EQUIS Success Story: Nottingham University Business School

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Nottingham

EQUIS 20th Anniversary - Blog Series

In 2016, Nottingham University Business School welcomed an EQUIS peer review team for the third time, having previously been accredited for two spells of three years. Alistair Bruce, the School's Dean, discusses the customised nature of the process. 

Our School is distinctive in having three international locations, the original UK operation and parallel activity at the University’s Malaysia and China campuses, established in 2000 and 2005 respectively. This presents challenges in explaining the common principles underpinning operations in each location alongside local differences in the specifics of operation, the idiosyncrasies of financial reporting, local regulatory frameworks and requirements, and the different stages of evolution at each campus, which are reflected in observable, though narrowing, performance differentials, for example in terms of research outputs.

Preparation for the visit was, for the first time, managed by our new Accreditation Standards Committee (ASC). This body, chaired by the Dean and linking all campuses via videoconference, aims to professionalise our support for accreditation. It involves regular meetings of those responsible for leading the School’s accreditation, as well as discipline, programme and functional (e.g. research) leads and is supported by a dedicated Accreditation Manager. The ASC manages the scheduling of work, strengthens buy-in to the process and embeds accreditation and continuous improvement at the heart of the School’s work.

The PRT’s visit was by some distance the most productive and enjoyable we have experienced. The tone was set by an experienced and sensitive Chair who was able to stimulate a rich and open set of conversations with a range of groups by encouraging mutual trust, frank self-reflection, celebration of achievements and honest identification of challenges. There was a genuine sense of developmental engagement, that the PRT was working with us, rather than merely testing our performance against the standards. This offered an interesting contrast to our earlier PRT visits and appeared to signal a nuanced and welcome change of approach.

The positive feeling was echoed across the range of groups, our academic and administrative staff, students, alumni, corporate partners and advisory boards, which met with the PRT. In my view, the richness of the experience was largely a function of the team’s deep knowledge and experience of the business school world and context. For example, they understood the particular need for business schools within larger institutions to retain a distinctive identity and a degree of strategic autonomy and agility in order to sustain and enhance competitive profile and position. Several very positive suggestions emerged during discussions and in the recommendations, particularly in relation to further development of an authentic international operation. The team also recognised the value of the School’s strong community culture, which underpins its structures and processes in delivering its mission.

The outcome of the visit was our first five year accreditation, an enormously important validation of the collective efforts of our core team and of all of our stakeholders.

The positive nature of the experience inspired me to make myself available as a PRT member and I’m already looking forward to my second assignment in this capacity. It’s a role which I’d highly recommend!

Alistair Bruce, 
Dean of Nottingham University Business School