By Eileen Peacock, Senior Vice President and Chief Officer, Asia AACSB International
On April 8, 2013 the AACSB Accreditation Council set forth a new set of Eligibility Criteria and Standards developed on the basis of three important themes: innovation, impact, and engagement. During my four years in Asia, I have discovered that the schools in this region take great care in expecting their students and faculty to be engaged with the business community by way of internships, final-year theses at both the undergraduate and graduate level, active engagement in social responsibility work, and consultant projects with corporations,” to name a few.
It comes as no surprise to me that the 2013 standards were unanimously passed by the AASCB membership, as great work has already been (and continues to be done) to support the innovation, impact, and engagement of business schools. Schools in Asia will find the theme of engagement in the 2013 standards to already be conducive to their modus operandi, and in an effort to explore this, we have contacted a number of schools across the region to listen to how they already have plenty "to write home about" in this context.
We followed the framework in the preamble to the standards by the Blue Ribbon Committee on Accreditation Quality as it relates to the interaction of academic study and professional engagement within a business school, and how they can interact. Areas of activity that further help schools connect theory and practice include: (a) the teaching and learning activities fostered by degree program curricula that highlight the importance of student engagement and experiential learning; (b) executive education activities; and (c) the initial preparation, development, and ongoing engagement activities of faculty.
Push from the Business Community
At Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) the Ministry of Higher Education wanted to gauge the performance and relevancy of business schools in the country, and UPM was one of two schools selected to lead the way for other schools in the country. "The need to provide full autonomy to the schools was identified as a key strategy toward this end for which UPM has taken the lead role by providing Putra Business School full autonomy," says Arfah Salleh, professor of human governance, president and CEO, Putra Business School, Universiti Putra Malaysia. "More than two years ago our school's focus was too much into the academic side." By becoming autonomous, Putra Business School could then engage speakers and hire faculty and staff from industry, and make changes to its curricula that include locally-developed cases most relevant to its students.
"To provide graduate management study and opportunities for lifelong learning of the highest order of excellence, emphasizing knowledge creation and the practice of management, with an Asian perspective."
Expanding Experiential Learning
At TAPMI in India, the curriculum is also highly experiential. "Almost 75 percent of the curriculum is experiential," says the school's director, RC Natarajan. Examples include an eight-week internship after the first year for PGDM students, as well as an opportunity to write a research paper in collaboration with a faculty member at the end of their second term. TAMPI also uses simulation games and case discussions in most of its courses.
In addition, Hanyang University Business School (HUBS) emphasizes the importance of experiential learning and has developed various programs to support this focus. Examples include a "capstone" course where students learn from faculty members' joint teaching and supervising, which offers a multi-disciplinary basis for learning. HUBS has also recently developed a "Global Intensive Course" (GIC) program, where students go to a partner university for an intensive short course, as well as visit companies in foreign countries, with the goal of developing global perspectives and providing experiential learning in a foreign, professional setting.
Recognition of Executive Education
For others, TAPMI and UPM, the new standard on executive education will draw out an already burgeoning emphasis at the school. At TAPMI for example, "It will bring in over the next couple of years a clear focus of executive education not so much with an intention of financial bottom line but with an eye on producing materials for knowledge augmentation," says Director Natarajan. UPM also plans to do more executive education because it provides a more integral role in impacting the community.
A Practical Approach to Faculty Research and Development
Fenwick also admits that this summary can be applied to his own career. "In the past, we had no choice but to lapse such faculty from AQ to PQ: a somewhat disheartening process for many people. Now, they are able to effectively move from SA to PA, an important aspect in that it encourages practice-oriented faculty to continue to develop, and document the insight gained from their practice of management. A similar argument can be made, I think, for the new SP and IP (Instructional Practitioners) categories."
In the case of TAMPI, as Director Natarajan states, "With AQ/PQ classification, our focus on research for PQ was both limited and confused." Under the new engagement standards the path ahead for faculty research is much more practical and appropriate at TAMPI. Looking ahead, Natarajan points out that scholarly academics can consciously move from the academic research of their doctoral work toward applied research with the goal of eventually developing cases and technical notes built around specific concepts/models to augment teaching efforts. Instructional practitioners can help the case writing efforts in collaboration with students, as well as be encouraged to collaborate with practitioner academics for the generation of teaching materials. Between the SA and PA, differentiating goals for research impact can be implemented. For the SA, improvement of their impact factor through better quality journals with greater citation indexes in the field of management education, will be expected. Conversely, the PA will be encouraged to engage in consultancy, as well as writing cases and technical notes to bring out knowledge from practice.
"The new standards are very consistent with our strategic planning. We have already begun to seek a balance between academics and industry practitioners in our hiring practices," says Dean Salleh of UPM. But, she admits that the process doesn't happen overnight. Speaking for the case of Malaysia, Dean Salleh notes that the new paradigm helps to "break the divide between SA and PA" and "pave the way for scholarly academics to open up and learn from practitioner academics."
For other schools with a scholarly research-orientation, like HUBS, the new definitions for faculty may not have as great an impact. However, "the broadening of faculty definitions can be helpful for teaching-focused and practice-focused business schools," says Renee Kim, HUBS associate vice president of international cooperation. "We welcome such changes because they can provide more flexibility for business schools in faculty composition to differentiate their business educations."
Fenwick also agrees that "AACSB's new focus provides a very welcome validation of Sasin's existing focus, and will reinforce our continuation of that focus into the future."
More traditionally aligned schools also see the need for the new changes. "We have spoken to various other Asian business schools at the Asian chapters of AACSB meetings and found that many are already transforming to more engaging academic programs, thus the new AACSB standards may effectively facilitate Asian schools to change their goals and practices to improve their engagement level," says Kim.