Q&A with Tim Mescon – Executive vice president of AACSB International on changes affecting business education

Business Forward had an exclusive one-on-one with Tim Mescon, the executive vice president of AACSB, the oldest and largest accreditation agency of business schools in the world.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) was founded in the USA in 1916. Initially only accrediting faculties in North America, the AACSB began accrediting business schools around the world in the 90s. In addition to its original headquarters in Tampa, Florida, the AACSB now hosts headquarters in Amsterdam and Singapore, and has a worldwide membership of more than 1,700 organizations in over 100 countries, and has accredited more than 800 business schools.

Mescon also serves as the AACSB’s chief officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Before taking his current position, Mescon served for 25 years as an AACSB peer review team member, chair and committee member.

Business Forward sat down with Mescon to discuss the nuances of business schools in the Middle East and North Africa and what is in store for the future of business education.

Who are the AACSB are and what do they do?

AACSB is the oldest, largest quality assurance organization and accreditor of business schools and faculties in the world. Founded in 1916 to oversee high quality and continuous improvement in business schools, AACSB is a member driven, non-profit with over 1,650 members in 101 countries and territories. It accredits close to 900 business schools in 56 countries and territories and has offices in Tampa, Florida, USA, Singapore (Asia Pacific) and Amsterdam (EMEA).

What does it take for a business school today to achieve AACSB accreditation?

AACSB has the most rigorous business school accreditation process in the world and our membership approved nine new standards in 2020. They are divided into three categories: 1) Strategic Management & Innovation; 2) Learner Success; and 3) Thought Leadership: Engagement and Social Impact. Additionally, there are 10 guiding principles including Ethics and Integrity, Global Mindset and Diversity & Inclusion, among others that all of our accredited schools must continue to meet.

Does AACSB account for contextual differences with business schools in the Middle East and North Africa? If yes, what does it take for them to achieve accreditation?

The answer is yes! AACSB proudly supports well over 100 member schools across MENA. A number of these are already accredited with many more working on initial accreditation. Our standards are principles-based and mission-driven. We respect the unique mission and strategic plan of each of our schools. Country and cultural context is always embraced and most importantly, schools align their unique missions within this context and celebrate their differences and distinctions in the AACSB accreditation process.

What are some of the key disruptions that business schools in the Middle East and Africa will have to prepare themselves for? How are they different or similar to business schools based in advanced economies?

In some regards, the disruptions are the same. Of course, over the last 11 months, COVID-19 has disrupted the world. But likewise, there are schools around the world that encounter geopolitical, socioeconomic, financial and natural disaster challenges. There’s all kinds of issues that challenge our schools and we acknowledge them. We understand that and we work with them through whatever disruption that they may encounter at any given moment in time. These challenges are faced by our members across all of AACSB’s regions.

What preparations are AACSB making for future disruptions to business and management education?

In our new 2020 AACSB Standards, in the section on Strategic Management and Innovation, schools must prepare a risk assessment and clearly discuss scenarios that might occur and how the business school will manage through these possible challenges. This is a critical element of the strategic planning process. They identify risk factors that they may encounter and they share with us as part of their strategic plan how they will manage these risks. We understand that and we see that schools create strategies to manage as best they can during periods of great disruption.

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