Accreditation – How to Get it Right

María Helena Jaén

María Helena Jaén is a professor at IESA, Caracas, Venezuela; Harvard University David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Cisneros Visiting Scholar and Harvard Business School Visiting Scholar, 2012-2013, and CLADEA's President 2012-2103

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María Helena Jaén outlines how to make the accreditation process as pain-free and rewarding as possible.

Why should our business school be accredited? Deans in developing countries often ask this question. The cost is high, staff must be assigned and faculty motivated. It takes a good deal of time, money and effort. What do we gain from accreditation?

This article outlines the experience of my business school, IESA in Venezuela. Thanks to the processes involved in triple accreditation – EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA – IESA has improved its positioning, become stronger and more prestigious, and is better able to cope with the challenges of operating in Venezuela’s turbulent business context.

The benefits obtained by IESA from accreditation have been many but are only one step towards continuous improvement. For IESA, the process and the achievement of accreditation has:

  • ushered in a thought process of sweeping, multifaceted self-study, entailing a review of mission, vision and values and of assessing strategy, systems and processes from different angles
  • updated operations and “put the house in order”, helping to identify and document procedures, raise standards and apply international benchmarks and best practices
  • positioned the school internationally and vis-à-vis local stakeholders, acquiring a quality seal readily recognised by students, faculty, staff, institutions of higher education and, not least, accreditation agencies
  • alerted the local and international markets that the school features academic excellence, thus attracting customers

Accreditation is a tough decision, touching on a school’s foundations and posing strategic challenges not only for students and alumni but most especially the school’s leadership, faculty and administrative staff. Responding to demands that stem from this decision inserts the accreditation process into the school’s strategic planning, one might say its DNA.

When a school begins a quality improvement task of this magnitude, its leadership may be tempted to run the accreditation process as a separate exercise, independently of a review of school strategy or its on-going activities. Some may even consider assigning the process to a special task force, charged with preparing the documents required for a self-assessment report. But doing so may lead to a- situation where the school’s stakeholders, including faculty, will overlook what accreditation is all about, why it is imperative and what value it holds for the institution. Failure to participate fully in the process may cause key stakeholders to overlook its significance.

For the full article, you can view the PDF or listen to the podcast.

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