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Shaking the Status Quo

by Kimmo Alajoutsijärvi, Kerttu Kettunen, and Sauli Sohlo

Modern business schools exist in a complex world of rankings, ratings and credentials. Some argue that in increasingly competitive global higher education markets, signaling status and quality has actually become more important than being so (Gioia & Corley, 2002; Trank & Rynes, 2003). For many contemporary business schools, international accreditations have become key means and first steps in pursuing legitimacy and global status. In this essay, we elaborate in detail on a business school’s international accreditation process, including its motivations and outcomes. We conclude that while accreditation processes are, at best, fruitful quality improvement exercises, the inherent motivations stemming from the urge for organizational legitimacy, status, and reputation should not be overlooked by either the accrediting agencies or business schools themselves. Ironically, while accreditation agencies (AACSB and EQUIS are the focus of this essay) rarely explicitly encourage competition, their exclusivity seems to generate increasing competition between schools that aspire to belong to ‘the club’. For schools that gain access to the process, this means that on the flip side of the happy and collaborative quality jump there is a much more serious demarcation and revealing redefinition of the accredited entity’s future supporters, collaborators, partners, and competitors.

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