Enrolling for an MBA is a life-changing decision, destined to open doors and intended to catapult your personal development and your career to new heights.
With an abundance of business schools nationally and internationally, the choice of which business school to study your MBA through can be a daunting one. Reputation, curricula, campus, location, fees, flexibility, length of study, faculty, research output, social relevance and alumni are all factors that one needs to consider very carefully.
With an unfortunate flurry of fly-by-night business schools and an increasingly tough job market, one needs to be extremely discerning regarding the choice of business schools. Accreditation is always a defining factor. Is the MBA reputable, is it at least accredited by its country’s local qualifications authority and, ideally, does it have any additional international accreditation?
In the global arena, there are three potential sought-after accreditations for business schools, providing impartial approval and quality assurance. These include AMBA, EQUIS and AACSB.
Jon Foster-Pedley - Dean and Director, Henley Business School - South Africa
The London-based AMBA (The Association of MBAs) provides a highly-valued accreditation service for MBA, MBM and DBA programmes world-wide. AMBA recognises the highest standards of education and training and also provides a professional membership association for MBA students, faculty members, graduates and employers. Its focus is more on the actual programmes than what the particular institution has or offers. Accreditation takes cognisance of a business school’s commitment to innovation and its ability to adapt its programme meaningfully in response to changing business trends.
Only 183 business schools have earned the AMBA accreditation. International schools on this prestigious list include top institutions such as the Bradford School of Business Management, Brunel, City University of Hong Kong, Dublin City University, HEC, London Business School, Australia’s Monash University and the Queens School of Business in Canada.
In South Africa, the list of AMBA-accredited schools includes Pretoria University’s Gordon Institute of Business Science, Henley Business School, Stellenbosch University’s Graduate School of Business and the Wits Business School.
EQUIS (European Quality Improvement Standard) aims to raise the standard of management education worldwide. This accreditation rates all programmes offered by management educational institutions, including research, executive education, e-learning and community outreach projects. Accreditation isn’t limited to the MBA programme but spans the full spectrum of degrees, from a first degree to a Ph.D.
Institutions with the EQUIS seal of approval include Melbourne Business School, Toulouse Business School, Amsterdam Business School, Cass Business School, Durham, Edinburgh University and Bentley. Locally, the University of Cape Town, Henley Business School and Stellenbosch University bear the EQUIS hallmark.
The AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) provides accreditation for business and accounting programmes for Bachelor, Masters and Doctoral degrees internationally. In the pursuit of top-quality education, AACSB standards evaluate a business school’s mission, operations, faculty qualifications, programmes and other critical areas.
The list of AACSB members is impressive, with 633 institutions in 41 countries. In academic and business circles, the AACSB is a rigorously awarded and highly respected emblem.
Just 1% of all business schools worldwide have triple accreditation, from AMBA, EQUIS and AACSB. In South Africa and across the African continent, only one institution wears this triple crown - Henley Business School.
Part of one of the oldest business schools in Europe, Henley has been operating in South Africa for 20 years. Henley South Africa’s Dean and Director, Jon Foster-Pedley, says the triple accreditation for the school is an honour but it comes with immense responsibility too. “Our accreditation puts us in the premier league and gives our students and their employers confidence and assurance of a robust and relevant qualification. It’s humbling though and although we’re very proud to have it, there’s no time to be arrogant or rest on our laurels, as we know we need to work on improving our programme consistently. The MBA programme and our governance of the business school are constantly being monitored and evaluated by esteemed panels of international specialists,” he says.
Henley South Africa’s MBA curriculum has been designed by a multinational team and adapted to be relevant to developing economies. Attracting already-experienced managers, Henley’s teaching focuses on real-world dilemmas and business choices.
An important aspect of Henley South Africa’s MBA programme is its social and business relevance. Students are encouraged to give their time and energy to benefit communities and society at large. For example, MBAid is a unique learning initiative whereby students work with a range of South African NGOs, applying business theories and methods to address the needs of existing organisations. With practical strategic advice and input, MBA students contribute meaningfully to improve the management and service delivery of these organisations, which operate in fields such as education, housing and HIV/AIDS. Quantifying the value of this input runs close to R20 million to date.
Henley is not looking just to attract intellectual applicants but is focused on taking in practising managers eager and willing to be moulded and developed to a very high standard. Foster-Pedley is passionate about Henley seizing the opportunity to uplift the overall standard of education among managers: “By developing managers who can go out into the workplace and lead, inspire and motivate others, we can support many people to do their jobs better and to make a real difference,” he says.