THE INDIAN SCHOOL of Business (ISB) recently received its re-accreditation from the Association of MBAs (AMBA), becoming one of the few B-schools globally to retain the 'triple crown' of accreditations — from AMBA, EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS), and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The re-accreditation will give ISB students an opportunity to join AMBA's global member community of students and alumni for networking, career development, and a host of other benefits.
Three of India's premier business schools — Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C), ISB Hyderabad and IIM Indore — wear the triple crown of accreditation from the three international bodies, putting them among the select 1% (about 110 in 2021) business schools globally to do so.
The three bodies — AMBA, AACSB and EQUIS — assess business schools according to different scope and criteria. Their accreditation programmes, while looking at different parameters, emphasise on systems and processes and a high level of academically qualified research.
AMBA accreditation certifies the overall quality of the MBA (Masters in Business Administration) programme, including faculty and facilities. The programme is certified as an MBA only if students have three years of work experience; otherwise it's called MBM (Masters in Business Management).
The purpose of AACSB accreditation, on the other hand, is to encourage B-schools to hold themselves accountable to improve business practices through a commitment to strategic management, learner success, thought leadership, and societal impact. AACSB enhances accreditation standards and interpretive guidance annually.
EQUIS was created to give European and, subsequently, business schools worldwide, a tool to assess, certify and improve their quality in 10 key areas, including governance, programmes, students, faculty, research, internationalisation, ethics, responsibility and sustainability, and corporate engagement.
Even one global accreditation puts the institute in a position of advantage. Having three places it head and shoulders above the rest, claim academicians. "Rankings are an important part, an outcome of accreditation," says Rambhadran Thirumalai, deputy dean, academic programmes, ISB Hyderabad.
Besides putting the institute on par with other national and international institutions of repute, the process also adds value to the brand of the school globally. "Thirdly, and most significantly, for Indian institutes, it helps in exchange programmes to give students a truly international experience," says Himanshu Rai, dean, IIM Indore.
Faculty exchange is another advantage. It is especially significant for Indian schools since most have very limited seats for international students, unlike global institutes, where almost 75% of the students are from overseas. Besides, deans can also participate in conferences and are privy to the latest research, innovation and approaches to business studies across the world.
IIM Indore, for instance, has signed numerous MoUs with other Triple Crown institutes. "We are getting entry into those institutions which were hitherto not interested in us. We signed MoUs with the University of Denver, University of Glasgow, University of Liverpool, Sheffield, and University of Queensland. Now these are not the kind of institutions with whom there would be regular partnerships. I've also had people from Denver, people from University of Liverpool visiting us," says Rai. Phd students get more opportunities since there is the possibility of joint research and joint thesis advisory committees. IIM Indore has a programme called Scholar in Residence, where any international faculty can come and stay at the institute between two weeks and two months. All expenses are paid, and a schedule is made for them to interact with students and other faculty or even float a course, talk to Phd students, or organise seminars.
Another advantage is when an institute opts for accreditation, systems and processes are docketed properly. Research output goes up and publications become significant, which attract good faculty, both national and international. The quality of the institute improves and students gain by getting membership of the network of accreditation bodies. The opportunity to serve in a panel to accredit other institutes gives faculty knowledge of other B-schools' strategies.
Accreditation bodies bring international quality standards as well as local context to a particular institute. Details of the programme or the school are evaluated according to international standards. Class size, qualification of the faculty, and even a good male-female mix of the cohort size are considered. And since accreditation is a long and consultative process, constant interaction and mentoring make for an enriching experience.
The Business Education Alliance (BEA), an integral part of the AACSB community, is the world's largest network of business schools and organisations. It has over 1,800 organisations with educators and industry leaders from over 100 countries. There are currently 950 AACSB-accredited schools worldwide. The schools, from 59 countries and territories, range in size, have diverse student populations, and offer unique global programmes. In India, currently, 19 schools have earned AACSB accreditation, while 88 are members of the BEA.
Continuous improvement is an important tenet of AACSB's business and accounting accreditation. The continuous improvement review (CIR) process is completed every five years by an AACSB-accredited institution. Each institution needs to submit a CIR application to initiate the review process, two years before. The report documents the improvements made by the school in support of its mission, as well as a strategic management plan.
Each accrediting body has different standards and requirements. Some are institutional and cover all academic disciplines, while others are programme based. AACSB covers all degree programmes in business disciplines, including marketing, finance, economics, accounting, management information systems, and quantitative methods. An important characteristic of business curricula is agility. Standards are designed to be flexible enough to accommodate multiple types of learners, pedagogies, instructional models, and collaborative partnerships with a continued focus on high-quality outcomes.
The world is the stage for these institutes.