With an estimated 15,000 business schools worldwide, it is increasingly difficult for prospective students, executives, corporate partners and other public and private stakeholders to recognise a quality institution. A growing number of applicants wish to study and work outside their home country, while research funding bodies reward innovative multi-partner projects, and cross-border double degree programmes are booming. Not to mention the proliferation of online learning which is transcending frontiers as we know them.
So, in this growing market, how can one identify leading institutions not only in terms of their perceived excellence but also regarding their commitment to continuous improvement and the impact imperative?
Various factors are important when assessing quality in business schools. We might ask how embedded the school is in its particular national higher education context? What is its reputation or position in the rankings? How rich or specialised is the curriculum? Does it have robust career services? And what are the fees and scholarship options? Yet these questions reveal little about the actual quality of the school and the student experience, nor about the school's long-term viability as a partner, or its potential for international development and growth.
One way to get a fuller picture is to check whether a school is accredited by a global accreditation body and meets internationally agreed quality standards. Why? Because a rigorous accreditation system doesn't just rely on a few criteria that may vary immensely from year to year, but rather gives a truly comprehensive picture of a school's offerings, ethos and value for students and partners.
EQUIS, short for EFMD Quality Improvement System, is the leading international quality benchmark and improvement process, launched in 1997 at the Deans and Directors General Conference at Schloss Gracht, now part of the ESMT Berlin. The system was created as a rigorous tool for business schools – first in Europe and now also worldwide – to assess, accredit and improve their quality in ten key areas, benchmarking them against international standards in terms of governance, programmes, students, faculty, research, and foremost, internationalisation, ethics, responsibility and sustainability, as well as corporate engagement.
It offers not only a quality assessment but also a quality improvement process, very much rooted in the mission of EFMD. True quality is about continuing to strive to do better, even when you are already excellent, and this focus on continuous improvement is thus at the heart of the EQUIS mission.
Currently, there are 189 EQUIS-accredited institutions in 45 countries.
Learn more about EQUIS at efmdglobal.org/equis