With the scarcity of jobs on both the African continent and abroad, it is essential for African business professionals to select a business school that holds international accreditation/s, as this will objectively ensure the quality of education on which they will build their future career.
This is the view of Professor Eon Smit, professor of Business Management at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), in South Africa. Smit says that in Sub-Saharan Africa there is, given the size of the population, an overwhelming shortage of business schools that conform to the most minimal quality criteria that can be set for such institutions, excluding the government accredited schools in South Africa. He says that in the competitive business environment on the African continent – and the world beyond – an accreditation stamp provides surety of quality education.
“Given significant quality differences between thousands of international business schools, interested groups have taken the initiative to lay down the quality criteria for business schools and have set up watchdogs to act as guardians of quality. For example, EQUIS was initiated by employer organisations to guard their interests, the AACSB originated out of the self-interest of the education industry to guard quality education and AMBA mainly represents the interests of the alumni of business schools. Each brings a slightly different perspective to quality, which if regarded jointly, provides assurance of quality education from a wide number of perspectives.”
According to Smit, accreditation implies that a business school qualification is backed up by a guarantee that it adheres to the strictest international quality criteria in the industry, comparable to the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) norms. The guarantee is not issued by the school itself or through subjective market judgements; instead, it is underwritten by the school’s international competitors who are part of the judgement passed by the international community.
He says that the value of accreditation is significant, with benefits reaching far beyond rankings or prestige. “They provide students with the surety that they will receive quality education, especially when competing in the global employment market. Students are also given the opportunity to take advantage of the vast knowledge, institutional and personal networks represented by the accrediting bodies.”
Smit says that globally there are numbers of schools hoping to one day achieve Triple Crown (AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA) accreditations. “It is the only objective measure through which a school’s quality is acknowledged by its competitors and beyond. Achieving the Triple Crown accreditation represents more than a marketing exercise; it is in fact the outcome of a comprehensive quest for total quality control.”
However, Smit says that achieving the Triple Crown of accreditations is currently still a tall order for the majority of Africa’s business schools.
“For many reasons, most of Africa’s business schools do not yet pursue accreditations. For some, there may be a large gap between the status quo and the ideal standards, and catching up is very difficult. Other schools instead may prefer to act on the local playing field, rather than to become international bastions of business knowledge and acumen. Moreover, it is also possible that schools may decide to utilise scarce resources in pursuing rankings rather than academic accreditations.”
In addition to these challenges, Smit says that Africa’s business schools have to deal with many issues that relate to internal institutional legitimacy. For example, the need for a high level of autonomy for business schools is not necessarily well understood within educational systems or universities. The quest for quality is further hampered by financial constraints to the creation of a modern learning environment.
“Overcoming these challenges will not be easy and progress may be relatively slow. Progress will depend on factors such as stepping up economic growth rates, which will create a demand for well-trained management, real international fixed investment driving a high-level manpower demand, and an accompanying programme of assistance to achieve this. Furthermore, dedicated assistance in building international schools in partnership with African institutions will also contribute,” he concludes.