A Look Into Business Advisory Councils at AACSB Member Schools

A Look Into Business Advisory Councils at AACSB Member Schools

Considering the advantages and perspectives that BACs bring to business schools, we decided to look into the state of BACs within AACSB’s global membership.

A Business Advisory Council (BAC) can be a valuable resource for any business school. This body of individuals, generally but not necessarily volunteers, offers advice on the direction of the business school’s strategies and can provide insight on topics shaping the business school. A BAC is poised to share insightful opinions and strategies because of its diverse composition. An advisory council may consist of alumni, executives from allied firms, entrepreneurs, donors, and other non-faculty or non-administrative external stakeholders. Considering the advantages and differing perspectives that BACs bring to business schools, we decided to look into the state of BACs within AACSB’s global membership.

Note: Throughout this article, we use members and membership to refer only to educational members participating in our data collection efforts.

Business Advisory Councils as Stakeholders

A business school may have many stakeholders apart from a BAC, including their faculty, accrediting bodies, and domestic government agencies. We are fortunate that our members share this information with us so we can get a snapshot of what is applicable to each. It is also through their participation that we are able to see trends in BACs within the last five years. According to our members, there has been a 38 percent increase in business schools with a BAC* since 2013, compared to a 54 percent increase in overall participation by BACs in that same time. You can see below how that compares to other applicable types of stakeholders within our membership.

Level of Involvement and Influence by the Business Advisory Council

Stakeholders of the business school may also offer input and help in the decision-making process for various facets of the business school. Thanks to our members, we’re able to tell to what degree different stakeholders are involved in determining the annual business school operating budget and related resource allocation. The scale below provides a guide on how involved and influential each type of stakeholder can be.

Level Involvement Influence
1 Does not participate/offer input Input never impacts decisions
2 Minimal participation/input Input not likely to impact decision
3 Moderate participation/input Some input may impact decision
4 Significant participation/input Input is likely to impact decision
5 Sole responsibility Input essentially determines decision outcomes

If we look at how business schools rate their BAC’s level of involvement in and influence on a particular decision, we can see growth in many areas. Whereas most BACs offered no input in 2013–14, a majority of BACs at our member schools now offer minimal input into the determination of the operating budget. Likewise, some of the input of BACs is now more likely to influence resource allocation decisions.

Business Advisory Council Involvement and Influence at AACSB member schools

Issues Discussed by Business Schools and Business Advisory Councils

One of the benefits of having a BAC is the opportunity to meet and initiate discussions on topics and issues relevant to the business school. A business school may have issues for which they’d like to receive information, feedback, and insights from the BAC during and between these meetings. Likewise, a BAC might want to offer their perspective or expertise on certain topics that impact the business school.

So what sort of issues prompt discussion by either the business schools or the BACs?

In our BSQ Finances Module, we offer member participants a list of the most common issues a business school and their BAC might discuss at their meetings and ask whether one or both groups initiate each topic for discussion. An analysis of our membership shows that a majority of BACs do not bring up faculty hiring and retention as an item for discussion at meetings. Conversely, new programs or curricula seems to be the most common issue brought to BACs by business schools.

As shown below, the smallest gap between who brings an issue to a meeting for discussion is for the desired skill sets of graduates, while new programs or curricula has the largest gap.


It’s possible that the options above do not encompass the full picture of topics brought for discussion during meetings between the BAC and the business school. We therefore give our members the chance to tell us in their own words, “What other items are being discussed by business schools and BACs?” The following are a few themes that emerged and examples of exactly what each is discussing with the other.

Strategic Management: Alumni Relations:
 “Strategic direction…”   “Alumni mentorship program…”
  “Mission statement and strategic plan”   “Alumni contact and involvement…”
Branding: Student Learning:
  “Marketing efforts and strategies”   “Students [being] exposed to social responsibility issues”
  “School branding and marketing…”  “New student events: symposium, financial literacy, executive summit”
  “Marketing of business school’s programs”  “Further involvement [in] student learning (e.g., panel discussions, site visits)”
Engagement: Corporate Relationships:
  “Industry and community engagement”  “Corporate partnerships”
 “More ways of engaging the college with its business community”   “Professional education and corporate relationships”
 “Community engagement (research and consulting)…”   “Corporate connections”

Source: Business School Questionnaire (BSQ) Finances Module (2017–18)

Curious about guidelines for developing and managing an effective BAC? Patricia M. Flynn shares her general rules in “Making the Most of Your Business Advisory Council.” Or maybe you’d like to know exactly why business advisory councils are beneficial to a business school and how to strategically build a successful BAC. This and more will be discussed at our annual Advisory Council Seminar.

Finally, are you looking for more information shared by our members on BACs or other facets of a business school, such as budgets, funding, governance, and faculty compensation? You can get a glimpse of all that and more in our 2017–18 BSQ Finances Module Executive Summary or by using the benchmarking tools in the DataDirect system.

*Based on members indicating a business advisory council as a type of stakeholder that applies to their business school from 2013–14 to 2017–18 in the Business School Questionnaire (BSQ) Finances Module survey.