Which accreditations distinguish the best MBA programmes?

Accreditation plays a central role in selecting the right MBA programme, and serves as an important decision criterion for future MBA students. It offers executives a qualitative validation of an extensive time and financial investment in their personal and career development. With such a variety of different MBA programmes, it is not always easy for prospective students to understand the differences between MBA programmes and to compare the marketing messages from the business schools.

International MBA accreditations offer the only independent way to evaluate the academic quality and professional relevance of the study. When evaluating a business school the internationally recognised EQUIS (Europe), AACSB (USA) and AMBA (UK) accreditations are important. The accreditation bodies assess business schools in a fixed cycle, normally every three to five years, and if the process is successful, the accreditation guarantees the high quality of the business school’s management training. AACSB assesses the entire university or institution, EQUIS the business school and AMBA assesses the individual study programmes.

“An institution, which was evaluated highly only by the media in a national or international ranking, offers no independent guarantee of the quality of the MBA programme,” says Tristan Sage, who is academic advisor at The Open University Business School in Munich. The selection criteria of the business newspaper rankings seem to vary from year to year and are set by the media for their own rankings. “As opposed to accreditation, a top ranking does not necessarily guarantee the quality of the curriculum at the MBA,” says Sage. Only the seal of approval from respected and independent international accreditation bodies gives a business school the international credibility. They offer prospective students a reliable list of universities that offer a modern management training, which managers can implement immediately in their professional lives. Tristan Sage advises prospective students to check whether the accreditation applies not only to the partner school and if it is still valid. The recertification of a business school is not done automatically. For example, the EFMD EQUIS certification always sets the bar a little higher so they can evaluate the university’s dynamisation process on new economic or social developments. “A school that remains on the same quality level as five years ago, is hardly re-accredited for another five years,” are the rules of the EFMD. A business school that does not work constantly on the curriculum can lose the EQUIS accreditation easily. The Open University Business School, which has recently updated its MBA modules with a new structure is one of the few universities that have the three international MBA accreditations – EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA. The Open University is also the only university that specialises in a tutor supervised distance learning. In Germany there is so far only one German triple accredited business school in Mannheim. Worldwide, only a little more than one per cent of all business schools passed the successful testing by those three accreditation organisations, also named Triple Crown.

National accreditations with different quality requirements are governing the legal status of a business school in the certain country. This does not necessarily mean that the awards of the schools are also recognised internationally. The MBA degree from a British university, such as from The Open University is recognised in Germany and internationally. As the MBA degree is a highly regarded international one, universities should also have their quality measured and checked within the strict international criteria, says Tristan Sage.

Further information: The Open University Business School Representation, Tristan Sage, Zeppelinstraße 73, 81669 München, Tel. 0049/ 89/ 89 70 90 48, E-Mail: T.Sage@open.ac.uk or http://www.open.ac.uk/germany

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