Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

Institutional Field of Dreams: Exploring the AACSB and the New Legitimacy of Canadian Business Schools

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

Institutional Field of Dreams: Exploring the AACSB and the New Legitimacy of Canadian Business Schools

Article excerpt

Abstract

The past 10 years have witnessed a rapid expansion in the number of Canadian business schools seeking accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB). Despite initial resistance in the early 1990s, the heavy financial and human resource costs involved in accreditation and maintenance, and the fact that Canada's publicly-funded universities owe their accreditation and legitimacy to well established governance at university, provincial, and federal levels, many Canadian business schools were at some stage of AACSB accreditation by 2005. Drawing on neo-institutional and legitimacy theory, this paper attempts to explain the institutional influences on the processes of AACSB accreditation in order to assist business school deans and faculty in weighing their accreditation options.

JEL Classification: 123, M19

Keywords: AACSB; accreditation; academic standards; business schools; new institution theory; isomorphism

Résumé

Au cours des 10 dernières années, on a assisté à une augmentation fulgurante du nombre d'écoles de commerce canadiennes en quête d'accréditation auprès de Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB). Malgré une résistance initiale au début des années 1990, les coûts élevés des ressources humaines et financières liées à la maintenance et à l'accréditation, et le fait que les universités canadiennes, financées par les pouvoirs publics, doivent leur accréditation et leur légitimité à une gestion solidement implantée aux niveaux universitaire, provincial, et fédéral, beaucoup d'écoles de commerce canadiennes n'étaient qu'en cours d'accréditation à ÃAACSB en 2005. Grâce à la théorie néo-institutionnelle et à la théorie de la légitimité, le présent article met en lumière les influences que les institutions exercent sur les processus d'accréditation AACSB, ceci dans le but d'aider les doyens d'écoles et des facultés de commerce à mieux évaluer leurs options d'accréditation.

Mots clés : accréditation; qualité de l'enseignement; écoles de gestion; nouvelle théorie de l'institution; isomorphisme

Increasingly, the institutional field of higher education is subject to market-like pressures. In a progressively competitive environment, Canadian business schools have been forced to compete for both students and resources domestically and internationally. Successfully differentiating one institution from another in a field is one manner in which Canadian business schools attempt to compete. Mechanisms to achieve this include the use of third-party rankings and external accreditation to signal institutional success, even while it is recognized that rankings are problematic from many perspectives (Helms Mills, Coldwell, & Weatherbee, 2004). The issue of the impact of ranking processes on business schools reached such a zenith that in 2004 the AACSB itself expressed concern at the proliferation of business school rankings and established a task force to "place rankings in perspective and to expand access to students and employers to additional relevant data they need to make relevant decisions" (AACSB, 2005b, p. 2). What is striking about the report is that it could be describing the very concerns many have about AACSB accreditation and the pressures on Canadian (and other) business school deans to seek accreditation.

In this latter vein, we set out to examine the institutional pressures on Canadian business schools to pursue AACSB accreditation, with the aim of providing additional relevant information so that business school deans and faculty in Canada can make more informed judgments. Thus, for example, the AACSB report argues that business school rankings "have consistently caused concern among AACSB International accredited schools and members" (AACSB, 2005b, p. 2). As we shall argue below, the same can be said of Canadian business schools considering AACSB accreditation. In capturing the economic and legitimacy problems involved in reactions to business school rankings, the AACSB report could also be describing how business school deans in Canada have faced the issue of AACSB accreditation. …

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