The 2014 revision of the EQUIS documents include three significant changes in the EQUIS Process Manual Annexes, all related to specific features of business school operations.
1. Policy on Multi-Campus Operations (Annex 12)
Many business schools are nowadays spreading their activities across multiple campuses and, in some cases, it is not even clear anymore which campus is to be considered the headquarter (home) campus. Given that quality may differ greatly within a business school’s campus network, the EQUIS process must include a review of the school’s activities at different campus locations, the linkages between them, the degree of managerial and operational independence granted to them and the form of control exercised by senior management. The purpose of the new annex is to ensure that schools in process supply sufficiently detailed information on their campus networks at all stages of the accreditation process.
The new EQUIS policy requires schools to include all of its campuses and provide a detailed description in the Self-Assessment Report with an informative summary added to the datasheet and supporting evidence presented in the base room. The information to be submitted includes: Description of the activity portfolio carried out at each campus location, local resource support, governance mechanisms to control campus activities and to ensure coordination within the campus network, quality assurance, financial performance and risks specific to local operations. Multi-campus strategies, development objectives and performance milestones need to be explained in detail as well. Peer Review Visits may involve several campuses, typically the headquarter campus and the perceived weakest links within the campus network.
For further information, see Annex 12, EQUIS Process Manual Annexes.
2. Policy on Collaborative Provision (Annex 13)
The 2014 document changes serve the purpose of further detailing existing policy. An increasing number of business schools deliver degree programmes in collaboration with partner institutions. The partners may be located in the same country or offshore; they may be academic or non-academic institutions. Degrees may be awarded solely by one of the partners, jointly by several partners (joint degrees) or individually by several (typically not more than two) partners (dual degrees). Collaborative provision is normally regulated by bilateral agreements. Consortium structures can be set up with a portfolio of bilateral contracts or may be formally operated as a joint venture.
Collaborative provision implies that the business school requesting EQUIS accreditation is likely not to fully control the design, delivery and management of the respective degree programmes. It is therefore necessary to assess during an EQUIS review how collaboration is impacting quality and therefore indirectly the EQUIS brand.
The document revisions clarify that some forms of collaborative provision (e.g. dual degree offerings in support of student outward mobility for the School’s main degree programmes) have become a mainstay in management education and are therefore unlikely to warrant special attention under this policy. Off-campus delivery in cooperation with a lesser reputed partner institution definitely will.
The revised policy makes the information requirements more explicit. Schools are required to describe all collaborative activities (including partner institutions) in full as an appendix to the Self-Assessment Report with an informative summary also included in Datasheet. The Base Room must include partnership agreements, policy documents, minutes, (financial) data and any further evidence needed to understand the School’s collaborative activities. Otherwise, the previously established process still applies.
For further information, see Annex 13, EQUIS Process Manual Annexes.
3. Policy on Major Institutional Change and Restructuring (Annex 18)
The existing Policy on Major Restructuring has been modified to clarify its scope and when it is necessary to notify the EQUIS Office. In addition, the potential consequences have been strengthened, all in an effort to protect the EQUIS brand.
The addition ‘Institutional Change’ to the title of this policy reflects the observation that ‘major restructuring’ is in many instances triggered by ‘major institutional change’. The parent of an accredited school may for instance decide to merge the business school with another unit, which can alter governance, autonomy, strategic outlook and operations in fundamental ways. Alternatively, an accredited school may be negatively affected by changes in its economic environment (e.g. departure of a major donor, tightening of student visa regulations), which can eventually serve as a trigger for major restructuring.
The 2014 version clarifies the policy’s intended scope: The policy already applies when it can be reasonably assumed that major institutional change will occur (rather than when major institutional change or the resulting restructuring actually materialise). It also includes instances where institutional change and restructuring are not the result of a deliberate act by the accredited school.
Schools need to notify the EQUIS Office without undue delay in case the institutional change is potentially “major” and then the previously established procedure applies. Failing to submit notification, submitting the notification too late or misrepresenting the institutional change and its consequences can lead to the suspension of accreditation at the discretion of the EQUIS Accreditation Board.
For further information, see Annex 18, EQUIS Process Manual Annexes.