Newly Accredited: Umeå University on Earning AACSB Accreditation
Dean of Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics at Umeå University, Sofia Lundberg, shares insights on the school's journey to AACSB Accreditation and its impact on the university.
In this blog series, AACSB is spotlighting 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, Sofia Lundberg, associate professor of economics and dean of Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics at Umeå University, shares her experience in going through the initial accreditation process, lessons learned, and the impact it will have on the school.
Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB Accreditation?
The vision of Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics (USBE) is to be a university-based business school firmly rooted in the region, nationally influential, and internationally respected. The USBE mission is to create knowledge in interaction with stakeholders to develop responsible leaders with a sustainability orientation for a local and global society. AACSB provides the quality system and the international community necessary to achieve our mission and live by our vision. We share the clear focus on processes and continuous improvement of quality of business education, as well as the global mindset and commitment to making a difference with the AACSB Business Education Alliance. The international outlook is important to us, and the AACSB network offers great opportunity to engage with other high-quality business schools around the world.
What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
Prior to the accreditation process, we created a new vision, mission, and strategy for USBE. Through the process we learned how important it was for the activities to be aligned with the mission and for the strategy to support the development of the school. It has been rewarding to see how the education, research, and business communities support each other. Today, these three strands of activities are even more integrated and seen as complementary ingredients in our success than before. We have also learned that things we take for granted can be innovations and that we have strengths that can be better utilized in marketing our school. Let me offer one example from the peer review report: “The school is to be commended for its ‘open-door’ policy between most faculty and students. Students at all levels spoke highly of the ability to access their professors and lectures in person to ask questions or receive guidance.” The feedback from the peer review team report was incredibly helpful and will contribute to our continuous improvement.
What was the most challenging/rewarding part of the accreditation process?
It is difficult to identify the most challenging/rewarding part of the process. The AACSB standards provide us with a framework for continuous improvement, which positively affects us on a daily basis. Because of this, we see several parts of the process that have been truly rewarding. Among them are the standard for faculty qualification that challenged us to set clear objectives and better communicate expectations of faculty. This was, in the short term, challenging in some respects, but in the long run very rewarding, placing more focus on quality over quantity. Further, this standard contributes to the identification and recognition of activities related to faculty interaction with the business community.
Another rewarding part is the assurance of learning system—a solid system for working with and following up on learning objectives, and for curricula development with a clear link to the objectives. The student is in focus and the system ensures that our school offers education of highest quality.
What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB Accreditation?
We can see internal as well as external impact. The internal impact has to do with ensuring continuous improvement and recognition of impact and making sure that we live by our standards and mission. As a university-integrated, campus-located business school, USBE is gaining attention for our work and our colleagues; Umeå University wants to learn from us. Receiving internal recognition from the university management is of great value and it brings attention to all the joint efforts from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and external partners that led us to earning AACSB accreditation. Externally we are looking forward to enhanced and broader international recruitment to our programs and for our extensive international student exchange program to be further activated via the AACSB community. The quality improvement system and assurance of learning process give an excellent foundation to provide our students with the best learning environment that prepares them for the global challenges ahead.
What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
Try, at an early stage, to engage the whole school in the process, including business community partners and students. Give the process, the organization, and yourself time to understand the standards and how your school relates to them. Be honest about your weaknesses and strengths—this is a good opportunity to recognize them and improve! Focus on the process and make it as integrated in your daily work and strategic development as possible. The accreditation will come to you when your processes align with the standards and your mission. Use your mentor, the AACSB resources, and your peers. The AACSB community offers a lot of support. The conferences and seminars target not only management but also professional staff and faculty, and broad participation facilitates greater implementation of standards. Look forward to the peer review team visit—it is a privilege to have external eyes on your business school, and their advice and report is of great value.
Sofia Lundberg is associate professor of economics and the Dean of Umeå School of Business, Economics and Statistics at Umeå University.