George Iliev, Director AMBA: We actually accredit the institution that delivers the programme"
In fact there were few institutions in Russia in the past ten years that did more to promote AMBA (Association of MBAs) in Russia, than RABE and MBA.SU. We always emphasize that AMBA accreditation is synonymous with quality of business education. Recently, the number of accredited business schools in Russia has increased significantly. George Iliev, Director of the MBA in China and developing markets responded to the most actual issues of MBA.SU.
MBA.SU: The AMBA analyzes the activities of the business school on the materials provided by the business school itself. The assessment of satisfaction with educatuion is based on interviews with graduates, who are also selected by the business school itself. Do you consider that an analysis based on such a subjective basis may differ from the real picture?
George Iliev: Students and Alumni are indeed selected by the School. However:
a) MBA students are very demanding and pay high tuition fees, so if there is a major issue, they will speak up - at least in the West or in India; In East Asia they do tend to be more reticent.
b) We also meet with alumni, so there is no conflict of interest, and we get solid feedback from alumni. (The problem with alumni feedback is that many things they may complain about from 7 years ago may no longer be relevant. While the feedback of current students is always relevant.)
c) We know how to interview students/alumni to get constructive feedback. "My school is great" is not the type of feedback we ask for. We ask for one suggestion for improvement from every student and graduate we meet.
As for the materials, we do review websites and social media channels as well to form an opinion on the actual state of the institution.
MBA.SU: How the AMBA estimates the activity of the business school on the emerging markets? How it reacts on the cases, when the business school sales the surrogates (i.e. mini-MBA programs) or uses the unfair advertising, which misleads the potential customers?
George Iliev: AMBA does not approve of the Mini-MBA denomination. If schools want to deliver Executive Education that draws on elements of the MBA, we would welcome a programme title such as "MBA Essentials".
Also, the term Advanced Management Programme /AMP (2-3-month-long courses for executives) is an established and valuable concept in the US, and it is up to business schools to decide how advanced their target market needs to be: senior executives or junior executives.
MBA.SU: How AMBA estimates the reputation of the business school on the emerging markets? Which kind of the real independent and reliable information it uses?
George Iliev: We are not led by reputation: reputation is the corollary of running a good programme.
For AMBA the two key outcomes are satisfied students/graduates and satisfied employers.
a) Students would be happy if they get good quality practice-based education (balancing theory and practice), employment opportunities and a good return on investment (post-MBA salary vs. cost of the MBA).
b) Employers would be happy if they get skilled employees from the MBA programmes. And we do meet and interview employers as part of the accreditation process to find out what may be missing and what skills shortages there are in MBA programmes.
A School that achieves these two top-level outcomes will undoubtedly have a strong reputation on its market.
MBA.SU: The primary accreditation is given for 3 years, the next - for 5 years. During such a long period, the MBA program may changes its parameters and could has the differences from the accredited program. Does AMBA analyzes the websites of accredited business schools within the accreditation period?
George Iliev: Normally an initial accreditation is for 3 years. The follow-up re-accreditation may result in a 5-year accreditation if no major issues are identified, or 3 years may be the outcome again if the visit ends with a number of conditions and recommendation.
Schools are required to submit to AMBA any new programmes or major changes to the programme for review in between the accreditation visits, so it is unlikely that we would not know about something major.
If a school makes major changes or launches new programmes and has forgotten to notify AMBA (which has happened in the past), we often see it on social media, or we may be tipped off by the school's competitors on the market (other accredited schools); or MBA applicants contact us and ask if Programme X is accredited. We do get a large number of student/applicant questions by email or phone in London, so I would say the business school world is very transparent nowadays. (Something may be hidden temporarily but not for too long.)
MBA.SU: The franchising development in business education rises up the question of the possibility of transferring the rights to implement the accredited MBA program to the other schools. What is AMBA's opinion on this issue?
George Iliev: Even though the focus of AMBA accreditation is the MBA/EMBA programmes (and sometimes MPA, MSc Management, MSc Entrepreneurship, and DBA as an add-on), we actually accredit the institution that delivers the programme. It is rare for AMBA-accredited institutions to franchise the delivery of their programme to another provider and in that case we would have to review and approve such an arrangement. For this to be approved, we would need to be satisfied with the quality of delivery at both institutions. However, what is much more common is:
a) A partnership (double-degree) MBA between two schools, or sometimes even a consortium of several schools (e.g. the Euro*MBA delivered by 6 partners). We welcome such partnerships.
b) An accredited school may reach an agreement with an online platform specialist company to support an online/blended MBA programme. In such cases, the accredited school still remains in control of teaching, admissions and assessment, while the online specialist supports the technology platform and helps professors convert their lectures into online material.
MBA.SU: Thanks for your answers!