Newly Accredited: International University of Japan on Earning AACSB Accreditation
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, Wenkai Li, dean of International University of Japan’s Graduate School of International Management, shares his experience with the initial accreditation process, including lessons learned, expected impacts, and advice to others.
Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB accreditation?
Our school has been offering high-quality education for more than 30 years. However, we have never conducted a comprehensive review of the school, benchmarking it with international standards.
The business world is ever changing, the quality of teaching, research, and administration at institutions worldwide is continually improving. However, many business schools in Japan tend to be inward-looking and are less concerned with what’s happening outside their world, and this mindset can result in complacency and laxness in teaching and research quality.
Undergoing the rigorous process of earning AACSB accreditation has helped us to review our school thoroughly from every aspect, following the 15 standards for accreditation. We set up our mission, and in alignment with the mission, we established strategies, new policies, and, importantly, an assurance of learning (AoL) system. Through this process, we also learned best practices from other business schools and established new networks with other schools.
The AACSB accreditation process helped our school consider questions that had previously been ignored. It helped our school become more sustainable; more competitive globally, domestically, and internationally; and more credible. It served as a wake-up call.
What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
We learned a lot of things during the accreditation journey, and two main points stand out.
The first learning point is related to our mission. By looking at the school’s history, student composition, and stakeholders, social responsibility—one of the two pillars of our school’s mission—was brought to the fore, thanks to the accreditation process. Education is not for profit, and this fundamental consideration needs to be kept in mind even when economic pressures are felt by the university’s leaders.
The second learning point is how we were able to align everything with the mission. The integration of all the elements (teaching, research, and administration) under the guidance of the mission is the largest benefit we garnered from our passage through the accreditation journey. Taking curriculum management as an example, we defined learning goals that aligned with the mission and subsequently developed a curriculum to achieve those goals. Another example is with faculty research: we developed MAR (mission alignment rank) to measure and guide faculty research toward our mission.
What was the most challenging/rewarding part of the accreditation process?
The first challenge was the resources invested. The accreditation journey requires a lots of resources and commitment. Due to the small size of IUJ’s business school, we have limited financial budget and human power. We had to center our attention on what we could do in the shortest period of time without the broad range of staff resources and other support that is available at larger institutions. We learned how to simplify all aspects of the process and to have a panoramic view of how all elements—mission, strategy, curriculum, management, control, feedback, student satisfaction, etc.—work together to create a larger picture.
The second challenge was setting up our mission. As a 30-year-old business school, we had never seriously thought about what our school mission was. What were our school’s core purposes and our aspirations, and what would make the mission distinctive? Throughout the accreditation journey, we revised and improved our school mission, and we are now happy with it.
The rewarding point is, after undergoing the accreditation journey, we had a comprehensive review of every aspect of the school. We are now clear on what our focus should be now and in the future and how we can make our school more sustainable and more globally competitive.
What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB accreditation?
We expect multiple impacts:
- Reputation effect. GSIM-IUJ is the fourth school in Japan to obtain AACSB accreditation in a relatively short period (within four years). Our school’s reputation will increase domestically and internationally.
- Student recruiting. An accredited business school ensures the quality of its programs and gives applicants piece of mind that they are participating in a superior quality and meticulously tested program. We expect more competent applicants to apply to our school.
- Ranking. Some international MBA rankings (e.g., The Economist) only include accredited schools as a prerequisite, and now we will be eligible.
- Education quality. Through AoL, we expect our school will continuously improve our education quality. AACSB accreditation increased the sense of obligation felt by the faculty to maintain the quality of education and to improve it continuously.
- Financial status. We expect our school revenue will gradually increase, with a better and more clearly defined financial strategy and more competitive students, especially private students, applying to our school.
- A coherence effect on IUJ’s alumni abroad and the current students with an increased sense of identification with the school.
- Student placement. We expect an amplified professional reputation for our alumni and graduating students, as the accreditation confirms the quality teaching IUJ is providing, assuring their future employers the high level of human resources they are getting upon hiring IUJ graduates.
What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
- If a school is in search of its core value and its contribution to society, the AACSB accreditation process is the best they can find those things. If well managed, the process will help the school reach the next level of its performance.
- Senior management commitment is critical. The AACSB accreditation journey lasts for several years, most likely beyond the length of a deanship or a presidentship. Continuous support and commitment from the senior management team of a university is critical.
- Motivate and involve everyone. The AACSB accreditation journey needs support from all students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other stakeholders. A school should communicate with all stakeholders about the importance of AACSB accreditation to get their support and commitment.
- Work closely with your mentor. A good mentor can provide very good advice, which can shorten your accreditation journey.
- Work closely with your peer review team (PRT) chair. Invite the chair to campus before the PRT visit. The chair can provide very good advice and prevent many problems that can happen during the PRT visit.
- Send faculty and staff to participate in AACSB seminars to learn about AoL and other standards.
- Work closely with the AACSB staff liaison and talk to senior leadership of AACSB, who can provide a lot of help.