First Choose Your MBA
Schofield, Philip, The Independent (London, England)
A new accreditation scheme to control the quality of MBA programmes has been under discussion for more than a year. When business schools were few in number, the employer grapevine kept organisations informed about those MBA courses which were considered useful. Although the criteria varied and the ratings were subjective, these informal opinions were fairly reliable. However, as the number of business schools offering MBAs grew, it became increasingly difficult for employers and prospective students to sort the gold from the dross.
Since the first business schools were established in the United States over a century ago, several magazines - including Fortune, Business Week and US News and World Report - have published surveys that rank the top 10 to 25 MBA programmes. But rankings based upon the subjective opinion of a sample of senior executives have a number of weaknesses.
Business leaders who are alumni of business schools tend to vote for their Alma Mater. This in turn favours the biggest and oldest business schools, which have the largest numbers of alumni. Moreover, because a school's ranking can affect both its student recruitment and the value of its consultancy assignments, public relations activity is intense and can affect the rankings. MBA courses did not reach Britain until 1965 and in 1983 there were only 20. Growth has since been explosive, and well over 100 UK "business schools" of varying standards now offer MBAs. In Britain a more objective series of rating business schools was established by the Association of MBAs (Amba). This relied on the voluntary inspection and accreditation of individual MBA courses (not the business schools themselves) against strict criteria. So far 33 of the UK's hundred or more business schools offering MBAs have had courses accredited. As the reputation of the scheme has grown, 15 business schools in France, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Italy have also sought and earned accreditation. Several more UK and European business schools are currently seeking accreditation for their programmes. Each business school hoping for accreditation is visited by a team of up to six assessors. Once accredited, schools are inspected every seven years. Amba requires a school to have its own identity and facilities within the institution of which it is a part. It must be autonomous. The faculty should have at least 40 staff, three-quarters of whom are dedicated to the business school itself, to ensure strength in depth and adequate student contact. The staff should also be credible in terms of their academic qualifications, their ability to teach business at postgraduate level, the quality of their research and the extent of their business contacts and consultancy activities. The school is also expected to invest in developing its staff. Admission standards for students must be high, and based both on work experience and academic attainments. The student body must also be large enough to form an "intellectually critical mass". The curriculum must provide students with a core knowledge of such business topics as finance, marketing, quantitative methods, human resource management, information systems, and strategy. These core subjects should be supported by a range of "electives". …