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AACSB, the US-headquartered business school accreditation body, is to set up a regional headquarters in Europe, in Amsterdam. The organisation already has an Asian regional headquarters in Singapore.
The move will bring AACSB into more direct competition with the European accreditation body, EFMD (the European Foundation for Management Development), which is based in Brussels and runs the Equis accreditation scheme. However, John Fernandez, president and chief executive officer of AACSB, insists the relationship between the two organisations will continue to be constructive and mutually beneficial.
“Once it gets into Equis versus AACSB, some competition may manifest itself in the field, but we don’t see it that way.” There are a lot of schools that want to have accreditation from both organisations, he says.
Robert Sullivan, dean of the Rady school at the University of California at San Diego, and chair of the AACSB, goes further. “I actually expect more interface and more co-operation,” he says.
However, the two organisations have a different approach to accreditation, continues Mr Fernandez. “Equis prefers to be more selective, AACSB is open, but deep and rigorous.” Eventually, business schools may ask the organisations to work together, to make the accreditation process more efficient, he adds.
As well as Europe, Mr Fernandez emphasises that the Amsterdam office will be the hub from which the organisation will work with business schools in the emerging regions of Africa and the Middle East.
Today AACSB accredits more than 700 business schools, but only 25 per cent of those are outside the US. The organisation is clearly hoping there will be European, African and Middle Eastern schools keen to join them.
Prof Sullivan points out that this is what happened on the opening of the Singapore office in 2009. “Asia took off for us when the decision was taken to open an office in Singapore. For us not to be positioned in Europe and serving Europe, the Middle East and Africa, was a glaring hole.”
The decision to locate in Amsterdam is based on the strong transport facilities there, especially for air travel, real estate and other costs, and the need for a location where English language is widely spoken, says Mr Fernandez.