Accreditation of Business Schools: An Explanatory Multiple-Case Study of their Motivations
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Commerce
The commitment required of a university or business school to gain international accreditation is significant, both in dollar terms and staff time. This thesis seeks to explain the motivations for business schools to seek accreditation with three major accrediting bodies, AACSB International, EFMD and AMBA, using a multiple-case study methodology underpinned by the frameworks of institutional isomorphism, bandwagon pressures and information asymmetry. Interviews were carried out with 17 business school deans; five deans of accredited schools in Europe, five deans of accredited schools in the United States of America and seven business school deans in New Zealand. All the New Zealand schools were either accredited, formally in the process of seeking accreditation or about to enter the application stage. The results provide supporting evidence for the notion that business schools are seeking accreditation in order to achieve legitimacy benefits rather than performance benefits, and that intangible benefits are seen as having more importance than the costs involved with achieving accreditation. It was also found that where the focus is at an international level, accreditation is found to be underpinned by information asymmetries whereby schools are seeking to gain legitimacy by providing signals to the market regarding their quality. At a regional or national level information regarding quality is more well known and, instead, isomorphic and bandwagon pressures become evident as the pathway towards legitimacy. This study will be of value to business school deans in understanding the forces they are being subjected to when considering the value of seeking international accreditation. The results provide an understanding of why, in the absence of a formal business case, a school may consider such a move, or may have entered the process without the hard data that identifies the costs and estimates the benefits in a measurable way. In this regard it will also be of value to all staff of business schools, and of the wider organisation, to understand the phenomenon that is accreditation.