Newly Accredited: Universidad Carlos III de Madrid on Earning AACSB Accreditation
Associate vice chancellor of quality at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Marta Macías Dorissa, shares insights on the Department of Business Economics' recent AACSB accreditation journey.
In this blog series, AACSB is spotlighting business schools around the globe that have recently earned AACSB Accreditation. We ask the business school administrators about their journey to accreditation and what the new achievement means to them. In this interview, Marta Macías Dorissa, associate vice chancellor of quality at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, shares insights on the accreditation experience at her institution.
Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB Accreditation?
International accreditation of the different programs offered by our university was one of the strategies included in our 2010–15 UC3M Strategic Plan. We considered international accreditations as an excellent opportunity to look at our organization and programs, assess their performance, and improve the quality of our institution. We chose AACSB Accreditation for two main reasons. First, AACSB is the most prestigious accreditation in business studies, and second, AACSB’s approach to accreditation is very active and provides highly valuable resources and support throughout the process, rather than just conducting a mere evaluation. During the accreditation process we attended several seminars to become familiar with standards and procedures, such as assurance of learning (AoL). Most importantly, a mentor was a cornerstone element that guided us along the process providing us very helpful insights to achieve our objective.
What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
The evaluation of our procedures and organization has highlighted some problems and improvement areas. Broadly speaking, we have learned that a significant gap exists between the organization and the management of different studies, whether at undergraduate or graduate level. Our undergraduate studies had common practices and quality procedures, whereas in our graduate programs, there was a lot of diversity. Other than program considerations, the measures implemented to enhance coordination routines within and between our business programs revealed some specific problems and allowed us to correct them. Overall, we have learned the importance of designing formal procedures that document how programs are managed and decisions are made.
What was the most challenging/rewarding part of the accreditation process?
Our organizational structure experienced a significant change as a result of the accreditation process. The AACSB Accreditation process has been pivotal in helping us achieve these changes. A new organization of our master’s programs was designed and implemented, affecting not only the business programs but all the master’s programs offered by the university. This restructuring has significantly improved the coordination and management of our different programs. Another significant challenge was the design and implementation of an AoL system. The initial proposal was not successful because the results produced were not informative enough, given their homogeneity. In a second attempt, we introduced more specific objectives and better measures in order to get more informative results that we could act on, with the final objective of improving the quality of the programs.
How have your business programs changed as a result of achieving AACSB Accreditation?
Throughout the process we have changed business programs at two different levels. First, at the undergraduate level we have introduced routines in order to reinforce the coordination of the different programs. The new coordination mechanism has allowed us to discover and solve problems. Second, the AoL system has been instrumental in helping us revise certain master’s programs, like our MBA and Master in Business and Finance, and make minor modifications in the organization of most of our curricula, such as increasing the number of oral presentations and replacing problem sets with cases to discuss. In this regard, AoL is integrated into the university’s program quality assurance system, and it provides valuable input into the Program Quality Commissions, which is the goal of the improvement measures.
We hope that these changes will make our programs more attractive and visible to international students. Initial applications for the next academic year to our AACSB-accredited programs provides preliminary evidence in this direction.
What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
First, this is a long process that requires continued involvement and significant effort. Commitment is the key word. Many constituencies have to participate actively in the process, and a strong will to change or restructure the organization of programs at all levels is required in order to ensure a systematic assessment of performance to improve the quality of the different programs. Then, it is crucial to count on the support and commitment of the governing bodies of the institution as well as on the complete involvement of program directors, whether at undergraduate or graduate level. As such, the objective to achieve AACSB Accreditation should be included in the strategic plan of the different units involved.
Second, it is important to start working toward standards alignment as soon as possible. There are issues that probably will appear as the mentor works with the institution, but other issues can be identified and improved before the formal process begins. Finally, the process of earning AACSB Accreditation is a good opportunity to improve the efficiency of the organization, and we are totally convinced that it will pay off in the near future.
Marta Macías Dorissa is associate vice chancellor of quality and a professor of accounting in the Department of Business Economics at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.