What is an MBA Accreditation?
The title "accredited" often appears in higher education advertisements to help establish the legitimacy of MBA programs, but what exactly does accreditation mean and how does it relate to the value of an MBA?
Below, we've broken down the basics about MBA accreditation—what it is, how it works, why it’s important and what it can tell you about a school both in and outside the United States.
What Is MBA an Accreditation and How Does It Work?
Accreditation is a status granted to academic institutions that have successfully undergone an assessment of quality standards by an independent evaluating agency. For business schools, there are three highly sought-after accreditation agencies that function globally:
While assessment criteria is established independently, each agency has some measure of influence on operations and administration, school services, student support and engagement, faculty credentials and impact, and curricula.
In order to maintain its accreditation status, a school must undergo a periodic review—the timing of which varies by agency. Both initial assessment and review are conducted by an evaluating body within the agency. These bodies are made up of representatives from the agency’s accredited schools. For EQUIS, it is a “senior corporate practitioner.”
Triple accreditation a.k.a. the “Triple Crown” refers to those schools, which hold accreditation from all three agencies—an achievement currently held by only 90 business schools in the world.
Why is MBA Accreditation Important?
Accreditation serves as a common measure and motivator of quality for business school education. On the individual level, this provides students, academics, and others a basis of assessment when engaging with institutions.
For public interest, accreditation can serve to ensure that a program is upholding best practices, driving innovation, and effectively preparing its students to become socially responsible and effective business leaders. Additionally, accreditation facilitates inter-institutional engagement, such as an employer’s preliminary vetting of an applicant pool.
While there are several MBA accrediting agencies that function in and outside the U.S., AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS are the most coveted worldwide, known for their in-depth evaluation and high standards.
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is the primary accrediting body of B-schools in the U.S.. With locations in the U.S., Singapore, and the Netherlands, the AACSB provides accreditation to over 800 business programs in more than 100 countries. In the U.S., it is considered the “gold standard” in MBA accreditation. The first B-school accreditation agency, it began evaluating schools in 1916.
The Association of MBAs (AMBA) is based in London and provides accreditation to over 250 business schools in over 50 countries—a small number of which are in North America. The agency offers accreditation exclusively to postgraduate business programs and is the only agency of the three that includes student work experience as part of its criteria. It was founded in 1967.
The European Foundation for Management Development’s (EFMD) Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) is a Brussels-based agency. EQUIS provides accreditation to nearly 150 business programs worldwide, 96 of which are located in Europe and 15 in North America. EQUIS began its B-school accreditation in 1997.
International and U.S. Accreditation
In the United States, the AACSB is the high-profile accrediting agency of MBA programs. Outside the U.S., the AMBA and EQUIS are the most valued MBA accrediting agencies.
Universities accredited through AACSB are evaluated based on a combination of quantitative measures and how well their practices and outcomes align with the agency’s mission.
The AACSB holds no explicit criteria for internationalization, unless the school’s mission includes it. The AMBA and EQUIS, on the other hand, both have internationalization standards.
The AMBA’s international criteria focus on postgraduate student enrollment, faculty research, and curriculum within a regional context. EQUIS issues strict requirements across a broad spectrum of criteria, focusing on international benchmarks to compare B-schools globally and to provide strategic guidance for improvement.