6) Trash current ideas about accreditation and start over
I’m all for accreditation. I’m pedaling as fast as I can right now to get some for our MBA and PhD programs. (and, okay, “trash” is a strong word). The assessment of quality and the process of continuous improvement are huge issues now, ranging from the concerns of the U.S. federal government on down to my desire to get value and results for the tuition that I’m paying to a small liberal arts college for my son. Degree mills and dropout factories make common standards necessary.
A fellow dean once groaned in the privacy of his office, “accreditation was the worst thing we ever did.” In his view, innovation stopped cold and the entire identity of a perfectly good business school shifted toward an unhappy place, (this perception was corroborated by that of outsiders). “They’re looking over my shoulder every time I hiccup,” or words to that effect formed his next thought. The accreditors imposed a faculty profile at odds with the mission of his school and university, generating a large and ongoing expense. It was debatable whether the process contributed to quality or growth.
I have served in senior leadership and/or taught at accredited schools, those aspiring and at the have-nots, and at times there’s not a lot of difference.
While accreditation provides a place of common ground and a common language, the extent to which it quashes creativity is problematic. Ultimately, the expense stops the show. Faculty fitting the profile required by some associations form an increasingly scarce seller’s market. It is possible that the gap will widen between have and have-not business schools simply in their ability to find and field faculty acceptable to accreditors.
Further complicating this discussion of quality, is an essential functional management philosophy that requires “bottom-up” assessment. In fact, Peter Drucker’s ideas about management’s implications for social impacts and social responsibilities might be a good starting point. “First do no harm” will be another maxim. At the same time the “bottom” or “the rest” should envision successful outcomes for their own communities and places. Whether good or bad, the product may have to be an infinitely customizable MBA, both locally and globally contextual.
PRME suggests part of a framework, and leveraging it could add an additional yardstick for measuring quality.
My bottom line here is that no MBA for the rest, that delivers functional management learning in effective ways, will ever receive the validation and respect that accreditation provides without significant changes in our systems. Perhaps B-Schools should pay a mortgage on the MBA, just as grads should, by committing to co-accredit partnered functional management programs? At the same time, perhaps faculties should “train the trainers” while also educating traditional MBA students, by offering teaching MBAs.
Just as elite business schools seem to be rediscovering ethics and sustainability, perhaps they should also rediscover generosity?
Previous posts in this series:
- Re-orient your worldview
- Live with “the rest” for a while
- Don’t assume that a U.S. model is right, good or appropriate anywhere else
- Set up the teaching MBA that will equip practitioners actually to teach others, rather than create personal or corporate wealth
- Figure out functional management and apply it locally – this means that local business and management paradigms might create infinitely-customizable MBAs
- Trash current ideas about accreditation and start over
- Fear not new models