> IACBE Accreditation and Quality Management
Measuring and Advancing Academic Quality in Business Education
The IACBE evaluates academic quality in terms of the mission-related performance of an academic business unit. In other words, the IACBE’s process of quality assurance focuses on the results or outcomes of an academic business unit's various educational processes. Furthermore, since the overall performance of an academic business unit depends on the extent to which the unit effectively manages its entire range of activities and operations, the IACBE’s accreditation process takes a Quality Management Systems (QMS) approach to evaluating and advancing academic quality in business and management education.
Key Elements and Principles of a Quality Management System
The foundation for the implementation of a quality assurance process is the establishment of a comprehensive quality management system that involves the entire organization and its activities. A Quality Management System, or QMS, is a comprehensive framework that integrates organizational structures and practices for the purpose of utilizing human and other resources in the most effective ways to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization. In order for a QMS to fulfill its purpose of improving organizational performance, it must incorporate the following key elements:
- Customer Focus
Since organizational success depends on customer satisfaction, an effective QMS focuses on the requirements and expectations of the organization’s customers and other stakeholders.
- Shared Vision and Collective Responsibility
An effective QMS involves all organizational personnel in working toward common goals and seeks to embed the quality discipline into the organizational culture.
- Integration with Strategy
Organizational success depends on the effective definition and implementation of strategy. An effective QMS requires the integration of quality as a core component into an organization’s stategic planning process.
- Continuous Improvement
Continuous quality improvement drives an organization to be both analytical and creative in finding ways to (i) achieve its mission, vision, and goals, (ii) be more competitive in the marketplace, and (iii) be more effective in meeting stakeholder requirements and expectations. An effective QMS includes processes for the continuous enhancement of quality and for the continuous monitoring and communication of the performance of improvement initiatives.
- Evidence-Based Decision Making
Effective decisions are always based on the analysis of data and information. An effective QMS requires an organization to develop appropriate performance measures and to collect and analyze data from those measures on a continuing basis in order to inform decision making and strategic planning.
- Accountability and Transparency
An effective QMS requires an organization to be accountable to its stakeholders for quality and transparent in disclosing performance.
As a result of continuously improving capabilities, people, and processes, the implementation of an effective QMS leads to continuous performance improvement in all organizational activities, from high-level strategic planning and decision making to the detailed execution of ongoing functional and operational processes. Consequently, continuous improvement must deal not only with improving results, but also with improving resource capabilities and operational processes to produce better results in the future. In the QMS approach, continuous improvement, or quality advancement, is a circular or cyclical process that links the diagnostic, planning, implementation, and evaluation phases of the quality management system with feedback and adjustment mechanisms that provide the cyclical element to the continuous improvement process.
The IACBE’s QMS Process of Quality Assurance in Business Education
The IACBE’s definition of academic quality focuses on the outcomes or results of the educational process, i.e., on the overall level of performance of the academic business unit in the context of its mission. Although adequate levels of human, financial, physical, and other academic resources are important contributing factors to academic quality as determined by educational outcomes, the overall quality of education also depends on the educational processes used by the academic business unit to convert those resources to outcomes (e.g., teaching and other faculty interactions with students; faculty development and scholarly activities; curricular review and enhancement; and strategic planning). Therefore, the IACBE’s accreditation process evaluates not only outcomes but also the value of resource capabilities and educational and operational processes in terms of their ability to produce those outcomes.
Consequently, the IACBE’s QMS approach to accreditation and quality assurance incorporates the key elements identified above and involves a comprehensive set of accreditation criteria – our “Accreditation Principles” – pertaining to both academic resource measures and educational processes. In addition, the criteria require an academic business unit to implement an outcomes assessment process in which it assesses not only student learning but also the extent of its operational effectiveness, i.e., its functional performance in light of its intended outcomes. For more information on operational effectiveness, see Michael Porter and Operational Effectiveness. For information on outcomes assessment as a quality management system, see The Outcomes Assessment Plan.
Furthermore, the IACBE’s QMS approach also emphasizes continuous quality improvement in the overall performance of the academic business unit, including improvements in resource capabilities and operational processes. Specifically, the IACBE’s accreditation criteria require an academic business unit to develop and implement a comprehensive quality assessment and advancement system involving an ongoing cyclical process that includes planning, execution, evaluation, and feedback phases for continuous improvement. This continual assessment cycle requires the academic business unit to “close the loop” in assessment, i.e., to use assessment results to identify changes and improvements that are needed in its business programs, processes, and activities, to develop and implement action plans for making those changes and improvements, and to assess the extent to which the action plans resulted in the desired outcome. In addition, for the purpose of continuous performance improvement, the IACBE’s accreditation criteria require an academic business unit to link its outcomes assessment process to its strategic planning process for the future. For more information on the assessment cycle, see Continuous Quality Improvement and the Deming Cycle and Outcomes Assessment and Continuous Improvement.