Members of AACSB's Business Accreditation Task Force work together at the 2019 Global Accreditation Conference

2020 Proposed Business Accreditation Standards: Exposure Draft 1 Unveiled

The Business Accreditation Task Force that guides this process has received input from thousands of people from all around the world, and that member input is reflected in this exposure draft.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
—Henry Ford

If you haven’t heard yet, last week at the AACSB Global Accreditation Conference in San Antonio, Texas, we released Exposure Draft 1 of the 2020 Proposed Business Accreditation Standards. The excitement around this version of the standards is palpable. My last blog piece following ICAM took you through the great amount of input we had received, so I won’t repeat all those statistics here. Suffice it to say we have sought and received input from thousands of people from all around the world before putting pen to paper, and we have heard you. Our goal is transparency and openness of process as well as global awareness of just how much member input is reflected in this exposure draft. The Business Accreditation Task Force (BATF) that guides this process came together, kept together, and continues to work together, and it is these kinds of efforts that I believe will lead us to success.

Standards Structure

The proposed standards fall within three constructs: (1) Strategic Management, (2) Learner Success, and (3) Thought Leadership, and amount to nine total. While it might appear that we eliminated five standards, in fact, we eliminated little of the existing standards. Instead, we streamlined the standards to group more naturally related ideas together, and we cut redundancy and unnecessarily complex verbiage. As promised, the proposed standards are more principles-based and outcome-focused. In various places we have eliminated hard percentages and are allowing schools more flexibility in how they demonstrate alignment with the standards.

In addition, we have separated what was previously one single document for both the standards and interpretive guidance into two documents: one for the standards, and one for the additional interpretive guidance. The standards document contains the guiding principles of AACSB accreditation and the standards themselves, while the interpretive guidance document contains clarifying material that supplements the standards. In the interpretive guidance, we include a section on rationale, which is where we describe the intent behind the standard; followed by clarifying guidance for each standard; and concluding with completed sample tables for every standard.

AACSB’s mission of fostering engagement, accelerating innovation, and enhancing impact are all still prominently threaded through the standards, as our mission guides everything we do at AACSB, including implementing new standards.

Main Changes

Invariably, people will ask, “What are the biggest changes in this version of the standards?” Here is my answer:

The 2020 standards

  • Are streamlined by
    • Eliminating redundancy within the standards
    • Moving interpretive guidance to a master white paper
    • Simplifying language and using language that is more globally inclusive
    • Reducing the number of standards from 15 to 9
  • Emphasize principles over rules—this means some percentages are omitted or relaxed for more flexibility in various aspects
  • Focus on competencies within both learning goals and curriculum
  • Are more outcomes-focused than input-focused
  • Include more flexibility with respect to faculty qualifications
  • Move us toward a model of lifelong learning
  • Incorporate a new standard that asks schools to document how they are enhancing the practice of business, and addressing real issues in society

Accreditation Processes

Having now produced an exposure draft on the standards, the BATF has just begun the conversation around streamlining accreditation processes. The goal here is to reduce the administrative burden of accreditation, both at the school level and at the volunteer level. We are looking at how technology can be leveraged to reduce the burden of completing tables and how we can provide consultative value to schools as they go through their continuous improvement review processes. We are highly enthusiastic about this phase, and as our thinking takes shape, you will be hearing much more about this phase. As always, we will solicit broad input as we seek to increase the value of the accreditation process.

What’s Next

Exposure Draft 1 will remain open until November 16, at which time we will review all input to determine where consensus is evident. Exposure Draft 2 will be issued concurrent with the 2020 Deans Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, and will be open for public comment for approximately 30 days. A membership vote is planned for the ICAM business meeting in Denver, Colorado, in April 2020. Representatives from accredited schools are entitled to one vote, and a majority of those representatives must vote to approve the standards for them to pass.

Stay tuned for future updates. We welcome all feedback, whether from groups or individuals. Please send feedback to batf@aacsb.edu. We continue to be excited about the direction of the new standards and preliminary feedback since the conference tells us you are just as excited. If I were asked in one sentence to describe the new standards, I would say, “They are more principles-based and forward-looking with faculty models of staffing, more encouraging of innovation, more outcomes-based with respect to faculty deployment and assurance of learning, and more interested in what business schools can do to improve society.” If we achieve that, we all win.

View more information on the standards, interpretive guidance, and other supporting documents.


Stephanie BryantStephanie Bryant is executive vice president and chief accreditation officer at AACSB International and is based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @StephMBryant.