Why Indian B-schools are seeking an AACSB stamp

Vinay Kamath Chennai | Updated on February 28, 2020

A coveted calling card, only 14 B-schools in India have this accreditation

In mid-February, ICFAI Business School (IBS) Hyderabad received AACSB accreditation, considered the gold standard for business schools around the world.

IBS is only the 12th Indian business school to receive it; two other schools were also accredited in February: IIM Lucknow and the Symbiosis Centre for Management and HRD, pushing up to 14 the total number of B-schools in India with the coveted stamp. Only 874 schools in 56 countries have secured this, less than five per cent of the estimated number of schools offering business degrees worldwide.

ISB was the first to receive the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditation in 2011, followed by TAPMI in 2012. Along the way, a smattering of IIMs, XLRI and other B-schools in the top 10, such as Bhavan's SPJIMR and NMIMS, as well as lesser known institutions such as IFIM Business School, Bengaluru (2018), and Amrita School of Business, Coimbatore (2019), were also AACSB accredited.

Founded in 1916, AACSB is the oldest global accrediting body for management schools and is the largest business education network connecting students, educators and businesses worldwide.

AACSB accreditation

So why are Indian B-schools scrambling to secure an AACSB accreditation? For one, it’s the best calling card a school can present about its credentials. Any student, from anywhere in the world, knows that an AACSB accredited school would have gone through a rigorous examination to acquire that stamp.

Says Geoff Perry, AACSB Executive Vice-President and Chief Officer, Asia-Pacific, “AACSB accreditation is attained through a rigorous peer review process that ensures B-schools are improving business practice through a commitment to strategic management, learner success and impactful thought leadership. Our process requires schools to demonstrate that their curriculum is current and relevant, and that both contemporary and emerging technology is infused.”

The standing of the school is greatly enhanced as a result of the accreditation, points out Perry, and the membership opens doors to relationships with international business schools, leading to student exchange, research collaboration and joint programme development. It also makes a statement to potential employers about the quality of a B-school’s processes.

Sudhakar Rao, Director, Branding, ICFAI Group, says the accreditation strengthens processes and documentation.

“It helps in terms of nurturing teaching, research, institution development and knowledge sharing. It also helps improve research publications and introduction of new courses, and the school can attract good faculty, too,” he explains. The process can be arduous. IBS, for instance, took five years to get its processes in place to secure the accreditation for its MBA, BBA and Ph.D programmes.

The standards for an AACSB accreditation process are mission-based. A school’s mission outlines its core purpose, aspirations and distinguishing features. The school then needs to ensure that its strategy, programmes, intellectual contributions, outreach and faculty qualification align with the mission. So, this means a school is judged against its peers and not against schools that have a different mission from their own.

Sanjay Padode, Chairman of the IFIM Business School says it changed its mission to nurture holistic, socially responsible and continuously employable professionals in the year 2011. In order to deliver upon its mission, it introduced non-conventional interventions in the curriculum. “It became imminent for the school to get such interventions validated through an accreditation body. Beside this the school was keen to participate in global rankings and was also keen to internationalise. All of these objectives required the school to be accredited by either AACSB or EQUIS. The school chose AACSB based on the popularity of this accreditation and the fact that it did not mandate internationalisation. The EQUIS accreditation mandates internationalisation and we were not ready for it,” explains Padode.

Asked what difference it has made, Padode says IFIM Business School has benefitted immensely. “We have signed up partnerships with International Schools, which under the normal course would have never collaborated with us. We were able to build strong links with the corporate world by flaunting our penchant towards quality. The result of this was evident as IFIM Business School became to first school in this year’s season to announce 100 per cent placement in the first week of January 2020. The business school was able to hire top notch faculty from the best schools in the country. The student quality has improved substantially due the enhanced rigour in the curriculum and good quality of faculty” he explains.

IBS’s Rao says securing accreditation is not an expensive process if one were to consider the potential benefits such as meeting the assurance of learning in the academic programmes, improving intellectual contributions and networking across the globe. “Over and above all these benefits is the advantage of processes and documentation, which I believe are the next practices,” he adds.

More than 10 B-schools in India are actively pursuing accreditation with reviews scheduled at six of them within the next 18 months.

Published on February 28, 2020

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