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What All B-Students Should Know About Accreditation

If you’re applying to business school, you’ve probably come across claims about accreditation. But just what does that mean, and how much does it matter for business schools, students and employers? Here’s a closer look at all things accreditation.

Dec 15, 2017
  • Student Tips
What All B-Students Should Know About Accreditation

If you’re applying to business school, you’ve probably come across claims about accreditation. But just what does that mean, and how much does it matter for business schools, students and employers? Here’s a closer look at all things accreditation.

What is Accreditation?

According to ThoughtCo, “Higher education accreditation is a process that institutions and programs undergo to prove that they meet acceptable levels of quality. This process is voluntary. However, most schools choose to apply for accredited status as a way to regulate themselves and demonstrate that they meet minimum quality standards.”

Many people confuse accreditation with business school rankings. However, while both are useful resources for assessing the quality of a prospective b-school, they are ultimately very different measures. While the former establishes a rigorous system of standards aimed at evaluating the quality of a university toward the ultimate seal of approval, the latter ranks universities according to both broad and narrow topics. Despite their differences, both are useful factors to consider when deciding on a b-school.

Sums up Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) president and CEO John Fernandes in an interview with Poets & Quants, “The objectives of accreditation are to make sure that the school assures student learning. That process means schools must do annual data reporting, participate in a periodic peer review and follow a set of standards. That is assurance for students that they are getting a good business education, at least we think so. Now on the other hand, as you all know, it varies depending on the school. It is not always exactly the same quality of education, but it means the school meets the standards and, obviously, some schools are better than others. “

Why Accreditation Matters

For MBAs in Business students the quality of their degree matters for many reasons, starting with the obvious: return on investment (ROI). Given the exorbitant cost of higher education, accreditation assures quality and in doing so safeguards your ROI.

If you’re attending business school in the U.S., meanwhile, you will only be eligible for federal financial aid if you are attending an accredited institution. Additionally, most state aid and many scholarships are also exclusively available to students enrolled in accredited programs.

And then there’s the job market. Just as you’re looking for evidence of the quality of your degree, so are today’s employers. A degree from an accredited university speaks directly to the quality of your training and experience, and to what employers can expect from you in the workplace.

Lastly, accreditation matters if there’s any chance of you pursuing another degree or attempting to transfer credits to another program. Others schools are more likely to look favorably on accredited institutions and programs. Plus, if you’re planning on working in another country, keep in mind that some require certification/degrees from an accredited program in order to accept you as a candidate for school or a job.

Accreditation for International B-Schools

There are three major accreditation bodies for international b-schools, including the following:

Association of MBAs (AMBA)

According to its website, AMBA is “the impartial authority on postgraduate management education and is committed to raising its profile and quality standards internationally for the benefit of business schools, students and alumni and employers.”

Currently, AMBA accredits MBA, DBA and Master’s degree programs from the top two percent of b-schools in more than 70 countries. Additionally, it is the only professional membership association which connects MBA graduates, MBA employers, and accredited schools.

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International

The more than 100-year-old AACSB “connects educators, students, and business to achieve a common goal: to create the next generation of great leaders.”

It currently “provides quality assurance, business education intelligence, and professional development services to over 1,600 member organizations and nearly 800 accredited business schools worldwide.”

EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQIS)

An initiative of the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), EQUIS covers all programs covered by a business school from undergraduate degrees through the Ph.D.

Says its website, “Institutions that are accredited by EQUIS must demonstrate not only high general quality in all dimensions of their activities, but also a high degree of internationalization. With companies recruiting worldwide, with students choosing to get their education outside their home countries, and with schools building alliances across borders and continents, there is a rapidly growing need for them to be able to identify those institutions in other countries that deliver high-quality education in international management.”

While attaining all three of these accreditation levels -- AKA being “triple-accredited” -- is the ultimate in quality assurance, each of these accreditations is acceptable in and of itself.

One last thing to keep in mind? While lack of accreditation may not mean a school or program is inferior, it does mean it’s not backed by the degree of assurance you’d get with an accredited degree.

Continues Fernandes of the importance of accreditation, “It really matters to international students, definitely. I believe it does matter to MBA students in most cases. For undergraduates, I think brand and proximity and relationships and alumni are the most important factors. If the student is serious about business at 18-year-old, which is not unusual, then I do think accreditation matters, and I do think they’ll gravitate toward accredited and better-branded schools.”

Find accredited business schools and programs.

Joanna Hughes


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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