Teaching and research in the Champions League

Dean Professor Dr Andreas Taschner on the rationale behind the AACSB accreditation

By Katrin Reil

For the video interview with Prof Dr Andreas Taschner skip to the end of this page.

Around five percent of all business schools in the world bear the prestigious seal of quality of AACSB International.  With this, the “Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business“ confirms that the accredited institutions fulfil the highest quality standards in education and research. Since July ESB Business School has been a member of this network with roughly 850 partners, including such renowned institutions as Harvard Business School and the Yale School of Management.   

ESB Dean Professor Dr Andreas Taschner talking about the five years of preparation for AACSB accreditation and its importance for ESB Business School:

1. Mr Taschner, the accreditation process for AACSB is intended to run for duration of five years. What happens during this period?

AACSB puts a strong emphasis on a business school’s strategy. If a business school wishes to achieve AACSB accreditation it needs to know what it stands for and what makes it special and implement this in all the processes. In addition, AACSB has its own quality criteria, for example in the areas of organisation, teaching, research or staff.

ESB submitted its application for admission to the accreditation procedure in 2013. To do so it was already necessary for the School to have met a number of minimum requirements. As soon as admission to the procedure is granted, the work really gets under way.  

In the past few years we have developed new processes and incentive systems, established committees, set new research priorities and invested resources in the key strategic topics. As this process is so wide-ranging, it takes several years. During this time a business school is constantly supported by an experienced AACSB mentor. Our mentor, Elmore Alexander, usually visited us twice a year for several days, sharing his experience with us and giving us feedback on where there was further need for development. Every year we had to show the improvements we had made in a report to AACSB. After three reports we were given the go-ahead for the actual accreditation visit in May this year. Then we were able to convince the experts on site that we fulfil the high AACSB standards.  

2. In which aspects of the accreditation was ESB especially able to display its strengths?

ESB is extremely international and very practice-related in its orientation. This brand essence is also laid down in our mission and is present in everything we do. We did not have any problems at all in convincing AACSB that we are serious about internationality and practical relevance.

For most of the quality standards we were able to build on a very good basis. Quality has always been a top priority at ESB. Not least thanks to the system accreditation and since then the ongoing internal audits, we keep a watchful eye on all quality relevant processes and procedures.

3. And what has actually changed as a result of AACSB?

More difficult for us was certainly the further development of our research and publication activities. As a university of applied sciences we are in a less comfortable position than for example the big research-oriented universities in Germany and of course private business schools. The development of our interdisciplinary research fields, the increase in our publication output and the resulting boost to our impact in research and practice required a concerted tour de force from the whole School.

A second crucial innovation is the implementation of a comprehensive system for the assessment of learning goals across all degree programmes. AACSB calls this “Assurance of Learning” (“AoL“). AoL goes far beyond a course evaluation with which many universities are already familiar as standard. This is primarily about enshrining the strategic core elements of ESB in the curricula for the long term, assessing at regular intervals whether we are teaching our students the right skills and establishing a system of continuous improvement.  

4. Moving on to research: How has ESB been able to gain a good position in research within the process of accreditation?  

We are no strangers to practice-related research. For years ESB professors have been working in innovative research areas such as digitisation, Industry 4.0 etc..   It was now important to establish an incentive and support system for research activities, to bring researchers together in a network and to manage with meagre time resources.  The focus in research is primarily on creating an individual strategic profile and providing a link between good research and good teaching.

5. AACSB includes strong partners such as Harvard and Yale, learning from each other is one of the network’s objectives. What can ESB learn? What can it contribute?  

Within the AACSB community there are diverse opportunities to learn from others. AACSB offers not only many events and conferences but also a large digital platform to which we have access. In future we will get ideas and best practices from the best institutions in the world. We can learn from the experience and examples of other business schools which have been a part of AACSB for a much longer time. In future AACSB will naturally also provide us with new opportunities with regard to cooperations and partnerships. Nevertheless, in its essence ESB will naturally remain ESB.  

Conversely, we will be glad to share our strengths and experience with others.  

6. So what comes next? Accreditation done, all is well?

The successful AACSB accreditation is for us both a chance and a challenge. We naturally want to keep and enhance the level achieved and documented in the successful initial accreditation. The AACSB process can be compared to the Champions League in football: In the top league you can’t simply sit back and relax. Our students, partner universities and the companies our graduates join will continue to expect and get performance at the highest level from ESB. Even more so after successful AACSB accreditation.