Getting accredited is becoming an ever more important task to fulfil for schools who want to prove their quality on the international scene. That's especially the case for business schools.
It is a tough thing to do for deans although the reward is more than interesting. It's all about having efficient processes.
Although it's a hard time for faculty to adapt and play the game collectively, it is an even harder time for accreditation managers.
Indeed, we asked more than sixty accreditation managers what were their most annoying pain points. 83,3% of them told us their most difficult phase of accreditation was the implementation of processes and data collection phase.
Two problems stood out: 37% said getting everyone on the process to be involved was their biggest challenge. 51% said data collection techniques were the one challenge that made their day? well, not a good day.
In the meantime, it is important to remind that this function is still significantly new in universities' structures. With tech coming into the game and the growing importance of reputation internationally, accreditation managers will see their job greatly evolve through the coming years.
How? How can they get through these pain points and ensure AoL? We asked these questions to Keith Pond and Stephanie Lambert, director and administrator at EOCCS, a promising and innovative accreditation and a part of the EFMD group.
The institution's brand strategist
Accreditation managers have access to data. A lot of data. They collect, centralize, simplify the visualization of these data for directors.
They have a viewpoint on everything. ?Having a lot of data is great, but what do you do with it?? says Keith Pond, ?they must wonder how do they maintain data, how to use it in management decisions.?
And that's where the role of accreditation managers is getting very much exciting. They could be seen as the spearhead, the strategic brain of an institution.
?Higher education is becoming more and more like a market. Thus, the accreditation manager has got to be very strategic with accreditation. He's the one who knows how to show that university in its best light.?
Opting for one accreditation or another, thus, has a concrete significance. Whether you want to be part of the elite with the triple crown, or whether you want to show you are innovative and provide online courses with EOCCS, or whether you want to show your deep attachment with ethics with PRME and learning with ABCSP.
According to Keith Pond, in the end, it's the whole university's identity and image depend on what the accreditation manager thinks could be smart to do. More than just the accreditation, "data collected by managers are now used for the school's marketing."
More implication on the learning experience
The need for measurement, for qualitative and quantitative data on the learning experience (reflected by students surveys, team excellence frameworks or teaching processes) are at the heart of Assurance of Learning (AoL).
AoL is a process and a methodology for continuous improvement in learning, it is also an indicator of how well you do with your students. There, an accreditation manager will be more and more important and implicated in the "what you do with data. That's what an EQUIS panel will ask you when they come to your school," Pond adds.
"For EQUIS, accreditation managers are responsible for proposing ways to use data in order to show improvements in the learning experience."
"So definitely, the accreditation manager is going to become a far more important role in those institutions that want the reputation and that want to recruit students from outside of their local area," Keith pond affirms.
Simply put, a lot of schools are going to need to put this position at the heart of their decision making, their pedagogical and their marketing strategy.
Nevertheless, this position still faces a problem of recognition in schools. "Accreditation managers are far far more important than they ever used to be, but I'm not sure if universities are very good at seeing academics and administrators on the same level. You have academics and then there are administrators," Pond says.
In the survey, we conducted with sixty accreditation managers, one of the issues that made difficult data collection and interpretation was that it was hard for them to get everyone on the same page and get help the right data from everyone.
In conclusion, the ever-evolving position of accreditation manager is going to get more importance in schools' structures. It is in the interests of these schools to help them facilitate the decision-making, the analysis and the use of learning data for AoL.
Innovation and tech can play a role in it. That is one of the visions of EOCCS. More innovative initiatives from schools help at two things: improve learning and ease decision-making.
Hence the deep attachment of this one-of-a-kind accreditation that provides schools with strategies and guidance to achieve this goal.
This is where tech tools can help, not by trying to replace pedagogy and trigger the "dark version of a tech-based Education," as Keith Pond says, but by helping academics and administrators like accreditation managers to improve the learning experience.
In the case of the latter, it would mean save him time to ease the data collection, letting him more time to focus on the big challenge: "what to do with data."
If you're an accreditation manager and feel sometimes in difficult times with your task, fear not, your voyage is full of promises and excitement.
Keith Pond is Director at EOCCS and Senior Lecturer at Loughborough University. More than wise, Keith is a fount of knowledge who deeply believes in a change toward a more innovative Education.
His stories and adventures with EOCCS are greatly inspiring for all academics and accreditation managers in search of improving their students' learning.