eNEWSLINE - Business Education News from AACSB International

BRC Proposed Draft Standards Ongoing Series—Innovation, Impact, and Engagement

March 2013

The themes of innovation, impact, and engagement are emphasized throughout the Blue Ribbon Committee on Accreditation Quality's (BRC) proposed standards for business and accounting accreditation. The proposed standards are designed with the objective of improving business and management education, as well as supporting business schools' efforts to deliver high-quality management education in a rapidly changing environment. These standards encourage schools to foster innovation, focus efforts on impact, and encourage deeper academic and professional engagement.

Accreditation must not be an obstacle to innovation in management education. The reality is that innovation must be encouraged in the emerging environment of higher education. This theme represents a fundamental challenge to accreditation, which historically has not encouraged risk taking and unconventional approaches. To promote innovation in business schools, the following changes are being proposed:

• Placing a stronger emphasis on achieving a deep understanding of the school in the first standard, which would broaden the definition of mission to address areas of distinctiveness, expectations for impact, and opportunities for innovation.

• Emphasizing, in the financial strategies standard, not only whether the school can fund incremental improvement, but also whether the business/financial resources can sustain quality and support innovation and change.

• Including specific guidance for applying standards in the context of different and changing teaching/learning models. For example, faculty standards are designed to work together with the standard on professional staff to provide guidance about the "division of labor" supporting different teaching/learning models.

• Designing learning and teaching standards to encourage innovation by putting assurance of learning into context as part of the curriculum management and improvement, being more explicit about the value of indirect assessments for collecting stakeholder feedback, and providing guidance about the fundamental attributes of quality curricula, such as student-faculty interaction and academic and professional engagement, that can drive innovation.

Accreditation must support schools as they address calls to demonstrate accountability to constituents, adapt to changing expectations and technologies for research, and better understand and articulate their role in society. It is no longer enough to simply claim learning happens, research is useful, and the school makes a difference without evidence. To focus business school efforts on impact, the following changes are being proposed:

• Broadening the mission standard to develop a better understanding of the impact or difference a school intends to make in the business, social, and academic communities they serve.

• Refocusing the Intellectual Contributions standard away from counting journal articles and reporting individual articles and more towards providing information at the school level and on encouraging intellectual contributions that impact the theory, practice, and/or teaching of business and management, with an emphasis on alignment with the mission of the school.

• Building on initial AACSB successes in assessing whether learning objectives have been met, recasting assurance of learning (AOL) as part of curriculum management to provide a better context and encourage a broader, more holistic, understanding and demonstration of the impact of learning.

• Encouraging more direct and explicit impacts on business and management practice by placing several related standards under a new section on academic and professional engagement.

Engagement—Academic and Professional
High-quality management education and impactful research cannot be achieved without both academic and professional engagement. Accreditation standards should provide guidance about the appropriate balance and about the intersection of academic and professional engagement, as well encourage more of both. To achieve this, the BRC arranges three key criteria into a new section of the Standards titled Academic and Professional Engagement. The three standards in the section are designed to:

• Raise the level of academic and professional engagement facilitated by the degree programs. The intent of this standard is not only to encourage more and deeper academic and professional engagement in degree program education, but also to foster more complementarities between academic learning and experiential learning activities.

• Strengthen the role that executive education has in complementing degree education and research in business schools and in serving business constituents. This standard would apply only to schools that have significant involvement with executive education and focus on how executive education complements degree education and research and on the processes to ensure client satisfaction.

• Fostering mission-focused faculty models that raise the level of academic scholarship and strengthen engagement with practice. With only a slight reframing of the current standard on faculty qualifications, accreditation will encourage more realistic and mission-centric faculty portfolios and cultivate more integration of academic research and business practice.

In addition to the themes of innovation, impact, and engagement, the proposed standards reinforce AACSB's long-held commitment to mission focus, scholarship, peer review and judgment. But, the BRC believes that fostering innovation, impact, and engagement requires more than changing the standards and eligibility criteria. It requires investing in the training of peer-review team members and business school leaders, and in changing the culture of accreditation. Through extensive training sessions for volunteers and staff, the BRC intends to strengthen accreditation related processes and support systems for years to come.