Newly Accredited: Kent University on Earning AACSB Accreditation
One of the big takeaways from the AACSB accreditation process is achieving a common and convincing narrative that can be recognized across diverse stakeholders and a variety of programs, says Dean Martin Meyer.
In this blog series, AACSB spotlights business schools around the world that have recently earned AACSB accreditation. We ask the business school leadership about their journey to accreditation and what the new achievement means to them.
In this interview, Martin Meyer, dean of Kent Business School at University of Kent, discusses how the accreditation journey helped his school highlight its distinctiveness in sustainability and internationalization. He also notes the culture change that needed to occur at his school in order to institute new strategies and processes around continuous improvement, and the importance of still maintaining a sense of camaraderie among faculty and staff.
Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB accreditation?
AACSB is a hallmark accreditation that is mission driven and internationally recognized. As a school that has sustainable innovation at its heart, the journey toward AACSB accreditation allowed us to come together as a school and really embed this thinking across the board. The process allowed us to develop a greater focus on activities close to the school’s mission—such as our business startup journey that links student enterprise to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals—and build even stronger links with our stakeholders, for instance through research that is both internationally excellent and has real-world impact addressing challenges of real businesses. Seeing this experience then being used in the classroom as a teaching case is where it all comes together. Pursuing accreditation has helped us focus more on building these links.
What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
The most salient points that we have addressed in our accreditation journey are the importance of connectivity between all elements of the school's strategy and consistency in our offerings across all our activities. Working toward the standards by aligning strategies and operational plans has been key in this respect. This sounds more trivial than it really is. Business schools are fairly large “beasts,” reaching out to and integrating diverse stakeholders, offering a variety of programs. Achieving a common and convincing narrative that can be recognized across the entire piece and in its constituent elements is one of the big takeaways from the AACSB accreditation process.
Also broadening the horizon and embedding more international best practices, as well as starting to recruit a lot more internationally, is one of the very positive outcomes. We now are a school where two out of three members of faculty have an international background; this helps us enrich our student experience and build new research connections.
What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of the accreditation process?
Embedding a culture of continuous improvement and more structured approaches to achieving and monitoring alignment with some of standards is something that can be challenging, especially in an environment that used to be informal and collegiate. Retaining that level of collegiality while implementing change is something that I believe recently accredited schools will have found to be a common challenge.
One of the most rewarding parts of the process has been seeing a genuine culture of continuous improvement established. The advice we received from mentors and the school liaison team, and later the panel chair and PRT team, was invaluable. The way in which we would speak openly with them and share and compare experiences has been truly rewarding.
What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB accreditation?
I hope a truly embedded culture of continuous improvement that benefits students and stakeholders, as well as faculty and staff, will be a lasting outcome. We have been working toward championing sustainable innovation for a long time with good success. The accreditation process has allowed us to embed this principle in all aspects of our work, from research to curriculum development, and from student experience to faculty recruitment. This achievement should enable us to reach the next stage in our development, being part of a community of peers that share a commitment to learning together and from each other.
What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
Embrace the process, involving all faculty and staff as much and as soon as possible, and make full use of your mentor and the liaison team. Do attend the training workshops AACSB offers early on with a good cross-section of relevant faculty and staff. Accreditation is not an effort carried by individuals; rather, it is a collective and shared experience that takes your school to the next stage in its development.
Martin Meyer is dean of Kent Business School at the University of Kent in the U.K.