College and university level accreditation can be gained through regional accreditation organizations as well as specialized accreditation entities like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Nearly all institutions of higher learning attain regional accreditation. Reputable universities seek specialized accreditation for their various disciplines after regional accreditation is achieved. Organizations like AACSB administer specialized accreditation credentials to schools seek to promote quality standards for the discipline. These standards benefit:
- academic institutions
- an overview of the AACSB accreditation process
- the standards for accreditation
- specific stakeholder benefits of AACSB accreditation
AACSB Accreditation Process
AACSB was formed in 1916 as a way to promote quality standards for business schools. AACSB responds to government requests for input into academic business best practices. AACSB staff members spend a great deal of their time reviewing accreditation packages for new business school applicants and those that are renewing their credentials.
The process that business school programs go through to get initial accreditation through AACSB is comprehensive. It often takes several years to complete. Business schools must be members of AACSB before they can become eligible for accreditation. A business school submits an approved application to AACSB indicating its interest in becoming accredited. The school must complete a self evaluation report. This report allows the school to assess whether their program curricula aligns with the accreditation criteria. Any deficiencies in alignment with the criteria must be documented in a gap analysis document.
After the school develops a plan to fix any misalignments, the AACSB sponsored committee recommends that they submit a final self evaluation report and prepare for a pre-accreditation site visit by an AACSB representative. If the school’s visit goes well, it is invited to submit an application for initial accreditation. The school is assigned a mentor as well as an AACSB liaison officer to help guide them through the process. Accreditation usually takes at least three years to obtain.
AACSB Accreditation for Business Programs
Business schools can opt to apply for accreditation for its business administration programs, accounting programs or both. There are 15 accreditation standards that AACSB requires schools to meet to gain the accreditation credential for their business administration programs. There are nine standards required for accounting program accreditation. The standards for both are based on the school’s:
- strategic management and innovation
- quality of program participants
- learning goals
- teaching standards
- academic and professional engagement
For example, a business school must document its strategic mission and show how it plans to achieve the mission.
Business schools also have to describe the student admission and faculty hiring standards for their programs. Schools must also show how they develop curricula that balances academic theory with business practice.
Stakeholder Benefits of AACSB Accreditation
High standards are placed on schools by AACSB. Many employers trust that students who have received degrees from AACSB accredited programs are ready to make significant contributions to their organizations. AACSB also gives industry stakeholders a voice to address perceived deficiencies in academic programs based on the hire of new business or accounting graduates.
Students in AACSB accredited business or accounting programs have a certain amount of assurance that they are getting the most progressive, innovative and quality curricula available to them. Colleges and universities that meet the stringent accreditation standards and the criteria for accreditation renewal are confident that their programs are among the top in the world.
While there are other accreditation organizations for modern business and accounting programs, AACSB is one of the oldest and arguably most respected of these organizations. Throughout the years AACSB has kept its hand on the pulse of industry. It has helped make sure that university business and accounting programs reflect the needs of industry.