One way to narrow the search for your ideal post-graduate university is to look at its position in business school rankings and the levels of accreditation each has attained. Both are valuable tools for gauging the quality of a school, but they are completely different in terms of how they evaluate universities and their programmes. You need to understand the differences between rankings, accreditation, and overall reputation in order to use them effectively in your selection process.
Business school rankings
Every year brings a new published list of the top universities according to publications such as Financial Times, Times Higher Education, or U.S. News & World Report. These ranking lists may cover very broad categories like the top business schools in Europe, for example, or they may cover very specific topics such as top Masters in management programmes.
When you look at B-school rankings in order to evaluate a university, you need to look beyond its numbered position. The criteria used by each publication to compile its list can be drastically different, so it’s important for you to first decide which factors are most important to you in the school selection process. Then choose the ranking system that best reflects those specific factors to get the most accurate comparison for your needs.
Common criteria for ranking include quantitative statistics, such as faculty-to-student ratio or student diversity, as well as qualitative results of surveys or interviews, such as how likely an alumni is to recommend the B-school or an opinion of the reputation of its faculty. Some ranking systems will even contact alumni several years after graduation to gather information about career and salary changes.
Accreditation agencies are objective, third-party institutions that establish an intricate system of evaluating the quality of a university. If a university meets all of the rigorous standards required by the accreditation body, it gets that agency’s seal of approval.
As a student, you can use accreditations to compare one university to another. Employers may look at the accreditation level of the university that issued your degree in order to gauge your qualifications, perhaps giving preference to one level of accreditation over another. Most importantly, though, accreditation in some countries is a prerequisite to issuance of a valid degree.
Depending on the country in which you live, a minimum of a national accreditation universities and programmes may be required in order to make a diploma valid. For example, any degree in France must be authorised – at a minimum – by the Ministry of National Education. Canadian education is regulated provincially (not by the federal government) and there is no national university accreditation system.In the U.S., most major universities seek regional accreditation from one of six agencies presiding over a different geographical area of the country.
International business education accreditation
For business studies, there are three main accreditation bodies with the highest international recognition levels. A university that attains all three of these accreditation levels is known to be “triple-accredited.” However, even one of these accreditations provides the assurance of high quality for a business or management programme.
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). This agency is over 100 years old and is widely recognised as an elite business school accreditation, despite losing its recognition by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in 2016.
- EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQIS). Run by the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), EQIS accredits universities specializing in management and business administration.
- Association of MBAs (AMBA). The AMBA focuses on accreditations of schools with MBA programmes and it also serves as a membership club for alumni of those universities.
These agencies have developed good reputations by performing high-quality evaluations thoroughly, consistently, and objectively. There are many more accreditation bodies and levels of accreditation found throughout the world, from international to national to regional. You will need to estimate the importance of accreditations to your particular career path and then base your university selection on those parameters.
Lack of accreditation
Although national accreditation is a requirement in some countries, keep in mind that business education accreditation by AMBA, AACSB or EQUIS is not an automatic process. A university must apply to be recognised and then undergo an intense evaluation period. Some B-schools may elect not to undergo this process for any number of reasons.
If a university has not attained the highest level of accreditation available, this does not necessarily mean that its programme is inferior or that your education will be any less valuable to you. However, do not forget that if a country requires accreditation, then a degree from a non-accredited university in that country is not valid, which means that it will not be recognized by educational institutions and most employers. To understand why a university is not accredited by a particular agency, ask a university representative.
A B-school’s reputation is a more ambiguous measurement of the quality of a school than business school rankings or accreditation. It is mostly an unquantifiable amalgam of perceptions based partly on solid criteria like accreditation and rankings and partly on arbitrary opinions. It is important insofar as the perception of quality (or lack thereof) of your degree by potential employers, peers, or even yourself.
Check out: Masters Rankings and Reputation
In summary, there are many resources for you to evaluate your B-school selections once you have narrowed down your list or even if you are just beginning your search. The level of research you undertake will determine how perfectly suited your final choice is to your particular needs and goals.