Going from EPAS to EQUIS and AACSB … and from AACSB to EPAS

GF14 3 AtoEAnne-Joëlle Philippart, from HEC-Liège, explains how the mix of EFMD and AACSB accreditation models helped achieve a rapid improvement of the quality assurance system at HEC-Liège.

HEC-Liège, the management school of the University of Liege, Belgium, is the result of the 2005 merger of two Liege business schools.The city of Liege has undergone profound industrial change focused on a shift from traditional heavy industries to innovative businesses and specialised technological industries. HEC-Liege has also rapidly developed as a proactive partner in regional economic development, launching a number of pioneering initiatives, encouraging entrepreneurship and enhancing the international dimension of the activities of its staff and students.

GF14 3 HECL logoIn 2009, the school launched a very proactive strategy to further increase its visibility, reputation and internationalism. One of the main pillars of this strategy was to obtain several international accreditations. The HEC-Liege Board of Directors also launched an international search that led to the recruitment of a new Dean, Thomas Froehlicher. It also decided to appoint a full-time Quality Manager.

The objective was to obtain a programme accreditation under EFMD’s EPAS standards as a start to a school accreditation under the AACSB and EQUIS (also EFMD) standards. Both EFMD and AACSB proposed very complementary models. The first step was to involve our stakeholders, both internal and external. The involvement of internal stakeholders ensures an institutional ownership of the process and implementation of a quality culture, oriented to continuous improvement. The involvement of external stakeholders helps the school to connect with market needs.

epasThe EPAS accreditation model is built around programme design, programme delivery and programme outcome. It is backed by a Quality Assurance System and framed by the institutional context. This model helped us to structure our activities. The main achievements were the writing of a quality manual and the setting up of a programme management system around the intended learning outcomes (ILOs).

The writing of the quality manual started with an analysis of our organisation. This has allowed us to rationalise and disseminate our processes and procedures. The ILO process started with a broad programme review relating to, on one hand, our main research fields and, on the other, our corporate dimension and the market’s needs.

Wide-ranging consultations were carried out with faculty, staff, alumni, students and employers. These meetings have created a team spirit and a sense of belonging to the school.

As regards programmes, we defined a graduate profile documented by about 15 measurable ILOs. Each professor was asked to determine which programme ILOs were addressed by her or his lectures. They also had to determine which pedagogical methods and which assessment methods they were using and then list them in pedagogic commitments published on the school web site.

A clear definition of programme ILOs has many advantages and serves students, programme directors, faculty and recruiters. Each one better understands the others’ expectations, favouring mutual adjustments and resulting in good teamwork between faculty members.

Every year the Quality Department carries out an analysis of each programme, checking … please click to read more.

The Challenges Facing Business School Accreditation

GF14 3 osbaldeston2Business schools have been among the most successful higher education institutions of the last 50 years. Yet now they face many serious challenges that, as Michael Osbaldeston explains, have deep implications for accreditation bodies.

Business schools have existed for over a century, originally as institutions of practical education, which, following the Ford and Carnegie Foundation reports of the 1950s, were gradually recast as serious academic institutions. More recently, they have spread rapidly from North America, through Europe to Asia and beyond, currently numbering over 13,000, with new additions being launched almost daily, particularly in emerging economies.

Business schools are one of the major success stories in higher education of the last 50 years, both from an academic (faculty, research, qualifications) and a business (customers, revenue, profitability) perspective.Yet despite this success, critical comment has been growing in recent years, fuelled in part by the recent global economic recession.

These criticisms have been concisely summarised by Thomas et al in their 2014 EFMD publication Securing the Future of Management Education: “Critics accuse business schools of doing arcane, irrelevant and impractical academic research; doing a poor job of preparing students for management careers; pandering to the market and the media rankings; failing to ask important questions; and in the process of responding to the demands of their environment, losing claims of professionalization as they ‘dumb down’ the content of courses,
inflate grades to keep students happy and pursue curricula fads”.

If that were not sufficient, others have added charges of being too analytical, insular and theoretical; insufficiently global, integrative and team-oriented; and lacking in values and ethical guidance. It is hardly surprising then that some leading schools have turned to accreditation to demonstrate their worth and provide quality assurance to their stakeholders.

equis2013The accreditation of management education was initiated by AACSB as far back as 1916, with a focus on North America. AMBA, set up initially as an alumni network, originally concentrated on MBA programmes with a primary focus on the UK. It was not until 1997 that the demand for a European approach to accreditation led EFMD to launch EQUIS, with an initial focus on European schools, and later EPAS, its programme accreditation system.

All three accreditation organisations have expanded internationally, to the point where some 1,000 schools today have achieved one or more of their accreditations. EQUIS aims to achieve both recognition of and quality improvement in the world’s top business schools – recognition through the award of a quality label that is valued worldwide by students, faculty, employers and the media (often being a prerequisite for entry to rankings) and improvement through the need to meet, and continue to achieve, internationally agreed quality standards.

From the beginning EQUIS was … please click to continue reading this article from the latest EFMD Global Focus magazine.