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This year marks the 20th anniversary of EQUIS - EFMD Quality Improvement System, launched two decades ago at the Deans and Directors General Conference at Schloss Gracht, now part of the ESMT Berlin.

This international quality benchmark and improvement process was created to give European and, subsequently, business schools worldwide, a rigorous tool to assess, certify and improve their quality in ten key areas, including governance, programmes, students, faculty, research and, foremost, internationalisation, ethics, responsibility and sustainability as well as corporate engagement.

In its short history, EQUIS accreditation has become widely recognised by potential students, employers, the wider business education industry and the media as the most holistic and rigorous accreditation process, often being a pre-requisite for entry to rankings.

With an estimated number of 15,000 business schools worldwide, only a handful (170 institutions from 41 countries) hold the EQUIS quality label and they can say without being too boastful that they are part of “1% of leading business schools.”

Learn more about EQUIS at efmd.org/equis

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Asia and the South Pacific

The Asia-Pacific region is one of the fastest growing regions for quality business education. Many of the institutions in the region can now compete globally with the top business schools in the world. Their academic rigour, excellent corporate connections and exceptional career opportunities for graduates are proven by their international accreditations and their high placement in the world rankings.

Since its establishment, a strong emphasis on internationalisation and corporate connections has been the differentiating point of the EQUIS accreditation system. Coupled with recently added ethics, responsibility and sustainability standards, they have created a solid framework for quality measurement for international business schools.

To date, EQUIS has accredited 48 leading business schools in the region, starting with Australia and Japan and spreading rapidly to China, Singapore, Thailand and South Korea.

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The Best of Australia and India's EQUIS Accredited Business Schools - 2017

Europe and the Middle East

EQUIS accreditation and quality improvement system was born in Europe. When EQUIS was designed 20 years ago, EFMD aimed at creating a system which would reflect European values and approaches to quality in business and management education. Now EQUIS has become the global standard for management education and nearly half of the 172 accredited schools are located outside Europe. EQUIS’ respect for diversity, commitment to internationalisation and corporate connections are deeply rooted in the European concept of management education.

The United Kingdom has a global reputation for excellence in business education, attracting many talented international students, leading in rigorous and impactful research, and having impressive partnerships with some of the world’s top-rated institutions.

The UK can be proud of the highest number of EQUIS accredited schools, having 26 institutions awarded the EQUIS quality label, including London Business School, Alliance Manchester Business School, Cass Business School, Ashridge, Cranfield School of Management, Henley Business School, Imperial College Business School, Saïd Business School, Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Edinburgh Business School, Strathclyde Business School and Warwick Business School, just to name a few.

Peter Tufano, Peter Moores Dean at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, appreciated the insights from the EQUIS peer review. "The accreditation process provided us with a structured approach to reflect on our unique strategy of being a business school embedded in Oxford University. The review panel's insightful perspective was useful to me and my team and we will integrate these perspectives into our discussions and planning for the future," he commented after having received a five-year EQUIS accreditation in 2014.

More on EQUIS

Since its establishment, a strong emphasis on internationalization and corporate connections has been the differentiating point of the EQUIS accreditation system. Coupled with recently added ethics, responsibility and sustainability standards, they have created a solid framework for quality measurement for international business schools.

This framework has context and strategy at its heart. An accredited school should have a clear vision for its future direction and from which its medium-term objectives are derived, taking into account the School’s environmental context. Sufficient resources, external governance and internal management structures are vital to ensure successful implementation of the strategic plan.

Furthermore, EQUIS accredited schools will aim to recruit talented students with diverse backgrounds and to produce high quality graduates who are sought after by employers. Personal development is a key linkage between students and programmes. Schools therefore need to be closely connected to the corporate world, widely defined as private and public sector.

It is also vital that the School’s graduates and faculty have an understanding and empathy with different international cultures and practices and acquire the skills to operate effectively in an international environment.

The output from a school’s research & development is an important contribution towards knowledge transmission and to advancing the practice of management, ultimately leading to enhancing the School’s reputation.

While not all business schools carry out Executive Education, and it is not a requirement for EQUIS, this activity should largely be delivered by the School’s own faculty since it can provide a direct link between knowledge creation and the educational needs of employers.

EQUIS has always aimed at building a community of mutual learning and best practice for business schools coming from different higher-education systems. Prof. Sue Cox, Dean Emerita of Lancaster University Management School in the UK and former EFMD Board member, stresses the emphasis on schools’ differentiating points in the EQUIS quality framework. “EQUIS actively encourages schools to consider their unique selling proposition within the strategic planning process,” she says.

Over the last 20 years, EFMD has conducted over 600 peer review visits, with over a thousand outstanding experts devoting their time and knowledge to the development of the system.

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South Africa has some outstanding management education institutions whose reputation not only spans over the African continent, but also impacts the international business education community. Two of the South African institutions, University of Stellenbosch Business School and Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town are accredited by EQUIS. As Piet Naudé, the Dean of Stellenbosch, said: “EQUIS accreditation confirms our ideal to be the foremost Business School in and for Africa. We shall use this as basis to serve our students, clients and international partners with even higher quality business research and education. We are committed to develop the wonderful potential of the African continent and her people.”

The continent’s environment is characterised by many opportunities being brought by significant economic growth, but also challenges linked to globalisation, volatility, uncertainty, and social and economic inequalities. Now more than ever, the management education institutions need to take a lead in the implementation of the sustainable development agenda. EQUIS accreditation, with its overarching Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability standard, creates a pertinent framework to implement strategies for action.

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The Best of South Africa's EQUIS Accredited Business Schools - 2017