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UpFront: A New World Awaits

By John Fernandes, President and CEO, AACSB International

Recently, we began sharing lead editorial responsibility as the number of eNEWSLINE publications increased to nearly every month. So thanks to Dan LeClair, chief operating officer, and Bob Reid, chief accreditation officer, for taking up the slack; and nice job! As I write this, I am thinking that I will only do three more pieces before retiring at the end of April 2015. So what are the things I care most about and what should I say?

The core principle that has driven me for the last 14 years is that AACSB "advances quality management education worldwide through accreditation, thought leadership, and value-added services." I am pretty proud of those last two vehicles, as nearly all of our success in these areas has evolved in the past 10-15 years. But I am not fooling myself either. The core of AACSB, the "Intel" inside, is our 97-year-old crown jewel, AACSB Accreditation. It's the most widely-known symbol of quality management education there is.

AACSB Accreditation is a beacon of quality that is now owned by 682 schools around the world. Of these, 499 are U.S.-based, and 183 are located in 44 other countries and territories. While AACSB-accredited schools have steadily increased in the United States, the number of accredited schools in other parts of the world has grown more than threefold in the last 10 years, and nearly tenfold since the turn of the century. That is quite a testament to AACSB's efforts to globalize a rather senior U.S. staple in management education. Hats off to the hundreds of volunteers and staff who have so willingly and effectively assisted schools throughout the world in achieving the AACSB mark of excellence.

As the self-proclaimed business school abacus, AACSB counts nearly 16,000 schools offering business degree programs in the world, making those accredited by AACSB just over four percent. While many of the nearly 200 schools seeking accreditation will make the grade, many others won't even get to the starting gate.

The 2013 AACSB Accreditation Standards have been hailed worldwide as rigorous and relevant, and most of all, right for the times. Yet, so many schools lack the academic faculty that is a demand notice to schools aspiring to our lofty moniker. Ironically, most of those not eligible to join the leading schools of the world are in countries that either do not produce sufficient business doctoral faculties, or lack budgets to acquire academic faculty from other countries. These are the same countries whose student populations are growing in leaps and bounds, and their faculties are carrying teaching loads that prohibit further academic credentialing.

So what should AACSB to do to meet its mission and commitment to schools in emerging countries? That is a question we all must answer over the next 12-18 months. There is no one more qualified, more committed, and more accomplished to lead our global membership's deliberation on the question of AACSB's mission in the swiftly developing world than Rich Sorensen. Rich is the new Special Advisor to the President & CEO for Emerging Economies and the former patriarch dean of the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech. Rich joined AACSB on July 1 after his retirement as dean. He has already met with members of the Association of Northeast Business Deans at their annual meeting at the University of New Hampshire and delegates to the annual accreditation conference in St. Louis. Look for Rich at meetings around the world in the next months and tell him what you think AACSB should do to help improve quality management education in emerging economies. The board of directors values your comments and suggestions.

Make plans now to be at the first gathering of the world's business schools in Asia at the AACSB International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) in Singapore, April 7-9, 2014. This landmark event is sure to be, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime educational and cultural experience. See you there!


John Fernandes
President and CEO
AACSB International