (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) - American accreditation organization, has been existing longer than all of the associations, since 1916. AACSB charter has been drawn up with a focus on continuous improvement and development of higher education in the field of business administration and management worldwide. The activities of the organization are based on the use of appropriate controls, the introduction of innovations and encouragement of involvement in solving global problems of the business environment. As of 2016, 755 educational institutions had been successfully accredited by the AACSB. It should be noted that the association accredits universities only, not programs. Accreditation is carried out by a special commission, which membership includes deans and administrators, giving an assessment to:

  • Integrity and importance of the institution’s mission, reasonableness and consistency of its strategy, intellectual contribution of the international business community;
  • Rational resource management;
  • Control over activities of students, correspondence of teaching staff (professors must have work experience in business and academic degrees, be engaged in applied research);
  • Usefulness and quality of educational programs, a competent structure and additional opportunities;
  • Professional and academic activities of students in business;
  • International university activities (the availability of foreign students and teachers, liaising with universities abroad, the availability of foreign educational modules).

 This association has a quite important advantage in the fact that in the preparation of an educational institution for accreditation, the work is carried out by an AASCB member, who helps in the preparation of the program to meet the necessary requirements of standards. This suggests that the confirmation of accreditation by the AASCB, gives proper assurance that the educational institution’s program really meets the highest international requirements.

EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System) - is a European system of accreditation of universities and has been operating relatively lately, since 1997. During this time the association has accredited 76 universities totally. It should be noted that the EQUIS has the idea of international cooperation and collaboration as its priority. Therefore, along with the accrediting organization, it has the status of an exclusive database for information, research, partnership of mutual exchange, participation in various debates and conferences in the field of innovation in management and business. The EQUIS, when carrying out accreditation, evaluates both educational institutions as a whole, and individual programs, in this case, not only the quality of programs  is evaluated, but all types of activities of divisions of the infrastructure, ongoing research, and provision of an appropriate IT level. An EQUIS team consists of deans only and puts the following requirements to the applicants:

  • Availability of a high degree of internationalization of an educational institution, the interaction with other professional schools and benefits to the society;
  • University programs should be drawn up with a mandatory condition of the possibility for students to maintain contacts with business companies to develop their management and business skills during the learning process;
  • Integrity and timeliness of the content of the curriculum, conduct of research, high level of student’s education quality, strict control over academic progress;
  • High level of qualification and continuous training of the teaching staff;
  • Clearly defined purposes and strategic planning;  
  • Reasonable use of administrative and financial resources.  

Thus, the passage of accreditation at the EQUIS indeed provides a clear evidence of a high level of education and provides a guarantee for students for compulsory interaction with practical issues of business during their studies, cooperation with international partners and decent prospects in the future professional activity.