Almost exactly two years ago, I gathered a group of Olin faculty and staff in a fifth-floor Bauer Hall classroom for a conversation with Professor Alfons Sauquet Rovira of Barcelona’s ESADE Business School.
During that conversation on May 29, 2019, Professor Rovira shared insights into the process of earning accreditation from EQUIS, one of the “big three” accreditation bodies in business education. It was another step toward our strategic plan goal of earning accreditation from all three bodies—the so-called “triple crown.”
That process began with the launch of our strategic plan three years ago. Today, I’m proud to report we’ve achieved that goal. With the announcement on April 28 that we earned EQUIS accreditation, we have joined an elite group of global business schools.
Indeed, among 13,000 business schools globally, only about 100 have earned accreditation from all three bodies: EFMD Quality Improvement System (EQUIS), the Association of MBAs (AMBA) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). They include highly regarded schools such as INSEAD, London Business School, ESADE and HEC Paris.
And among highly ranked US business schools, Olin alone has earned the distinction.
Not a goal in and of itself
It is important, however, to be clear that triple accreditation was never intended to be an end in itself. Yes, it was a goal in our strategic plan. But achieving the triple crown was also a means of seeing our strategic plan in action.
The accrediting bodies “want to see that the strategic plan is not just a document, but it’s actually being embedded in the school,” said Shannon Reid, WashU Olin’s strategic initiatives analyst who shepherded the school through this process. As I said in a previous blog post on this topic, the accreditation bodies hold us accountable for the standards we have set for ourselves—standards set in our strategic plan.
And I must say, rarely can I point to an Olin initiative that has drawn so many people into the process. “It’s important to highlight that this was really an organizational effort,” Shannon noted, including input from students, the National Council, alumni and, of course, staff and faculty.
For example, nearly every member of the faculty had a role by ensuring their course curricula embedded our pillars of excellence: values-based, data-driven leadership; global outlook; experiential learning; and entrepreneurial spirit.
Faculty also provided “assurance of learning” documentation to demonstrate that their coursework met our goals and objectives. From a staff and administration perspective, every department, area and center documented what it was doing and how it contributed to the goals and strategies of WashU Olin.
Together, we built, supported and articulated our case—not just once, but three times, accommodating the different criteria required of each accreditation body. The result: AMBA accredited WashU Olin in March 2020. Two months later, on June 29, 2020, AACSB granted us reaccreditation for five years. And now, of course, we have locked up our EQUIS accreditation.
It’s also worth mentioning that we achieved this feat in the midst of a global pandemic. While the AMBA process ended before lockdown, AACSB and EQUIS accommodated a unique process that included Zoom interviews and virtual tours of our buildings—a first, I’m told, for these evaluation bodies.
Additionally, EQUIS and AMBA tend to be predominant among overseas programs. Given our status as a highly ranked American school, I urged those bodies to include international deans on their peer-review teams. I thought it important for us and for them to get a different sense of an American business school.
I believe having this credential from all three global evaluation bodies will draw the attention of international students, and also open doors with international recruiters who may seek out our students and with other schools seeking American partners.
But mostly, this credential affirms our most significant claim: WashU Olin is a school that promotes world-changing business education, research and impact. We are what we say we are.