Myths 7 and 8 About AACSB Accreditation Standards: Faculty Qualifications
Standard 15 is a dense standard with a lot to unpack, but AACSB has some built-in exceptions to account for unusual faculty cases.
It certainly appears I got the attention of AACSB member schools with my recent post titled “6 Myths About AACSB Accreditation Standards.” The post created quite a lot of conversation on AACSB’s member forum discussion board. Good! The only way to ensure a common understanding of the standards is to shine a light on areas that have been misinterpreted or misperceived, and to provide clarification from AACSB. I’d like to address two particular points that have been discussed in the member forum, to make sure stakeholders have the correct information. All following references are to AACSB’s 2013 accreditation standards.
Myth No. 7: You must have a doctoral degree to be classified as a “Scholarly Academic” (SA) or a “Practice Academic” (PA).
Relevant Accreditation Standard: 15
Fact: Standard 15 addresses this issue and states, “Normally, a doctoral degree emphasizing advanced foundational discipline-based research is appropriate initial academic preparation for SA and PA status….” The word “normally” in the standard is intentional, and allows schools flexibility in classifying non-doctorates as SA or PA. This is further supported by the following language in Standard 15:
If individuals have doctoral degrees that are less foundational discipline-based research-oriented or if their highest degrees are not doctorates, then they must demonstrate higher levels of sustained, substantive academic and/or professional engagement activities to support their currency and relevance in their fields of teaching and their contributions to other mission components. The burden of proof is on the school to make its case for SA or PA status in such cases. AACSB expects that there will be only a limited number (normally not to exceed 10%) of cases in which individuals without doctoral degrees also have SA or PA status.
Thus, it would not be a violation of AACSB standards to classify a non-doctorate faculty member as SA or PA, provided the faculty member is engaged in a higher level of academic (for SA status) and/or professional engagement (for PA status) activities than doctoral-qualified faculty. Further, the total number of non-doctorate SA and PA faculty should not normally exceed 10 percent of the school’s total faculty.
In addition to the above path by which a faculty member could be classified as SA without a doctoral degree, Standard 15 also includes two explicit exceptions to the doctoral degree requirement whereby an individual normally would be classified as SA without a doctoral degree (i.e., not subject to the 10 percent limitation above):
Individuals with a graduate degree in law will be considered SA or PA for teaching business law and legal environment of business, subject to ongoing, sustained, and substantive academic and/or professional engagement demonstrating currency and relevance related to the teaching field.
Individuals with a graduate degree in taxation or an appropriate combination of graduate degrees in law and accounting will be considered SA or PA to teach taxation subject to continued sustained academic and professional engagement that demonstrates relevance and currency in the field of teaching.
For the graduate degree in law, a JD is the usual credential that qualifies a faculty member as SA or PA to teach business law and law-related classes. For the graduate degree in taxation, a Master of Taxation or a Master of Accountancy plus an LLM (law degree specializing in taxation) is the customary credential that qualifies a faculty member as SA or PA for teaching taxation.
Note that in all instances—not just these examples—it is not only the degree, but also the activities in which a faculty member engages that will together qualify a faculty member as SA or PA. The standards provide examples of the types of activities in which an SA or PA faculty member typically engages to maintain SA or PA status.
Myth No. 8: A faculty member with a doctoral degree who does not publish is automatically classified as a “Scholarly Practitioner” (SP).
Relevant Accreditation Standard: 15
Fact: A faculty member with a doctoral degree who does not publish or otherwise maintain activities consistent with SA status could be properly classified as a Practice Academic (PA) if they are deeply engaged in substantive and sustained activities involving the practice community. This transition from SA to PA status is common, as faculty members’ primary engagement activities often change over the life of their academic career. The standards provide examples of the types of activities in which a PA faculty member typically engages to maintain PA status.
Note that PA is not a default status for doctoral faculty who fail to maintain activities consistent with SA status. If an individual is not engaged in activities aligned with the practice community sufficient to qualify as PA, they would be classified as “Other.”
Similarly, SP status is not a default for a doctoral faculty member who does not maintain activities consistent with SA status. SP status is designed for practitioner faculty members who normally possess a master’s degree and have substantial professional experience in terms of duration and level of responsibility, and who augment their professional experience by engaging in scholarly activities in their field of teaching. Thus, it would not be aligned with the spirit of Standard 15 to classify an individual as SP who does not have substantial professional experience or who does not engage in academic and professional engagement activities aligned with the professional nature of this classification.
Standard 15 is a dense standard and there’s a lot to unpack in it. I highly recommend that all stakeholders take the time to read through Standard 15. A careful and thoughtful read will help you feel confident that you understand the nuances of this standard. Above all, keep in mind that AACSB has some built-in exceptions to account for unusual cases where faculty members may not appear to have the appropriate degree, but where they have compensating experience and substantive and sustained activities that make it reasonable for the school to justify a different classification.
Did You Know?
If your school has completed the most recent Business School Questionnaire (BSQ), Staff Compensation & Demographics Survey (SCDS), or both, you are eligible for access to the benchmarking data from those surveys. Available data for each include the reporting schools’ definitions of the four basic types of faculty qualifications, which accredited members are required to include, as well as the numbers of faculty that fall under each classification. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions regarding DataDirect. You can also view our online DataDirect tutorials.
Stephanie Bryant is executive vice president and chief accreditation officer at AACSB International and is based in Tampa. Follow her on Twitter @StephMBryant.