Santiago Iniguez de Onzono, as chairman of the board of directors of GFME (Global Foundation for Management Education); member of the board of directors of AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), and the awarding body of EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System) is best qualified to speak on the importance of international accreditations for B-schools. Also president of IE University and the dean of IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, Iniguez has authored The Learning Curve: How Business Schools Are Reinventing Education, which deals with the future challenges of management education.
Can you tell us about the stringent quality checks put in place by AACSB and EQUIS for granting accreditations to B-schools?
Accreditation provides a form of quality control in a rapidly expanding market. In an increasingly global management education sector, accreditations contribute significantly to the transparency and comparability of educational offerings. Both AACSB and EQUIS require accredited schools to cover a demanding set of standards across the major operations of a business school: from structural requirements like autonomy and a critical size – in terms of full-time faculty– to research output, supporting services to students as well as the quality of the learning process.
How can B-schools qualify for AACSB and EQUIS accreditations?
They are both mission based, in the sense that business schools that apply for accreditation are evaluated according to their positioning, programmes and stakeholders. For example, an executive education centre has a very distinctive positioning that affects all its activities, as different from a university-based business school.
EQUIS emphasises the internationalisation and the orientation to the corporate world of business schools. AACSB focuses on the assessment of the learning outcomes of participants and students. Both accreditation agencies have global reach and are highly respected by most stakeholders of business education, including corporate recruiters.
How do AACSB and EQUIS help in the internationalisation of an institute?
Accreditation and rankings are the two most used criteria to select business schools by international applicants who decide to study overseas. Accreditation by an international agency like AACSB or EQUIS provides a guarantee to international students who may not be completely aware about the context where a business school operates. It’s the equivalent to ISO and similar quality certificates at other professional services organisations.
As chairman of board of directors of GFME (Global Foundation for Management Education), what do you think is the way forward for management education?
Business education is the icebreaker of higher education, and one of the most demanded fields by university applicants and professionals. The MBA remains the hottest ticket among postgraduate programmes. For example, at IE Business School we, have renovated our international MBA to focus on the attraction of entrepreneurs and corporate transformers, and we have experienced an increase in applications above 15% .
I believe that we will also see a growth of blended programmes, combining face-to-face forms of delivery with online courses, in the future. Most business schools already blend their executive programmes in order to adapt to the circumstances of their participants in terms of time and location. However, the most interesting part of blended programmes, according to the experience of IE,is that it develops a wider set of managerial skills in participants than traditional, classroom based, forms of delivery.
I also expect a significant growth in the demand for undergraduate programmes in management, as well as the category of masters in management for non-experienced students.
You are also the dean of the IE business school in Madrid… is it some sort of an experimental lab for you to test out your ideas on innovations in management education? If yes, then do tell us about the ideas that have worked.
At IE we love change and innovation. We were once defined as a group of “young people in a hurry”, because we feel the same sense of urgency that is common in the real business world. We try to be close to companies and understand how their demands for the attraction and development of talent change over time.
Every year we launch new programmes and renovate at least 20% of the existing offerings. Two of the most recent initiatives have been the launch of Corporate Learning Alliance (CLA), a 50/50 joint venture with the Financial Times Group for the design and delivery of custom programmes for companies. CLA is now operating in three different continents and we expect to be present in India very soon. The other major initiative, mentioned above, was the transformation of our MBA programme, which in my opinion is currently the most innovative experience in its category.
In Learning Curve, the book you have authored, you have said ICT is making a big impact on the learning process and that over 80% of business schools that used to offer face-to-face programmes run online courses. How important will online courses be 10 years from now and how can students in schools be prepared to change their learning methods? Do you as a dean see students struggling to cope with online teaching?
We were one of the early entrants in blended methodologies and we believe in the integration of technology and pedagogy, since it provides a much richer learning experience and develops a wider set of skills and forms of intelligence than traditional face-to-face courses.
The impact of technology in education is unstoppable and irreversible. It may not happen overnight, given that education is heavily regulated and changes more slowly than other social or economic sectors.
How important is it for countries to come together as groups – like Europe did for the Bologna process – to improve their education systems? Does that restrict countries from developing their own educational programmes the way they would like to?
I firmly believe in the beneficial effects of opening the doors, and lowering the barriers to the free movement of talent: students, faculty, entrepreneurs, recruiters and other educational stakeholders. Those countries that increase the barriers to mobility, or adopt protectionist measures, end up becoming isolated and less competitive.
The implementation of the Bologna accord had many positive effects across Europe. However, there is need to implement further schemes that transform Europe into a single unified education market: basically, financial schemes to support the cross-border movement of students and opening up the recruitment markets, and visas, for graduates from outside the EU.
Do you think there needs to be a change in mindsets of faculty and students in B-schools to focus on the larger picture and not just believe in personal or organisational gains?
Not all graduates from business schools are arrogant, selfish profit maximisers. For example, at IE Business School a significant percentage of the graduates devote some time to social entrepreneurship ventures, and have engaged in different projects to improve less favoured communities in Africa or Latin America. At the same time, it is important that we recognise the social role of entrepreneurs and business managers in society, if they perform their jobs in the best possible way. For me, good business, executed according to the principles of good deontology, is tantamount to ethical business. Nothing more but nothing less.