Photo of large round metal and red sculpture on National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology-First Campus in Taiwan

Newly Accredited: National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology-First Campus on Earning AACSB Accreditation

Learn how the accreditation process helped the College of Management and College of Finance and Banking at NKUST define their "explicit" purposes and include those in their missions.

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.

Dean Kune-muh Tsai of the College of Management at National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology-First Campus shares how his school sought accreditation as a means to increase enrollment and broaden its international reach. But faculty support for this endeavor was not immediately won; Tsai and the college needed to build a persuasive case to demonstrate that the end result of earning AACSB accreditation was well worth the effort required to get there.

Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB accreditation?

The decline of the birth rate in Taiwan has made student enrollment more challenging among universities. Under these circumstances, the College of Management (COM) and College of Finance and Banking (COFB) strived to establish our own distinctiveness to help differentiate our programs from others. At the same time, internationalization has been one of our intended directions for continuing development.

Through a series of searching and consulting activities, we identified the rigorous process of AACSB accreditation as a way to examine our colleges in a systematic manner and then, given limited resources, enhance our distinctiveness to better align with our goals. In other words, AACSB accreditation has enabled us to improve our competitiveness domestically and promote awareness of our “brand” internationally.

What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?

At the beginning of the accreditation journey, we were required to express the colleges’ mission statement, which needed to be elaborated in terms of explicit, rather than implicit, purposes. The explicit purposes drive all activities (e.g., student learning, faculty research, etc.) undertaken by the colleges. Through the accreditation journey, we had opportunities to scrutinize whether all college activities were justifiable in terms of fulfilling explicit purposes. Such initiatives as Smart Commerce in COM, FinTech in COFB, and the Innovation Lab & Maker Space in the broader university not only represented our previous endeavors to realize the explicit purposes but also impressed our peer review team members.

Since then, our mission statement has been widely disseminated among relevant stakeholders, and it has functioned as the “frame of mind” for the colleges to guide subsequent activities, such as budget allocation for lab construction or new project undertakings. We believe the college development, by keeping the mission statement in mind, is on the right track to benefit our relevant stakeholders.

What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of the accreditation process?

Before pursuing AACSB accreditation, some faculty members in our colleges had questioned the rationale of this pursuit. Convincing them that the end goal was worth the necessary effort to achieve it was challenging at first. However, they gradually recognized that the quality of faculty teaching and student learning improved as a result of the accreditation process. Because of these recognized merits, those who initially had doubts shifted from their original position of wariness to one of willingness to engage in the process of AACSB accreditation.

The other challenge was to implement the assurance of learning (AoL) process in all COM and COFB programs. Some of the courses selected for implementing AoL have been taught by different instructors across programs. For example, at the undergraduate level, five required courses across seven departments were selected for AoL implementation. For two of the chosen courses, Economics and Statistics, common exams would be administered twice per semester to assess corresponding learning goals. Before the AoL implementation, teachers from the seven programs got together to discuss textbook choice, course content, assessment methods, and rubrics. After data collection and result analyses, the teachers held a meeting to identify the low-achievement problems and then recommend improvement actions.

In this respect the AoL process was also rewarding because it aroused instructors to improve their teaching, driven by clear learning goals. At the same time, the AoL implementation process gave the teachers across different disciplines an opportunity to share their individual teaching experiences with others and learn mutually from one another. These interactions among the involved teachers, we believe, can bring about better cooperation in teaching that further benefits student learning.

What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB accreditation?

Being AACSB accredited is a significant milestone for COM and COFB. This achievement demonstrates that the colleges (of First Campus, NKUST) deliver high-quality business education. Therefore, we expect to have more opportunities to cooperate with top business schools worldwide in different ways, such as student exchange programs, dual degree programs, joint research projects, and so on. In the meantime, our graduate students can receive benefits from pursuing their post-graduate studies abroad and obtaining career opportunities overseas. Our faculty also now have an enhanced status, enabling increased collaborations with international enterprises.

What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?

According to our experiences, we offer the following advice:

  • Involve all stakeholders relevant to your school and convey to them the merits derived from earning AACSB accreditation. Presented with a persuasive case, stakeholders are more likely to engage in the accreditation process—and their engagement is critical to achieving accreditation.
  • Work closely with your mentor, peer review team chair, and staff liaison. Throughout the accreditation process, you will definitely need their guidance and suggestions to lead you in the right direction.
  • Do not be afraid of your weaknesses or shortcomings that may be identified throughout the process. No school can be “perfect” with respect to its mission statement. And the AACSB accreditation process, we believe, is designed for systematically examining your school in order to identify strengths and weaknesses. If intending to amend the weaknesses, you need to develop your own improvement actions according to your mission and available resources. The cycle of weakness identification and improvement-action development is ongoing. Hence, you should know your shortcomings and always strive to address them; to neglect their existence is not an option if you wish to continually improve.

Kune-muh Tsai, dean of the College of Management at National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology-First Campus, TaiwanKune-muh Tsai is dean of the College of Management at National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology-First Campus in Taiwan.