Newly Accredited: Nijmegen School of Management on Earning AACSB Accreditation
Dean Paul Hendricks discusses how the accreditation process helped highlight his school's significance in the social sphere and its positioning as a combined research-education institution.
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.
In this interview, Paul Hendricks, dean of Nijmegen School of Management at Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, shares his frank perspectives on the challenges of dealing with some of the “nitty-gritty details” involved with some of the standards, but balances that with the benefit of solidifying a stronger school identity through the process, and being able to leverage that status for greater international draw, for students, potential partners, and broad societal impact.
Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB accreditation?
The quality of our programs requires an orientation to internationalization, and AACSB accreditation supports our internationalization efforts. Students need to become aware of the global societal impact of business organizations and financial markets; they need to recognize how businesses cause huge problems of social and ecological sustainability, for instance, and at the same are time indispensable for solving them.
Internationalization requires a high-quality network of partner universities, allowing adequate possibilities for our students to go abroad, for international students to visit us as degree or exchange students, and for students to enroll in double-degree programs. To support these efforts, we perceive AACSB accreditation as important, if not a prerequisite, for providing us with a solid basis to develop and continuously improve our programs.
What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
AACSB requires an institution to draw an integral picture of itself, with the school’s mission as the driving force for self-inspection. Nijmegen School of Management (NSM) houses a distinctive set of seven social sciences under one roof. Next to business administration and economics, we have programs in political science, public governance, social studies of the environment, human geography, and spatial planning. We have been used to site visits from peers and accreditation processes for decades; NSM has had an international EAPAA accreditation for our public governance programs for many years. Talking to peers about our education and research endeavors is always very informative.
However, these efforts typically address elements of individual education or research programs in isolation. What the AACSB accreditation exercise instilled in us is the value and challenge of systematically linking detailed discussions of policies and instruments to the broader picture of the dedicated, combined research-education institution our school aims to be.
What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of the accreditation process?
What proved most challenging was to deal with the nitty-gritty details of some of the standards. The challenge is to balance the risks of increased work pressure from implementing new processes with the benefits of accountability and transparency those processes will bring.
Most rewarding was to receive recognition for our mission and identity, in conversations with our mentor, the peer review team, and contacts with peers in assorted AACSB-related meetings. Both the many contacts established during the process and the formal letter confirming our accreditation confirm that peers recognize and appreciate our distinctive identity of seven combined social sciences. An especially rewarding aspect of the process was also the high level of engagement we experienced from faculty, staff, students, and external stakeholders, including AACSB mentor, review team, and staff.
What impact do you hope to see from having achieved AACSB accreditation?
Since its foundation in 1988, our school has developed a tradition of focusing on organizational responsibility as a societal challenge and on a broad understanding of economics that embraces institutional and behavioral perspectives alongside the classical economic theories. We hope that AACSB accreditation can provide a platform to further increase the recognition of our school’s identity, and to further improve learning opportunities for our students as well as students from partner universities.
What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
I would approach the accreditation journey as much more than just a journey toward accreditation. I would advise schools to perceive accreditation as only an end in itself and to view the journey toward accreditation as primarily goal driven.
Embarking on an AACSB accreditation trajectory is perhaps not exactly the same as going on vacation, but one similarity is that the journey may be as important as the destination. Enjoy the ride! Do not forget to stop from time to time to experience hidden gems on the way and—occasionally—to reconsider the exact destination.
In addition, I would urge schools to actively look for and value conversations both in their communities and with peers in the vast network of assorted business schools that AACSB is. My advice is to approach the accreditation process as an ideal enabler for such meaningful, inspiring conversations.
Paul Hendricks is dean of Nijmegen School of Management at Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen in the Netherlands.