Newly Accredited: Swinburne University of Technology on Earning AACSB Accreditation
“One of the most rewarding parts of the accreditation process was the collective teamwork that occurred across distance, time, delivery modes, and culture.”
In this blog series, AACSB spotlights business schools around the world that have recently earned AACSB accreditation. We ask the business school leadership about their journey to accreditation and what the new achievement means to them.
Keryn Chalmers, who was newly named dean of the Swinburne University of Technology Business School as the accreditation process had gotten underway, comments on the value of experiencing that journey in a new leadership position. She also discusses the increasingly common challenge among business schools of capturing multiple campuses and delivery modes in a cohesive narrative, and how her school addressed it.
Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB accreditation?
AACSB is synonymous with high quality, and it was important for our school, Swinburne Business, to be recognized for its focus on excellence in teaching, research, curricula development, and student learning. Swinburne Business embraced the rigorous process of earning AACSB accreditation. It provided an additional lens over a number of years for us to ask the what, why, and how questions when considering our strategic direction and operational matters. The process informed and validated decisions related to investing in strengthening business education and research. It was an important process for the faculty, professional staff, students, and stakeholders to reflect on mission achievement and to publicly acknowledge their unwavering commitment to continuous improvement.
What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
Having commenced as dean three years prior to achieving accreditation, I found the accreditation journey incredibly valuable in accelerating my understanding of Swinburne Business’s strengths, opportunities, and areas for improvement. We learned numerous things through the accreditation journey, several of which are particularly noteworthy:
- A school culture of engaged faculty who owned the journey, embraced AACSB as a driving force for change, and were enthusiastic and supportive
- The faculty’s embedding of entrepreneurship, social impact, and innovation throughout their teaching, research, and community engagement to support our mission
- The connectedness and goodwill of our stakeholders
- The value of strategic planning
What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of the accreditation process?
Swinburne Business has a significant percentage of undergraduate students who study online, and we also have a campus in Malaysia at Swinburne Sarawak. This structure presented both rewards and challenges. One of the most rewarding parts of the accreditation process was the collective teamwork that occurred across distance, time, delivery modes, and culture.
The integration of Swinburne Online, Sarawak, and Hawthorn campuses for students, and in particular faculty, is a strength of Swinburne Business. The accreditation process enabled us to show the rigor of our multiple-campus framework and delivery model, which was a very rewarding aspect of our AACSB journey. This integrated system, however, presented a challenge in providing a clear narrative connecting the multiple teaching delivery platforms with assurance of learning, and further demonstrating that necessary structures were in place to ensure equivalency and quality assurance.
Another rewarding part of the process was observing the benefits of continuous improvements, especially when some of these improvements were adopted more broadly across the university.
Swinburne operates an integrated services model, so another challenge was ensuring and demonstrating that such a model is effective in supporting the needs of a business school.
What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB accreditation?
Having an international arbiter like AACSB attests to the quality our business education provides and will help us further build upon our national and international reputation. The accreditation also opens doors and opportunities for international partnerships and collaborations.
The impact is also internal. AACSB accreditation demands continuous improvements, and this imperative is a strong impetus for Swinburne Business to further strengthen and innovate. Achieving AACSB accreditation has elevated the understanding and appreciation of Swinburne Business’s strengths and contributions to the wider university.
What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
While the journey of each business school through this process will be unique, these salient points should make the experience more enjoyable and successful:
- Devote the necessary time, energy, and resources to the accreditation task.
- Undertake your self-evaluation with the reflectiveness, authenticity, and transparency that it deserves.
- Adopt a business school-wide approach and aim to have many faculty and professional staff invested and engaged in the process.
- Approach accreditation with the mindset that changes will be necessary.
- Appreciate that achieving accreditation is not the end game but rather the start of a journey that involves a commitment to continuous improvement.
Keryn Chalmers is dean of Swinburne Business School at Swinburne University of Technology, based in Australia.