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What Is AACSB Accreditation?

When selecting a business degree program, prospective students with specific academic goals may find colleges touting their AACSB-accredited status and displaying the AACSB seal on websites or brochures. According to AACSB International, business schools consider this accreditation an asset to their program, both for students and for businesses that employ its graduates. "Among academics and corporate headhunters, the AACSB is considered the gold standard of accreditation," reports.

For students seeking an MBA, understanding exactly what AACSB accreditation means for their academic experience, competitiveness in the job market and future job satisfaction may prove beneficial.

What Is AACSB International?

In 1916, a group of U.S. universities came together to form a non-governmental accrediting agency -- an organization that would evaluate the quality of business schools to determine if they were meeting established performance standards. The organization wanted to "challenge business educators to pursue excellence and continuous improvement in their business programs." Thus, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) was born.

Two years later, AACSB named its first schools to reach accreditation status, which included many of the nation's long-established Ivy League universities and other high-performing public colleges. Later, the AACSB expanded to include business schools internationally; today, more than 820 institutions in over 50 countries have earned AACSB accreditation. Yet, only 5 percent of business schools worldwide are AACSB-accredited, having passed the rigorous review process.

What Standards Must a College Meet to Receive and Retain AACSB Accreditation?

AACSB International states its mission is "to foster engagement, accelerate innovation, and amplify impact in business education." Those three themes -- engagement, innovation and impact -- provide the basis for 15 quality standards that business schools must meet to receive AACSB accreditation. These standards require a school to be managed strategically and include a high level of innovation; teaching methods must include an active learning environment; and the school must ensure that students are acquiring not only academic but professional experience as well.

Schools voluntarily seek accreditation and undergo a review process that can take several years to complete. This process includes:

  • An in-depth review of the college's faculty and leadership.
  • Engagement with a mentor that AACSB assigns.
  • Peer review, which includes evaluation by deans and those in similar positions at AACSB-accredited colleges.

Once a school has received AACSB accreditation, it must complete a continuous-improvement review every five years to ensure the school is maintaining the set quality standards.

What Does AACSB Accreditation Mean for Students?

Students may evaluate many criteria to help determine the best school to attend. By looking at whether a school is accredited, students can often narrow their search. To help direct their decision, students can consider recent statistics:

  • In 2016, the Financial Times cited 96 percent of the CEOs surveyed attended AACSB-accredited schools.
  • According to a 2015 Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) report, four out of five alumni said their graduate management education contributed to their "competitiveness, proactiveness, innovativeness, and creativity."
  • The Economist reported that 90 percent of its 2016 "Top 100 Full-time MBA Programs" are from AACSB-accredited business schools.

Alumni of AACSB-accredited institutions report high employability, degree satisfaction and career advancement rates, say GMAC, AACSB International and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy independently.

While a school's accreditation status may appear confusing or come across as "college jargon" to some, understanding the meaning of accreditation can help students to make informed decisions. Students can view the AACSB accreditation as a "seal of approval" that directs their path to the best degree program for them.

Learn more about the UNC Pembroke online MBA program.


AACSB: About

AACSB: AACSB-Accredited Universities and Business Schools

MBA Central: A Guide to MBA Program Accreditation

AACSB: Confirming Excellence in Management Education

Colleges & Degrees: Understanding Accreditation AACSB Accredited MBA: Pros & Cons

GMAC: 2015 Alumni Perspectives Survey Report

Best Business Schools: AACSB Business School Graduates Are Workforce Ready

Research Journal of Business and Management: The Impact of AACSB Accreditation on Enrollment Growth at HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Business Schools

Financial Times: From MBA to CEO: Where Did Chief Executives of Companies in the FT500 Go to Business School?

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