Timothy Mescon of AACSB International shaking hands with Ammr Kurdi of KFUPM

AACSB Accreditation Impacts Business Schools Across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa

Posted June 21, 2016 by Timothy Mescon - Senior Vice President and Chief Officer - AACSB International

Within the first year of establishing a headquarters office for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the AACSB International EMEA staff has visited with over 120 schools in the region offering business degree programs. EMEA continues to rise as a prominent market for quality business education, and as a result of our travels, we have learned a great deal concerning the challenges, opportunities, and impact that business schools have encountered as they have progressed toward achieving AACSB Accreditation.

In my own travels I have had some extraordinary journeys and meetings with schools that have benefited mightily from the vision, mission, and strategy work involved in responding to AACSB's accreditation standards. I take particular note of schools like the University of Sarajevo's School of Economics and Business that are trailblazers in their country as the first, or one of the first, to successfully embark upon and complete the accreditation journey. The University of Sarajevo is the largest and oldest university in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the oldest institution of tertiary education in the ex-Yugoslav states. Today, with 20 faculties, three academies, and three faculties of theology, and with 30,866 enrolled students as of academic year 2015–16, the university ranks among the largest in the Balkans in terms of enrollment.

After meeting with Dean Zeljko Sain and his team, I had the opportunity to speak to a classroom of approximately 175 students about AACSB International and the value of holding accreditation. The dean and faculty were incredibly engaged, and the students were keenly interested in leveraging local and international opportunities as they move into the world of practice. As I sat to examine the accreditation journey of this particular school, I could clearly see the impact that our work at AACSB had had on their business school as well as the university as a whole.

AACSB International Europe, Middle East, and Africa Annual Conference

My next trip brought me to Poland, where I was able to visit for opening of the academic year convocations, both for Kozminski University in Warsaw as well as Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. Kozminski, a private institution, was AACSB's first accredited institution in Poland, and Nicolaus Copernicus was our first public university to earn AACSB Accreditation. In visiting each of these schools, it was very clear to see the different missions and strategies deployed by each school, but more fascinating was to see that despite the institutional differences, there was positive impact on faculty focus, enhanced interaction with the business community, and increased student involvement.

Following the celebrations in Poland, I visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where I worked with my colleague and AACSB Special Advisor, George Najjar, in a wonderful business development/information session at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM). Dean Mohammed Alzahrani (who sits on our Middle East and North Africa Advisory Council) was an incredibly gracious host. A record 13 schools, public and private, men's and women's, convened for a great discussion about AACSB membership and the accreditation process. Participating too were our other accredited schools in Saudi Arabia, including King Abdulaziz University and Qassim University. Of great benefit to the attendees was a specially prepared presentation by Alzahrani's colleague Ammr Kurdi on the value of accreditation to KFUPM, on a standard-by-standard basis. This presentation resonated loudly with the participants and brought in a very practical and applied rationale relating to the standards and their impact on the business school at KFUPM.

We have also had institutional representatives visit our offices in Amsterdam. Most recently we had a visit from acting dean, Anna Blombäck, and accreditation and quality director, Bjorn Kjellander, from Jönköping International Business School (JIBS), our first AACSB-accredited school in Sweden. They were visiting to confirm their support to facilitate a country-wide information session in June as well as their desire for us to meet with the Swedish Higher Education Authority to determine pathways through which AACSB might work more closely with the authority in our accreditation efforts.

[D]espite the institutional differences, there was positive impact on faculty focus, enhanced interaction with the business community, and increased student involvement.

Increasingly, these partnerships are seen as critical by so many schools, and we are seeing great interest at the ministry level in closer partnerships in the future. I commend our senior accreditation team, Bob Reid and Chris Clements, for their support of these efforts.

My team and I have traveled across the EMEA region to meet with institutions to talk about the value of AACSB Accreditation as well as to help many new members navigate through the accreditation process. Within a period of only a few weeks, we have had visits in Krems and Vienna (Austria), Paris (France), Dammam and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Groningen (the Netherlands), Bath and Bristol (U.K.), and delivered a series of three seminars in Bilbao, where we joined in the 100-year anniversary of Deusto Business School.

It has been a whirlwind of a journey but nonetheless a very rewarding one, as I have been able to experience first-hand the impact AACSB has had on schools that have achieved accreditation as well as the overwhelming interest and enthusiasm demonstrated by new member schools.

If your institution is in the EMEA region and is working or seeking to work with other schools in the region, we encourage you to meet with our AACSB staff at the Europe, Middle East, and Africa Annual Conference in Madrid, Spain, on October 16–18, 2016. We also welcome visitors all year long to our Amsterdam office, so feel free to get in touch with us and arrange a visit!