For a prospective MBA student, accreditation, despite its flaws, can be an important indicator of a program’s quality. Three accreditation systems are recognized internationally:
Equis, the European Quality Improvement Sys-tem, is administered by the Brussels-based Euro-pean Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), a non-profit organization.
The Equis accreditation system is 10 years old and stands out for its global outlook. Applicants must demonstrate a high degree of “interna-tionalization.” Importantly, Equis accredits institutions and not specific MBA programs.
Equis criteria are set by a committee of EFMD officials and representatives from accred-ited institutions, like CEIBS and the University of Cambridge. One hundred and eight institutions from 32 countries have been accredited.
The Britain-based Association of MBAs (AMBA) accredits individual MBA programs rather than whole institutions. It was established in 1967 and its narrower scope means prospective students get a better sense of a program, although by the same token, AMBA accreditations don’t tell students much about institutions providing them.
AMBA emphasizes a curriculum that covers soft skills, ethics and international business. A program’s student body should average five years of work experience and programs should last at least a year. A total of 140 programs in 66 countries worldwide are AMBA-accredited.
America’s Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), founded in 1916, is the oldest of the three main accreditation bodies. Like Equis, it accredits schools instead of programs.
The accreditation process pivots on peer review. Deans of accredited schools volunteer to serve on peer review teams and accreditation committees which visit applicant institutions to double-check self-evaluations. However, AACSB accreditation tends to be granted to American institutions; it has been criticized for excluding non-American schools with different organizational structures. As of December 2007, 554 institutions hold AACSB business accreditation.