Shaping the Identity of the International Business School : Accreditation as the Road to Success?

University essay from Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet (USBE)


Internationalization is an important strategic issue for survival for most business schools of today. Following this, various international accreditation bodies have in recent years been very succes­s­ful in promoting accreditation as a means of gaining status and prove high quality. These business school accreditation schemes clearly state their targets against top quality international schools and programs. Internationalization of the business school opera­tions can thus be stated to be of vital impor­tance for schools aiming for one or more of these accreditations. The intention of this study is to turn the issue around and explore to which extent, and with what kind of impact, the accreditation processes in turn have on the area of interna­tiona­li­­­zation within the business school organization.


The theoretical framework consists of three main areas: ’The Business School Environment’, ‘Strategy as Practice’ and ‘Institutional Theory’. The first part aims to reach an understanding for the environment and situation that business schools of today are facing. It also highlights major challenges for the future. In the second part, Strategy as Practice research theories are used to gain understanding for strategy behaviour and strategy creation within plu­ra­listic organi­zations, such as the higher education insti­tution. The third part deals with issues on Quality Frameworks with the aim to reach understanding for the im­pact such processes can have on the organization. Sensemaking Theory is further used to illustrate the rational behind decision making of busi­ness school leaders and the concluding part connects theories on quality frameworks to Identity Creation, linking together identity with culture and image.


The research approach for this qualitative study is the abductive one and the empirical data is collected through a number of semi-structured interviews with business school repre­sen­tatives at various levels working in the area of international relations.


Main findings are presented within the framework of a time structured (past, present, future) model connected to the study’s five objectives: The development of internationali­zation within the school; the view on internationalization among organizational members; the charac­teristics of decision making and implementation processes; the main impact factors of accreditation and the expectations of major future challenges.


The results indicate that although accreditation has shown to have had a substantial impact on the success of business school operations in an international perspective, it is to a much lesser extent a concrete tool for change and improvement within the area of internatio­nali­zation as such. Accreditation has shown to be strongly connected to previous develop­ment and view on internationalization within the organizations. Also, a strong belief in, and commit­ment to, internationalization among influential organizational members has proved to be vital for the accreditation processes. Furthermore, a number of unique charac­teristics connected to the identities’ of the organiza­tions studied, showed to have notable impact on the success of the schools’ international opera­tions, so also the accreditation processes. This includes organiza­tional culture and tradition; working methods; dissemi­nation of information; strong social connections; knowledge, dedication and commitment by individuals and management’s ability to provide organizational members with trust, respect, autonomy and encouragement.

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