EQUIS, EPAS and EDAF as a Quality Portfolio

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equisepasedafdiagram-1The Quality Services Department at EFMD has provided accreditation services over the past 15 years. These services have the aim of improving management education in Higher Education institutions by establishing internationally agreed standards and assessing institutions against them. Institutions deemed to meet the standards are accredited and thus gain international recognition. EFMD accreditation is recognised worldwide by potential students, employers, other clients, and the media (often being a pre-requisite for entry to rankings). It is the process of striving to meet these standards that leads to quality improvement. The accreditation process is well established and consists of self-reflection and peer review followed by recommendations for improvement and, where appropriate, accreditation.

Beginning in 1997, the EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) was designed to assess the quality of a business school holistically and to grant accreditation to those that met its exacting standards. These standards cover the school’s governance and strategy, its resources, its faculty and their intellectual activity, its degree programmes and students, executive education and the school’s international focus on the business world. It should be noted that the EQUIS approach is rooted in respect for diversity and EQUIS therefore does not believe in “one best model” for a business school.

In recognition of the fact there are many excellent programmes offered in schools that may not yet be able to achieve EQUIS accreditation, in 2005 EFMD launched the EFMD Programme Accreditation System (EPAS). This is designed to assess in depth the design, delivery and graduate output of any business and/or management degree programme. Such programmes would normally be offered by a business school but EPAS also recognises that many other types of organisations offer business related programmes such as degrees in health or engineering management.

Because of the fact that EQUIS and EPAS between them can only touch maybe 500 schools which is a very small, and top end, proportion of the business schools community, EFMD launched EFMD Deans across Frontiers (EDAF) in 2011. This is a service designed to assist the management of business schools at any stage of their evolution to develop their institution further. By peer review, EDAF evaluates where the institution is currently positioned with respect to its key strategic objectives and it makes recommendations for improvements. EDAF then provides a 3-year mentoring process to assist the institution’s management to achieve its goals, which may include eventual accreditation.qsbrochurecover

The Quality Services Portfolio
The three systems (EQUIS, EPAS and EDAF) are now designed as a portfolio. Each of them is a free-standing quality improvement process dealing with different aspects of an institution. However they are also linked as a potential pathway between systems. For example an institution entering EDAF may either use it as part of its development trajectory or to aim in due course for EPAS accreditation for one or more of its programmes, or perhaps to achieve EQUIS. On request EDAF can provide a gap analysis on the key areas requiring improvement in order to achieve an accreditation.

An institution entering EPAS may just be seeking programme accreditation or it may use it to develop its range of programmes before aiming for EQUIS and it too can receive advice on its readiness for EQUIS as part of the EPAS process (EQUIS gap analysis). Alternatively an EPAS school could instead use the EDAF process to assist it to evaluate its gap to EQUIS accreditation and to receive guidance through mentoring to achieve its goal. In principle an EQUIS school might even wish to have one of its programmes, eg its doctoral programme, reviewed in depth by EPAS. However, this would require a change in the policy agreed by the EFMD membership some time ago that EQUIS schools should not be permitted to undergo EPAS.

Finally EQUIS and EPAS member schools (as part of their own social responsibility) are particularly welcome to sponsor EDAF schools in terms of supplying advisors and mentors and/or funding some of the EDAF costs. With this structure, EFMD and Quality Services offer a coherent portfolio of improvement and development services which are open to the full quality spectrum of business schools or institutions. For further information go to www.efmd.org

Chris Greensted is a Senior Advisor at EFMD. This post is taken from a recent Global Focus article "Peak Performance". The new Quality Services Portfolio Brochure is available here.