At the AACSB Annual ICAM Conference 2013, the European Affinity Group organized a session on the special challenges for European business schools in obtaining accreditation. This began with Rachael Weiss, Head of Student Experience and Accreditation at the University of Sheffield, entitled “QAA and UK challenges with Assurance of Learning” This was then followed by a discussion between different regions of Europe with some proposals on how continue with the work that has already been done.
“QAA and UK challenges with Assurance of Learning” Rachel Weiss, University of Sheffield
The talk came from problems with complying to the rules for the accreditation bodies. The leadership at AACSB believes that the definition of AQ / PQ should be very open. However, this is not the experience with panels and mentors. Most schools have specific issues and it can be very difficult to explain the UK and European model to US mentors.
The European Affinity Group is currently working in the differences between US and European schools. The idea is to give non Europeans some of the ideas of the specific nature of European schools and there is also a proposed project to create a catalogue of tools for mentors and peer reviewers working with European schools.
For example, all schools struggle with Assurance of Learning for accreditation. Indeed, Ms Weiss points out that it took several conferences and meetings with AACSB to be sure that the University of Sheffield were compliant with the Assurance of Learning (AoL) procedures. Those UK schools that had European mentors found it easy to explain how their system worked. Ms. Weiss even said that she was required to write a glossary for the AACSB team so that they wouldn’t be confused by the terms, despite the fact that they were both communicating in English!
A recent White Paper has been published to explain the differences between European schools and their specific needs. AQ and PQ present a problem to many schools.
“Some of our most prolific and worthy researchers don’t have Phds, which can often create difficulties with AQ/PQ classifications.” said Ms Weiss.
Do we need the Triple Crown Accreditation?
Ms. Weiss also asked to what extent schools needed to have “Triple Crown accreditation” (AACSB, EQUIS & AMBA) given the cost to the schools of maintaining the three.
“In the UK,” said Ms. Weiss “Students care very much about AMBA but less so about the other accreditations.”
In other regions of Europe however, having AACSB or EQUIS may be more important to schools. Maintaining the three accreditations requires collating a huge amount of data. By just having one or two, this process could be streamlined. However, Ms. Weiss did point out that obtaining “The Triple Crown” gave Sheffield University Management School a badge which reflected its quality and thus changed the conversation it was able to have, both externally and internally.
Other issues with Accreditation
Chris Wert pointed out that it is not just academic matters that create difficulties. Financing is an issue in the European model particularly as they don’t have endowments and may not be able to give an absolute guarantee about their sustainability. Some European business schools have problems showing that they have the degree of autonomy to comply with AACSB requirements.
This problem was further highlighted by an Austrian participant who said that although their business school looks superficially like a French Grande Ecole, they don’t fit easily into the system.
It was also pointed out by the European Affinity Group Board that AACSB is mission driven. Schools should use this and align their activities to the mission they have defined. This should give them a little more scope for individualism between institutions. A peer review team visit should therefore be seen as a contractual relationship rather than an inspection.
Thierry Grange Co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee and Special Advisor to Europe suggested that if a school has problems with the mentor they should ask for a change. Each year there are about 10 mentor changes. The chair of PRT should be used during the one year before to get rid of the problems and to clarify the differences.
A continuing discussion
The suggestion from the floor by a Dutch university was to define some of the specifics of each nation. A preliminary discussion began on this and will continue in the coming months with a further meeting at the European Annual Conference in Copenhagen in October 2013.
AACSB European Affinity Group Co-Chairs:
Chris Wert (Telecom School of Management, France)
Julie Perrin-Halot (Grenoble Ecole de Management, France)
Jakob Arnoldi (Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences, Denmark)
For Associate Deans of AACSB Member schools you can join the AACSB Affinity Group by Clicking Here
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