Business school accreditation is a valuable benchmark for determining the quality of your graduate business education. One of the key factors to consider when evaluating your business school options is the specific organization responsible for conferring accreditation on your program or institution.
Two of the most widely recognized accrediting bodies in business education are the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Read our guide below about some of the key differences between these two organizations and the programs they accredit, and decide for yourself how you stand on the question of AACSB vs. ACBSP accreditation.
AACSB: More Than a Century of Excellence
The AACSB is the longest-serving global accrediting body for schools of business.1 It was initially founded as the Association of Collegiate Schools of Business in June 1916 as a joint venture between 17 of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. After operations were briefly interrupted by World War I, the AACSB reconvened to establish minimum accreditation standards for the first time in 1919. For several decades, accreditation was required for membership in the AACSB, but in 1960, the organization began accepting dues-paying members who had not yet qualified for business school accreditation. The first school outside of the U.S. to receive accreditation (the University of Alberta) did so in 1968, and the first outside of North America (ESSEC) was accredited in 1997.2
The AACSB is one of only two organizations worldwide to accredit institutions on the basis of their business education.3 Its business school accreditation mission is centered around ensuring that schools maintain a consistently high level of quality and continued growth and innovation. It evaluates institutions on the basis of 15 standards, which are grouped into four categories: strategic management and innovation, participants (students, faculty and staff), learning and teaching, and academic and professional engagement.4
ACBSP: An Evolving Organization
The ACBSP is a much younger organization than the AACSB. It was founded in April 1988 by 149 initial member institutions in the U.S. who sought a new accrediting body to respond to evolving needs in business education. In the decades since, the ACBSP has gone on to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in 1992 and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in 2001. It expanded to cover Canada in 2005 and continues to grow today into an increasingly global presence representing campuses in over 60 countries.5
The ACBSP believes strongly in the importance of research to a quality business education, and it encourages its member institutions to strike a productive balance between teaching and research. It evaluates the rigor of its accredited programs on the basis of leadership, strategic planning, relationships with stakeholders, quality of academic programs, faculty credentials and educational support.6 Significantly, the ACBSP does not accredit entire institutions; it offers programmatic accreditation to associate degree, baccalaureate degree, graduate degree and certificate programs.7
Member Institutions and Businesses
The AACSB confers accreditation on 845 business institutions in 56 countries across North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. Its total number of member organizations, which includes these accredited institutions, is more than 1,600.8 The ACBSP maintains a roster of over 1,100 member campuses, of which more than 750 have achieved accreditation and an additional 300 are currently candidates for accreditation.9
Both the AACSB10 and ACBSP11 offer membership to businesses as well as educational institutions. Businesses partner with these two organizations in order to receive advertising benefits, access to proprietary studies and reports, and participation in productive networking pipelines. Business membership helps ensure that both the AACSB and ACBSP accreditation standards take into account the evolving needs of contemporary organizations.
The Accreditation Process
The accreditation process for AACSB typically takes between four and five years, but can vary depending on how closely aligned the institution in question is to AACSB standards at the time of their application.12 The first steps of the process are to join AACSB as a dues-paying member and submit an eligibility application. This application is reviewed and approved by the AACSB itself, at which point a volunteer business school administrator is assigned as a mentor to help the applying institution develop an initial self-evaluation report. This report can either be accepted fully or conditionally (conditional acceptance requiring up to a three-year implementation period), sent back to the institution to revise and resubmit, or be rejected. A final self-evaluation report is then developed with the help of a peer review team chair, and roughly one year later, the peer review team conducts a review visit to the applicant institution. The report generated by the review team after this visit is the basis of the final accreditation decision made by the AACSB's Initial Accreditation Committee.13
The estimated timeline for ACBSP accreditation of a business program is a more modest three years. The general steps involved are similar to those required for AACSB accreditation: initial membership, a period of mentorship and self-study, and a culminating site visit resulting in a final report made to the organization's Board of Commissioners issuing a recommendation for or against accreditation.14 This process is more streamlined for ACBSP both because it lacks the initial stage of preliminary approval of an eligibility application and because the period of self-evaluation is set at one full academic year, as opposed to AACSB's wider variance in time which allows applicants to work toward meeting their high standards.
Get Your AACSB-Accredited MBA or MSBA Online From William & Mary
William & Mary's Raymond A. Mason School of Business is one of roughly only 5 percent of business schools worldwide to achieve AACSB accreditation.1 Learn more about the ways in which W&M's revolutionary Online MBA and data-driven Online MS in Business Analytics live up to ACCSB's lofty standards for business education.
1. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from aacsb.edu/newsroom/2019/2/863-institutions-across-55-countries-have-earned-aacsb-international-accreditation
2. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from aacsb.edu/about/who-we-are/timeline
3. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from forbes.com/sites/adamgordon/2017/06/12/velcro-business-education-aacsb/#3cf8bbf0d357
4. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from aacsb.edu/accreditation/standards/business
5. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from acbsp.org/page/about-our-history
6. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from acbsp.org/page/about-who-we-are
7. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from acbsp.org/page/accreditation-types
8. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from aacsb.edu/accreditation/accredited-schools
9. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from acbsp.org/page/about-faq
10. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from aacsb.edu/membership/business/benefits
11. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from cdn.ymaws.com/acbsp.site-ym.com/resource/collection/A04D586B-B128-4097-A27C-DD1B7E857831/Benefits_of_Corporate_Membership_Pamphlet.pdf
12. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from aacsb.edu/accreditation/resources/frequently-asked-questions/processes-and-procedures
13. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from aacsb.edu/accreditation/journey/process-overview
14. Retrieved on May 31, 2019, from cdn.ymaws.com/acbsp.site-ym.com/resource/collection/EB5F486D-441E-4156-9991-00D6C3A44ED1/Estimated_Costs_for_ACBSP_Accreditation.pdf