“Today, young people entering the job market are not necessarily asking for a high salary. Instead, they want to have more integrity, be more equal, and be treated with respect in their workplace. They want to create a difference, a positive change,” says Natalia Ilina, Accreditation and Member Service Manager at AACSB International. She believes that the main task of business schools all over the world is to focus on the positive impact that they can have on society.
While visiting Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) in Lithuania, Ilina emphasised the importance of universities being agile and innovative, always thinking about how to do things differently.
“When we talk about the societal impact, it’s important to understand that we don’t talk about focusing on a certain goal or standard, but rather about the mindset shift. The schools need to focus on change, be innovative, and not afraid to make experiments,” says the representative of the global business education alliance, AACSB, of which KTU is a member.
Since 1916, AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) provides quality assurance, business education intelligence, and learning and development services to over 1,850 member organisations and more than 950 accredited business schools worldwide. Only 6 per cent of the best business schools in the world are AACSB-accredited.
Aiming to join them, in 2018, KTU became a member of the Association and started its accreditation journey.
“Through the accreditation process, the schools prove that they have sufficient resources, authority and responsibility to provide their learners with the education which is not only aligned with the needs of the businesses currently in operation but which will also be relevant in the future world,” says Jurgita Sekliuckiene, Professor at KTU School of Economics and Business.
As a KTU International Accreditation Project Manager, she is convinced that the AACSB accreditation is not only a synonym for high-quality business education but also a commitment to the students, faculty and business. The schools that are set on the accreditation journey (it may take more than 6 years) have to pass the strictly regulated multilevel review and mentoring process provided by the international business education academic community.
Both Sekliuckiene and Ilina believe that the benefits of such partnerships reach beyond the formal recognition or certification. The real value of the process is in the new connections within the academic community, and the common efforts of all the stakeholders involved toward the betterment of the world.
“Any accreditation body is indeed a connector between educators, businesses, learners, alumni and society; it facilitates the alliance of good force. In addition to the implementation of high standards, there are also educational events, and development activities that serve as socialising hubs and help to be in the current of the new trends,” says Ilina, convinced that partnerships can serve as inspiration to contribute to societal change.
KTU School of Economics and Business (SEB) is one of two business schools in Lithuania that are seeking AACSB accreditation. Only 8 of almost 2 thousand members of the Association are from the Baltic region. According to Ilina, the AACSB accreditation can provide a very strong push for the international visibility of KTU. However, she emphasises the continuity of the process, which does not end with accreditation.
“The accredited schools are streamlining their processes internally. For example, it may be, that schools start their accreditation journey for marketing purposes, and end up improving their strategies, their faculty resources and their intellectual contributions,” says Ilina.
She is working with business schools from around the world, including Eastern Europe, Baltic, Asia-Pacific regions, and countries such as China, Taiwan, Australia and Korea, and says that the institutions from different regions face different challenges. Overall, Baltics is a very young market in this respect. While evaluating KTU’s progress, the business education accreditation expert was impressed by the solidity of KTU’s strategic plan, the clear key performance indicators, and the many initiatives the university does for social impact.
Sekliuckiene believes that in the Baltic region, KTU has a unique position of being a business education and research competence centre in a technological university: “This allows us to develop cooperation with technical faculties, using our competencies to create interdisciplinary study programmes and research of added value.”
She points out that interdisciplinarity is one of the five core strategic principles of KTU SEB (others being internationality, talent-nurturing, networking and providing challenge-based learning).
Both experts believe that KTU’s journey towards AACSB accreditation so far has been more than successful.
“We are observing the increased number and quality of the publications in high-level international journals, the more active participation of the staff in international conferences, and the growing number of research grants for national and international research projects. It is all contributing to our strong reputation within the international community, regional and local businesses, and society,” says Sekliuckiene.
“Sometimes structured information is new information,” smiles Ilina, thus emphasising the value of the accreditation journey itself: even the analysis and reporting on the internal processes may contribute to the change.
Sekliuckienė values the possibility to develop the organisation in partnership with AACSB, which empowers the university to implement changes in the study process and research culture, and to actively involve the academic community in the process, which, in turn, results in the social impact to the wider society. According to her, the greatest challenge in this journey is the implementation of competence-based learning in the study process, which is closely related to the AACSB Assurance of Learning (AoL) standard. However, she believes that this is also an opportunity.
“During recent years, not only our School’s faculty staff but also our business partners, and students were involved in the implementation of the AACSB AoL standard. We held numerous discussions, focus groups and meetings and defined the competencies aligned to our mission – cutting-edge knowledge, strategic thinking, critical thinking, entrepreneurship and leadership,” she says.
Ilina agrees that the accreditation process would not be possible without the active involvement of the faculty staff – both administrative and academic, and of the learners.
“All these people are the bloodstream of your organisation,” says the Accreditation and Member Service Manager at AACSB.
According to her, focusing on societal impact should be at the heart of all the activities provided by a contemporary high-quality business school.
“Societal impact is the core value in the mindset of the new generation. Based on our surveys, the business education alumni nowadays are measuring their success not solely by their salaries or position but also by what change they have achieved,” says Ilina, Accreditation and Member Service Manager at AACSB International.
While visiting KTU in October 2022, Ilina took part in the 20th Baltic Management Development Association’s (BMDA) Conference, where she was one of the speakers at the panel discussion “Critical issues in curriculum and educational program design”.