Newly Accredited: ESB Business School on Earning AACSB Accreditation
Much of the school’s success, says Dean Taschner, came from approaching accreditation as a development opportunity rather than a compliance activity.
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.
For this feature, Andreas Taschner, dean of ESB Business School at Reutlingen University, shares how the process of aligning with AACSB standards helped the school enhance its research strategy and tie it into the school’s mission, which already included a strong focus on quality teaching. Taschner also discusses a distinctiveness of German universities and how working toward the standards created an opportunity for process change.
1. Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB accreditation?
ESB Business School has a 40-year-long tradition of offering international business programs and maintains partnerships with 120 business schools and universities in 30 countries. At least 25 percent of teaching in all programs is conducted in a foreign language. About 30 percent of students have an international background. Continuous quality improvement has always been part of ESB’s DNA, therefore, we keep a watchful eye on all quality-relevant processes and procedures. As a result, it was a natural decision to seek international recognition for the quality of our programs, and the school, through AACSB accreditation.
2. What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
Working toward alignment with AACSB standards has brought about fundamental changes in ESB’s daily operations. Awareness of and support for our mission and strategic objectives has increased significantly among faculty and administrative staff. Who we are and what we stand for is now much more present and deeply ingrained in the school’s daily life. Eventually, initial accreditation was achieved because we approached it as a school-wide effort, involving all our stakeholders.
The value and significance of research and intellectual contributions is more widely accepted among faculty. ESB has adopted a research strategy that is reflective of our mission. What used to be a mostly teaching-centric organization has developed into an academic institution that recognizes and fosters the interdependence and cross-pollination of teaching and research.
Program assessment under the assurance of learning system has complemented ESB quality standards that previously were more process- and input-focused.
3. What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of the accreditation process?
Looking at the scope of AACSB quality standards, we always considered our accreditation journey as an organizational development process rather than merely adopting or revising individual quality assurance standards. Maintaining high quality while developing the system further and adopting new quality elements proved to be a very challenging task. However, having met this double challenge is certainly the most rewarding part of initial accreditation.
Early in the process, we started incorporating AACSB core quality elements such as assurance of learning and faculty qualifications into our existing quality framework for national institutional accreditation. Public universities in Germany typically do not conduct performance reviews of individual faculty but instead maintain a high degree of individual freedom in teaching and research. This distinct German feature needed to be aligned with AACSB standards. However, the corresponding processes we have established in the meantime clearly define the expectations for faculty members in terms of significance, substance, and quality of intellectual contributions.
Likewise, assurance of learning has become a vital asset to the quality of teaching at ESB Business School. Designing and establishing the system across all programs has certainly been the most ambitious part of our accreditation effort.
4. What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB accreditation?
We expect to further position ESB internationally as a competitive provider of high-quality management and business engineering education to a multinational student community. In the long run, we obviously expect to enter new partnerships in academia, research and the business world. We also hope to contribute to the recognition of AACSB quality standards in the German university system and among employers.
5. What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
First and foremost, the school must have a clear vision of what it stands for or wants to stand for, as well as what its unique contributions to the global business education community can be. A couple of key success factors for us have been finding dedicated and committed process drivers and a motivated project team that will persevere throughout the journey. It is easy to get bogged down in details along the way, so keeping your mission and core values in sight is vital. Finally, working with peers and taking advantage of AACSB as a sharing, open-minded community with a plethora of information and resources has helped us tremendously in achieving accreditation.
Andreas Taschner is dean of the ESB Business School at Reutlingen University in Germany.