What is MBA accreditation and why is it important?
Universities, business schools, and MBA programs can all receive accreditation from national and international organizations. An MBA accreditation is a way of independently verifying the quality of business education.
Although MBA rankings can also give us an idea of the quality of a school or program, MBA accreditation is a seal of approval from an external organization. Each one has its own criteria and set of standards, so achieving accreditation from multiple organizations can be valuable for a university. Prof. Dr. Mariëlle Heijltjes, Executive Director of UMIO Maastricht University, certainly believes this is the case.
“The relevance of these accreditations for a program is that they give you an objective measure of quality….by having all these accreditations combined, I think we have a very fair outside assessment that we deliver the highest quality for a student enrolling in the program,” she says in a video uploaded to MBATUBE.com. (01:19)
Her colleague, Dr. Boris Blumberg, MBA Captain at UMIO Maastricht University, went on to explain the benefits of accreditation for students: “The accreditation value for students is that they receive high-quality research and education, and also a world-recognized diploma.” (01:48)
What is triple-crown accreditation?
You may have noticed that certain business schools state that they hold triple accreditation or triple-crown accreditation. This means that their school or MBA programs have been accredited by the three largest and most influential accrediting bodies.
“Less than 1% of business schools actually have this number of accreditations,” Prof. Dr. Mariëlle explains. “Especially AACSB, EQUIS, and AMBA, they call the famous ‘triple crown,’ which is a seal of quality.” (00:52)
These three organizations award accreditation to universities, schools, and MBAs all over the world, but do so depending on different criteria (you can read more about those criteria here). Let’s look at the three main accreditation bodies in a little more detail:
Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
The Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is based in the USA. AACSB awards accreditation to universities based on the quality of their business and accounting programs. It is important to note that the AACSB is the only body that awards university-wide accreditation, rather than accrediting business schools or their portfolio of MBA programs.
European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS)
As their name suggests, the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) is based in Europe. Their scope is slightly smaller than AACSB because they award accreditation to business schools rather than entire universities. Their awarding criteria are also slightly different – which you can read about here.
Association of MBAs (AMBA)
The Association of MBAs (AMBA) is a UK-based organization that has the smallest scope of the three, as it only awards accreditation to portfolios of MBA programs. So, a business school or university could only say that their MBA programs have AMBA accreditation – not the institution itself.
Why don’t some of the top business schools hold triple accreditation?
Less than 1% of business schools worldwide hold the coveted triple accreditation – equating to around 100 schools. However, by looking at the list of triple-accredited institutions you might notice some notable absentees – particularly in the United States, where just one school holds triple accreditation (Hult International Business School). So, why is this the case?
The reasons are two-fold. Firstly, many North American universities that already hold AACSB accreditation do not seek further accreditation from the two European-based bodies. This is because the AACSB is already a sufficient mark of quality in their region. Secondly, many of these universities do not meet the detailed criteria of AMBA and/or EQUIS, so decide not to go through the costly and lengthy process of achieving accreditation from them.
In the case of the AMBA, one of their key criteria is that all admitted MBA students at a school must have at least three years of work experience. Since this does not align with the admissions criteria of many US business schools, they choose not to change their policy. In this sense, it could be argued that triple accreditation is more highly valued in Europe and Asia than in North America.
When it comes to choosing your MBA, it’s important to weigh up a number of different factors – not just rankings or accreditation. MBA accreditation is another useful tool to help you in your search, but it’s certainly not the only thing to consider.