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