Newly Accredited: Robert Gordon University on Earning AACSB Accreditation

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Thursday, March 1, 2018
By AACSB Staff
Photo courtesy of Robert Gordon University
The head of Robert Gordon University's Aberdeen Business School shares her experience with the initial accreditation process and its impact on the school.

In this series, AACSB is spotlighting 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. In this interview, Elizabeth Gammie, head of Robert Gordon University’s Aberdeen Business School in Scotland, shares her experience in going through the initial accreditation process and the impact it has had—and will continue to have—on the business school and the larger university community.

Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB accreditation?

We are constantly striving to improve the quality of our provision within Aberdeen Business School so that we are recognizable as one of the leading business schools in the world, and the exacting standards set by AACSB are an excellent benchmark against which to evaluate our performance. The attraction of the AACSB accreditation process also centered on the fact that the standards are so wide-ranging and encompass all aspects of our program offerings. This was important to us, as the Aberdeen Business School provision is so multifaceted and we were really interested in seeking feedback on all aspects of our performance.

What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?

The accreditation process is very mission orientated, and consequently we engaged with a variety of stakeholders to really hone our mission statement to reflect what and who we are as a business school. We then worked collectively as a school on our strategy to deliver our mission and the metrics against which we would assess our success. This was a really valuable process for the school, as it really focused our attention on our activities. Evaluating ourselves against the various standards highlighted both our strengths and weaknesses.

Further, having three experienced deans from different geographical locations visit for the three-day initial accreditation visit and report back on their evaluation of our school was incredibly helpful. It is quite easy to get caught up in the operational aspects of a school, and this outside perspective was really constructive, as, in our enthusiasm we were actually spreading ourselves too thin and we needed to be more strategic about some of our activities.

What was the most challenging/rewarding part of the accreditation process?

One of the challenges was getting faculty to buy in to the whole process and appreciate that every individual had a role to play in a successful accreditation outcome. The engagement of faculty was subsequently the most rewarding part, as we really bonded as a team, collectively working together, reflecting on our performance, identifying areas of weakness, and finding ways to address any areas where improvements could be made.

We were also deferred for a year by the Initial Accreditation Committee (IAC), which was slightly disappointing, but we were given very clear guidelines and support by AACSB, so we knew exactly where we needed to enhance our activity. The fact that we were able to address the concerns raised and demonstrate an improvement to the satisfaction of the IAC was then very rewarding, as this clearly demonstrated to faculty that constant improvement delivers results.

What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB accreditation?

The respect that AACSB accreditation commands from a variety of different stakeholders should give Aberdeen Business School a more visible presence globally. The internationally respected accreditation should enhance our ability to attract students and faculty to the school and facilitate dialogue with other AACSB-accredited schools around the world to deliver transnational programs.

The impact on faculty has also been very motivational, as receiving this external recognition from such a prestigious organization provides feedback and confirmation that we are doing a great job. There is a real buzz around the school and indeed the university about our successful accreditation outcome.

What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?

Engage the whole school in the accreditation process and ensure that you have support from your executive team. Don’t underestimate the time commitment involved and don’t resent it, either, as the whole process is designed to improve and enhance your activities. Actively engage with the standards and be honest about your areas of weakness. Resist the temptation to be defensive about, or try to cover up, any deficiencies and instead embrace them and find ways to address them, as this will ultimately improve your school.

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