What MBA accreditations tell potential students about the quality of a program
There are accreditations and there are attempts to be accredited. There are also MBA programs and attempts at MBA programs. Currently, some 12,000 programs exist - so choosing the right one may prove tricky. In the following article, we discuss how prospective students can evaluate the quality of MBA providers, and what accreditations tell them in this context.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had just started his own business, an educational platform for the medico-pharmaceutical sector. Now, he was eager to make international contacts - and what better way to do this than by attending an MBA program? However, choosing one was all but easy: “The plethora of MBA programs in Europe is mind-boggling. Having said that, once you take a closer look, you realize that many lack credibility.”
The number of MBA programs is rapidly growing. In the German-speaking world alone, there are more than 450 today, compared to some ten in 1990. Globally speaking, approximately 12,000 programs exist. “Still, many programs are not very credible,” says Ryan Fitzpatrick. He is the Co-founder of MD Education, an educational platform for the pharma industry. From 2015 to 2017, Ryan Fitzpatrick attended the Professional MBA Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the WU Executive Academy. “The business school's reputation mattered a great deal to me. In terms of content, I was looking for a general management program that also included a specialization. But most importantly, I wanted to make new international contacts,” says the Briton, who is based in Vienna.
The fact that the program was offered close to where he lives played a key role in Ryan Fitzpatrick's MBA choice. Also, he wanted to interact with his classmates in person - so the distance-learning courses from Great Britain, which he had qualified for, were no option for him. But what mattered even more to Ryan Fitzpatrick was the quality of the program - which prospective students may find hard to judge.
I ended up learning a lot about MBA quality seals and accreditations. That was one of the reasons I chose to attend an MBA program at the WU Executive Academy.
Josef Aschl, the former sales director for a recycling company in Munich, wanted to strengthen his knowledge base in the field of commerce. He researched MBA programs across Europe and North America, finally deciding to study at the WU Executive Academy.
What mattered to me, apart from an easy-to-reach location and the internationality of the program, was the good reputation of the business school. As for selection criteria, I think that rankings and above all accreditations play a key role in this context. Obviously, it is important to always keep in mind that there are accreditations and there are attempts to be accredited.
Prior to applying for admission to an MBA program, prospective students should take a closer look and make a quality check: In many cases, business schools are “only” members of an accreditation agency but have not yet been accredited by it. Successful accreditation involves comprehensive evaluation processes - both internal and external - that take years to complete. As a rule, these times of evaluations focus on the quality of research and teaching, the level of innovativeness and practical relevance in the programs, the constant improvement of this quality as well as a faculty assessment and student satisfaction.
The most prestigious international accreditations for business schools are AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS. Only 88 business schools, or roughly 1% of all the business schools in the world, boast all three hallmarks of excellence, earning them what is called a “triple accreditation”. The WU Executive Academy is part of this select group.
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), a US-based accreditation agency, requires universities to commit themselves to high quality standards when it comes to providing business education, placing special emphasis on business and accounting. It has 1,500 member organizations, 780 of which are accredited. AACSB's external assessors include deans of renowned business schools, who visit each business school striving for an accreditation. There are 21 evaluation criteria that business schools must meet in order to demonstrates that they offer programs of exceptional quality.
The evaluation aspects include: the high level of qualification of faculty members, the efficient use of resources, a strong focus on cooperation in teaching and research and a self-commitment to consistently improving quality.
In addition, the internationalization of programs is very important. Being accepted into AACSB's very international network gives universities worldwide access to high-profile lecturers. The accreditation has to be renewed after five years. As part of WU Vienna, the WU Executive Academy is AACSB accredited.
The UK-based Association of MBAs (AMBA) accredits individual MBA programs that meet the highest quality standards. AMBA evaluates the quality of teaching and research by means of what is known as a peer review. It is carried out by external assessors—again deans and MBA directors of already accredited organizations. The WU Executive Academy was first awarded the international AMBA (Association of MBAs) hallmark of excellence in 2010, as the first and only Austrian provider of MBA programs. In 2014, it was reaccredited for another five years. Globally speaking, only 2% of business schools, or more than 240 organizations in 70 countries, are AMBA accredited. AMBA's international member network, which currently comprises 9000 members, is rapidly growing. Recently, the founding dean of the WU Executive Academy, Prof. Bodo B. Schlegelmilch, was elected to AMBA's highest body as its chair.
The European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) was set up by the European Foundation for Management Development in Brussels in 1997 for the purpose of assessing the quality of business universities. Currently, 120 universities in 32 countries are EQUIS accredited. This system evaluates the organization as a whole rather than individual MBA programs. Since late 2014, EQUIS has included detailed MBA guidelines. The WU Executive Academy was first EQUIS accredited in 2013 and was reaccredited for another five years in early April this year.
Following the successful reaccreditation in 2013, WU – including the WU Executive Academy - has now again received the EQUIS hallmark of excellence for five years. Read more about that here.