Global Improvement Network: Fostering Quality Business Education in Africa
AACSB's Global Improvement Network, designed to provide support to business schools in emerging countries, was launched in 2016 at four African b-schools and already has had an impact.
In 2014, AACSB’s provisional 2020 Committee recommended to the organization a Global Improvement Network (GIN), aimed at providing support and guidance to business schools in emerging countries to cultivate local talent for the longer-term goal of stimulating growth, infrastructure, and commerce for the betterment of society. The GIN program focused on Africa for a two-year pilot program, which began in July 2016.
To date, AACSB has more than 30 members on the African continent, and of those, five business schools hold AACSB business accreditation. Still we recognize that we as an industry have a long way to go to help students globally gain access to quality education, accredited or not. The GIN project reflects AACSB’s commitment to sharing knowledge and best practices that support and advance quality business education globally. It further mirrors AACSB’s optimism about the future and belief that quality business education can transform our world and drive global prosperity.
For the pilot, four schools in Africa were identified based on applications submitted by African business school, followed by a review and selection process involving collaboration between AACSB and the Global Business Schools Network (GBSN). Each of the participating business schools was assigned a volunteer advisor with relevant expertise, background, and experience who, together with the business school dean and senior AACSB leadership, committed to a distinct two-year quality improvement program. Each institution also participated in a specially designed AACSB Leading in the Academic Enterprise® (LAE) seminar to encourage growth and positive change within the business school.
More than a year after the program launched, the pilot cohort convened in Malta at the 2017 Europe, Middle East, and Africa Annual Conference and discussed each school’s progress in the program so far. Here are the four schools, their assigned advisors, and a project summary as of the Malta meeting in October.
ISBAT—Faculty of Business and Commerce | Kampala, Uganda
Advisor: Adam Fadlalla, Qatar University
For their project, the ISBAT Faculty of Business and Commerce planned to design a capstone strategic management component to solve the school’s strategic challenges. Based on AACSB’s accreditation standards 1–3, the school has set out to have its vision, mission, and strategic plan in place by June 2018. So far, the school has completed a draft strategic plan, with engagement from stakeholders, and it is currently under review by their advisor. Since the project launch, the faculty has seen an increase in enrollment, with 430 students representing 21 countries. They have awarded 40 academic scholarships, for which they received 138 applications. The school currently works with a visiting faculty model but plans to have some full-time faculty members in 2018. They’ve also made plans to help some of their current faculty earn a PhD and return to ISBAT after receiving the degree. While ISBAT’s ambitions were to achieve AACSB Accreditation, their advisor is working with the leadership to take a planned approach that focuses on quality assurance as an ongoing process.
Mediterranean Business School | Tunis, Tunisia
Advisor: Ahmed Hassanein, The American University in Cairo
The Mediterranean Business School (MSB) has witnessed significant growth in the number of programs offered and full-time students during the last five years. Consequently, a better definition of the institutional governance structures and corresponding reporting lines is needed, including improving staff management, professional recruitment, and appraisal procedures, all of which is the focus of their GIN project. Since starting their project, MSB has worked to establish a faculty handbook, department dashboards, and policies for continuous internal feedback and communication by the end of 2017. The school continues to carefully develop a good governance structure. They recruited a new chief operating officer, giving Dean Leila Triki more time for her main responsibilities, including getting more senior faculty involved in the business school’s projects. The school is also following process reviews according to ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) guidelines to ensure quality of internal procedures.
University of Ghana Business School | Accra, Ghana
Advisor: Mark Jenkins, Cranfield University
The University of Ghana Business School (UGBS) divided their project into two components: developing an effective academic quality assurance system and strengthening the school’s capacity in case writing. For academic quality improvement, programs are being reviewed and class sizes reduced. The use of cases will be introduced in teaching, incentive systems will encourage faculty to perform, and opportunities to collaborate on context-specific cases will enhance the quality and relevancy of the cases used in the classroom. In their efforts so far, UGBS has recently subscribed to IvyDB and the Case Centre to gain access to cases and further engage in the case method. They’ve partnered with IBM, Yale, and EGADE for a case study on IBM Corporate Service Corps. The school has introduced an incentive scheme—financial support of up to 3,000 USD for case or manuscript development—for faculty to write more and better cases. Additionally, the GIN project advisor is helping the school collect data for a peer-reviewed journal, which can also be used for case writing. Finally, the school is developing short, pointed policy briefs from peer-reviewed journals, which are them made available to business partners.
United Methodist University | Monrovia, Liberia
Advisor: Robert Dooley, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
For its project, United Methodist University (UMU) is developing a process for assessing student learning at the major and degree level. They set out to create major- and degree-level student learning outcomes (SLO), a curriculum map for coverage of SLOs, and rubrics and assessments for each SLO. Eventually, faculty and administrators will be able to analyze the collected data for improving the curriculum and enhancing student learning, as well as to standardize syllabi to include relevant SLOs. Because the university’s operations have traditionally focused mainly on day-to-day challenges, their GIN pilot project has sought to change the focus of staff and faculty to a longer-term view. Much work has been done to implement SLOs and an assessment structure. Assessments have been completed and the first data collection will be finished soon. The next step is to develop rubrics and a data collection process, which will be challenging given the FT/PT faculty ratio. The university also wants to start evaluating their faculty, a system that is not in place currently. The GIN project has had great impact on the university as a whole; other disciplines are interested in duplicating the SLO project into their faculties.
An 'Indelible Impact'
Bob Reid, AACSB’s outgoing executive vice president and chief accreditation officer and former staff liaison to the 2020 Committee, was instrumental in helping to conceive and launch the GIN pilot. He says the program has been very successful, stating, “The engagement of subject matter experts to work collaboratively as an advisor with each school’s leadership team has helped each school achieve their desired outcomes. It’s been a rewarding experience for all participants and reflects the positive impact of the AACSB volunteer network."
Further, AACSB’s executive vice president and chief officer for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Timothy Mescon, agrees that the program has proven effective and echoes the merit of the volunteers. He was recently at United Methodist University in Monrovia and remarked of the visit, “I can attest to the indelible impact the GIN program is having on the business school, its faculty, and its students. It’s a wonderful and positive initiative driven by exceptional volunteer coaches.”
Feedback from GIN participants themselves suggests that the projects already have relevance beyond the four schools piloting the program. The president of United Methodist University’s business school, Albert Coleman, commented, “We are benefiting a lot from our membership in AACSB and the GIN project. The academic environment is changing, and what is being done in the College of Management and Administration is rubbing off on other colleges.”
And through his experience with GIN, Ahmed Hassanein, advisor to the Mediterranean School of Business project, confirmed his belief that “business schools face mostly similar challenges that are twisted by their different concepts. Success in improving quality is a team work effort that can only be achieved smoothly if the University and School administrators are in harmony.”
These views help validate the idea that, in the grand scheme of things, schools of business are more alike than they are disparate in their ambitions for educating future leaders. Differences exist, in large part, in resources—not just the financial type but information-based, as well. And this information availability is at the heart of the GIN project. As President Coleman succinctly stated, “[T]he knowledge must be shared. Quality improvement must be ongoing to create the impact it is intended to create.”