Quality Street – The Sweet Side of Accreditation

Rachael Weiss

Rachael Weiss is Director of Accreditations at Kemmy Business School at the University of Limerick, Ireland. Prior to this she was Head of Student Experience and Accreditations at Sheffield University Management School, gaining EQUIS and AACSB initial accreditation for the school.

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Gaining accreditation (and maintaining it) is a tough business. But Julie Perrin Halot and Rachael Weiss argue that it provides its own long-term rewards.

The business school race for accreditations shows no sign of losing momentum. On the contrary, the number of schools entering their first accreditation process remains steady and those embarking on the long-term work of maintaining their accreditations continues to grow.

Accreditation presents a challenge for many schools. They must decide how best to integrate the work done for accreditation into their organisational structures and processes and how to use the data gathered.

Accreditation may often begin as an ad hoc project management response, resulting in a sometimes rather chaotic and stress-laden collection of data and production of reports. Many schools are now looking to move beyond this to a more sustainable means of embedding accreditation management into the life of their institutions. Accreditation labels on institutional websites and brochures carry significant clout in the eyes of many future students and other stakeholders. However, it is what we are doing with our accreditations internally that provides the greatest value.

Ideally, the quality process that we engage in by working to obtain or maintain accreditation should be synonymous with continuous improvement in our schools and should act as a key element in informing strategic planning and decision making. It is here that we are able to guarantee the quality sought by our stakeholders.

We believe that two primary factors enable this and help us to address many of the challenges schools face.

The first factor is organisational – the positioning of quality in the institution and the existence of a dedicated service.

The second is operational – having the most efficient systems and processes possible for collecting data, reporting it and then converting it into a useable tool.

Institutionalising accreditation – a Quality Office

Every institution should have its own Quality Office staffed with a dedicated team – its size and remit depending upon the scope and resources of the school. We are sceptical about the long-term sustainability of treating accreditation as a project assigned to a faculty member or an administrator in addition to their “real job”. Accreditation needs to be embodied by a leader and a team of people with clear responsibilities in the process.

There is more on: Operationalising accreditation: a system for data management.

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

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