B-schools run from basement apartments need no longer aspire to be Wharton simply to join Wharton's club. Just show how "innovative" and "engaged" you are in your "individual mission" and you, too, could be an AACSB-accredited institution.
Linda Livingstone, dean of Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management and a member of the committee that created the new standards, says the most substantive change is the way the organization reframed its rules to encourage "innovation" and "engagement"—seen by some as fuzzy terms with few specifics. It has also eased the restrictions on faculty, making it easier for international schools to hire instructors who don't have Ph.Ds….
Bob Reid, AACSB's chief accreditation officer and a former dean at James Madison University's business school, says the group now assesses schools in the context of their individual missions, rather than against a common standard. But determining whether a business school's mission is ambitious enough, or whether it fulfills that mission, is far from scientific, some deans say….
"For many original institutions, it's not clear what the value of [accreditation] is any longer," says Avijit Ghosh, a former dean at University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and now senior adviser to that university's president.
Several other deans are critical privately, though no one appears ready to walk away from the process.
"The presence of accreditation doesn't differentiate you [as an elite school], but the absence of it does cause more noise and questions," says David Thomas, dean at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.