By Fabienne Javet, Research Associate, School of Management and Law (Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning)
Founded in 1916, AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) is the largest and most widely recognized accreditation for business schools worldwide. Once a school earns the initial AACSB Accreditation, it is reviewed by a peer team every five years to ensure the school is not only maintaining accreditation, but finding ways to continuously innovate and improve the quality of its programs. The ZHAW School of Management and Law (SML) achieved its initial accreditation in 2015. Out of the 15 business-standards defined by AACSB, the standard “Assurance of Learning” (AoL), is considered as one of the most challenging to organize and implement. AACSB provides a basic framework for the AoL standard, but allows schools flexibility in the definition of their AoL system for alignment to their respective missions. As I design and coordinate the AoL-process for the BSc and MSc study programs at SML, the main goal for my stay in China was to identify different approaches to an Assurance of Learning process, share insights and discuss innovative perspectives on how to improve the process. Thanks to Swissnex China, I had the opportunity to visit AACSB accredited schools in Shanghai and Beijing in June 2019.
China is increasingly becoming a global player in higher education, and the government is encouraging boosting internationalization for their universities. China already ranks 3rd behind the USA and UK when it comes to international student enrollment. Thus, US accreditations are coming increasingly into focus. At the moment, 32 business schools in China are AACSB accredited. Two of the schools I visited have even already reached Triple Crown status, meaning they are AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS accredited. The ZHAW School of Management and Law is also aspiring to obtain those other two accreditations in the near future.
I was cordially received by all of the representatives of the AoL-teams at the different universities. Everyone seemed glad about the opportunity for an exchange about AoL. It was very interesting to dive into the different AoL-systems presented to me by my contact partners, and receive thoughts and feedback on the SML’s AoL system. This allowed me to gain deeper insight into different approaches and possibilities on how to carry out the process, and how to detect best practice. I had interesting and fruitful discussions with all participants about how to interpret different elements of AoL, and the challenges the AoL teams face. Everyone agreed that involving faculty is probably the most challenging part of the whole AoL-process. It is reassuring to see that even in the best developed AoL-systems, all schools seem to be dealing with the same issues and are working hard to find solutions.
All participants emphasized the importance of engaging in a continuous exchange about AoL with other universities and how, unfortunately, this is not being done enough at the moment. My meetings in China allowed me to build valuable international connections, as well as gain ideas for our system and the upcoming peer visit during the continuous improvement review in 2020.