MBA Accreditation Explained

MBA Accreditation Explained

Choosing an accredited MBA program can be the first step to enrolling in a world-class course. The decision to pursue an MBA degree is a huge commitment, requiring both time and money in the hope of increased earning potential and career progression upon completion. The journey begins with a deliberate and thorough search for the right school.

Accreditation from a leading accreditation body provides an immediate short list. Because business schools participate in an extremely competitive market, each one competes for faculty, administration, researchers, corporate partnerships and of course students. The good, the bad and the ugly distinguish themselves by accreditation.

MBA accreditation is key

Accreditation, especially international certification creates global exposure for an institution inevitably drawing in a higher level of talent. Business schools are among the most competitive in the world, bringing advancements in curriculum and research for over a century. The indicator of success for many of these schools has been accreditation.

Those that compete on an international stage seek alignment with the three most respected organizations - Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) and the Association of MBAs (AMBA). Accreditation from any one of these organizations has a three-fold benefit for student, school and employer. The school benefits from compliance to a world-renowned process, the student is assured that their business education will retain its value and employers have a candidate pool of students that have been taught by a school of international acclaim.


Founded in 1916 the AACSB is an association made up of higher learning institutions and enterprises focused on business education. It is also the oldest, largest and most recognized accreditation body for business schools in the world. With more than 1,100 members in over 70 countries the AACSB claims one of the most rigorous and respected stamps of approval a business school can achieve.

The AACSB spans undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs and is not exclusive to just the MBA sector. “It is a mission driven institutional process that focuses on self assessment and overall quality,” explains Jerry Trapnell, vice president and chief accreditation officer of AACSB. Schools adhere to 21 peer reviewed standards developed by a global network of 900 deans and university presidents.

Trapnell claims that the value proposition of the organization is, “A procedural, non-governmental, voluntary assessment. We provide a network of 1,000 schools, publish whitepapers, conferences and seminars, all with the objective of advancing management education worldwide."

AACSB has accredited about five percent of the world’s business schools, a market that is approximately 12,400 institutions strong. “Our standards are demanding and we have aggressive expectations about learning. The choice to enter the process of accreditation with us, which can take up to seven years to complete is not for schools content on operating locally.” It is for this reason that the AACSB will only be able to give approval to a small number of institutions over the coming years.


Operated by the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), an academia, business and public sector membership organization, the European Quality Improvement System or EQUIS is one of the world’s leading international systems of quality assessment, improvement and accreditation of management schools and business administrations.

Created in 1997 with the goal of developing an accreditation system aimed at business schools who’s mission was to permeate beyond their borders, it immediately amassed the support of big name European schools such as INSEAD and London Business School. Since then EQUIS has conferred 121 accreditations in 34 countries.

The EQUIS brand is not as well established in North America as AACSB and, for example, just seven Canadian schools tote EQUIS. Those that are included on the list have a commitment to developing partnerships in Europe and Asia, where the EQUIS name is common.


Out of the top three, the only accrediting body that concentrates solely on the quality and relevance of individual MBA programs is the Association of MBAs (AMBA). AMBA is the impartial international authority on postgraduate business education in the world. Established in 1967 as global credentials for all MBA, DBA and MBM programs. Over 153 business schools in 69 countries enjoy AMBA accreditation.

Dr Richard Owen, director of accreditation and business school services at AMBA says that AMBA requires their schools to only admit students who have three or more years of full-time work experience under their belts. The strength of AMBA’s accreditation is their acute focus on the MBA and value added services for its members. Unlike AACSB, schools must be accredited to be a member. Members are entitled to market trend reports, networking and information exchange, deans and directors conferences and forums for marketing and administration training.

The MBA accreditation ‘triple crown’

AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA are three of the most highly regarded international accreditations in the realm of higher business education. Business schools have long since realized the growth potential afforded to them by securing accreditation. 

From the students’ perspective, accreditation provides a list of viable schools and students who select accredited schools desire an MBA that will not restrict their career options and afford them a breadth and depth of study. The value of an impartial review of every facet of your operation with the goal of making you better is undeniable. All three of these organizations pride themselves on the value they add to their member institutions in achieving their goals to become schools of international stature.

Stephen Kelly is an expert in the Canadian MBA industry. He is especially interested in the migration of universities into online delivery and the challenges and rewards that result.

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Written by QS Blogger
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