The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is an association that was founded in 1916 by seventeen American schools, among them Columbia University and Dartmouth College, for the purpose of accrediting business schools, which it first did three years later. It states its current mission as being “ to advance quality management education worldwide through accreditation, thought leadership, and value-added services.” Standards for accreditation were made somewhat more flexible in 1991 and in 1997 the AACSB accredited its first non-North American school (the École Supérieure des Sciences Économiques et Commerciales, in France). In 2009 it opened headquarters in Singapore, its first regional office ever.
Present Accreditation Standards
The AACSB has set forth a list of fifteen standards by which they operate when deciding to grant accreditation to a given institution, divided into four categories:
- Strategic management and innovation: Any business school that is worth its salt needs not only to have a clearly-stated mission, but also to act on that mission and translate it into the kinds of expected outcomes, for which, too, the business can develop the strategies necessary to reach them.
The mission must be:
(1) Appropriate for the constituents of the school
(2) Able to provide the school with an overall direction to take when making decisions
(3) In line with the institution’s strategies and approaches.
- Participants: This group covers the teachers, students and professional staff of the institution. Schools should focus on the work and participation of members of the first group since it is these people who help to advance the knowledge and dissemination of the field through the intellectual contributions that they make. It is the duty of the school to prove that the division of labor among the three groups results in the delivery of a favorable outcome in view of its teaching and learning modules.
- Learning and Teaching: For every degree program the school that offers them should both establish goals that are both relevant and appropriate for its content material and set forth criteria for assessing whether or not these goals have been met in a particular instance. It should be realized that areas of knowledge tend to be ever dynamic and changing whereas skills areas remain more or less constant throughout the years.
- Academic and Professional Engagement: A business school exists at the frontier between theory and practice and is in that sense a professional school. It must therefore be firmly grounded in both for the degree program and the scholarly output to be of optimum quality. There can be, moreover, no complete separation of class study from hands-on professional work.
- Within each of these fields there is a fixed set of standards, each of which is numbered, and the website for the AACSB gives, on the page for each standard, a basis for judgment, guidance for documentation and in some cases a definition. For example, the learning and teaching standards (numbers 8 thru 12) concern areas.The AACSB also focuses on Curricula Management and Assurance of Learning: includes definition of learning goals, curriculum, assurance of learning (how to demonstrate that a given student has learned what he or she is expected to learn) and curricula management (“the school’s processes and organization for development, design, and implementation of the structure, organization, content, assessment of outcomes, pedagogy, etc. of each degree program”); basis for judgment: the consistency of learning goals with the mission, goals and expected outcomes of the institution and the extent to which they reflect both “currency of knowledge” and the expectations of stakeholders, including policy makers and organizations at which current students and alumni are employed; guidance for documentation: descriptions of how goals may be determined and if necessary revised; list of the goals for each degree program; evidence of interactions of the faculty with each other and with the staff members; portfolio of evidence showing that a student has lived up to all of the learning goals for each degree program in which he is enrolled
- The AACSB also has a separate set of standards for the accreditation of accounting schools. There are nine of these, each designated A1 thru A9.
How A School Become AACSB-Accredited
A school must prove its eligibility for accreditation, after which the staff of AACSB work with them to develop a Standards Alignment Plan. A fresh review is made every five years based on each educational institutions evaluations in the following areas:
- Curriculum content
- Student-faculty interactions
- Degree program educational level
- Structure and equivalence
- Teaching effectiveness
- Accounting standards