Newly Accredited: UNIST on Earning AACSB Accreditation
In this 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.
This interview features Kooyul Jung, dean of the School of Business Administration at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in Korea. Dean Jung discusses earning accreditation at a very young school has been beneficial in helping to solidify the school’s strategic direction early on, rather than changing a long-established course.
Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB accreditation?
Achieving AACSB accreditation is the ultimate goal for many business schools around the world, as “accreditation” is associated with “quality.” We have been aware of the fact that inclusion among the AACSB-accredited schools would validate our school as having more qualified faculty, academically superior students, rigorous programs, a higher proportion of international students, and graduates who obtain sought-after positions.
Opened in 2009, our school started the AACSB journey in its infancy, so to speak. Compared to mature business schools, which often view AACSB accreditation as a vehicle to introduce institutional change, we considered the accreditation an important tool to steer the school strategically and develop our programs based on AACSB quality benchmarks.
We were able to incorporate peer insights and evaluations as well as best practices in business education in the early stages of the school’s development. For example, the assurance of learning (AoL) process was an eye-opener for our school members, shedding light on the quality of business education and the importance of ongoing improvement of the programs we offer. In meeting the AACSB quality standards, we felt very assured that we were doing everything right from the very beginning.
Moreover, attaining AACSB accreditation confers on us internal and external validation from various stakeholders. It expedites the process of entering the global business education landscape and becoming a part of the community of business school leaders.
What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
Through the accreditation journey, we were able to derive an accurate identity and positioning of the school domestically and internationally based on a deeper understanding of our vision, mission, and core values. The accreditation process has allowed us to realize the gap between our pedagogical ideal (where we want to see our education go) and the reality of our position (where we currently are), and thus informs us about how to best capitalize on our resources. When benchmarking against other schools, we identified several innovative programs that were applauded by our stakeholders, such as our Management of Technology program and our Energy Commodity Trading and Financial Engineering program. Meanwhile, we have also discovered some areas for continuous improvement, including the need to grow a stronger alumni network.
What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of the accreditation process?
Developing the AoL system was both the most challenging and the most rewarding part of the accreditation process. Since incorporating the AoL, our assessment procedures and practices have significantly improved. The prior system was not sufficient for drawing meaningful conclusions about the efficacy of the pedagogical interventions. We have been gradually learning how to analyze data and provide recommendations for improvements, how to develop effective rubrics, how to use the results to change approaches, how to engage our faculty in the assessment process, and how to focus on the reliability of measures in order to enhance student learning in each area.
Our faculty members have regularly attended AACSB conferences and seminars to network with faculty from peer business schools and learn about current best practices and new methods of assessment. As assessment is not a one-time event, but a systematic, on-going process that serves to enhance our mission, AoL has become a regular agenda item at each faculty meeting. As a result, improved communication among all stakeholders has led to multiple opportunities for discussion and engagement among the administration and faculty members on topics related to AoL.
That positive atmosphere, in turn, has created a more unified approach toward learning goals, as well as a consistent and long-term faculty buy-in, which is another rewarding part of the accreditation process and a key to institutional success. Faculty engagement has been essential to ensuring both successful implementation of the school’s strategies and a positive on-site review.
What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB accreditation?
The achievement of AACSB accreditation is a significant milestone for our school. We believe it will put us on the radar of leading business school communities and help us attract quality students and faculty members, especially those from foreign countries. We hope the accreditation will make it easier for us to build student exchange programs and other types of strategic partnerships with top-tier business schools worldwide. We also look forward to greater employability and options for our students if they pursue graduate studies. For our faculty members, we hope the accreditation can improve their opportunities to collaborate with international scholars as well as national and regional industry partners.
All in all, for a young business school like ours, the largest impact we hope to attain from achieving AACSB accreditation is increasing our school’s global exposure and gaining more credibility and trust in the eyes of different stakeholders.
What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
First of all, appoint a strong leadership team (an AACSB accreditation committee, in our case) and involve senior management—at both the university and school levels—to ensure full commitment and continuous support.
Second, build an honest and open relationship with three key people: your mentor, peer review team chair, and AACSB staff liaison, who will provide the school with professional guidance and advice throughout the whole accreditation process. Therefore, be prepared to accept their positive and critical feedback in the spirit of continuous improvement.
Third, don’t try to hide your weaknesses, as this is a great opportunity to recognize them and make efforts to improve. And finally, involve all stakeholders—students, faculty, staff, alumni, business employers—in the process to achieve greater success. In the end, they are the ones who will feel proud of the school’s accomplishments.