Interview with IACBE president, Mr Dennis Gash - Stamford International Universityen
Rama 9 Campus , Asoke Campus , Hua Hin Campus
What is IACBE and what are its primary aims?
IACBE stands for International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education. We are an international quality assurance agency – an accreditation agency for business and management education in higher education institutions around the world. We employ a peer review process and accreditation, which means that all accreditation decisions are made by business faculties, business deans, heads of department from our members’ schools throughout the world. We are private and non-governmental members’ association.
Principally, our purpose is to advance quality in business and management education worldwide. We do that through the accreditation of business and management programs.
What do you think IACBE accreditation gives a business program?
From my perspective, and I am a former business dean myself, it provides a framework for assessing learning. IACBE accreditation helps in measuring the extent at which students are learning, what they need to learn, and also ensures that they are acquiring the skills that they need in order to be successful in their chosen careers. So IACBE provides a set of tools that help institutions to move forward in terms of advancing academic quality in their business programs.
What does IACBE mean for the students?
The IACBE has a unique philosophy of what constitutes quality in higher education – and that is that quality should be defined in terms of the outcome. Specifically, student learning outcomes.
From a student perspective – if a school has IACBE accreditation, then they can be assured that the school has been reviewed and evaluated by an independent external body. That basically validates the fact that the school is doing an excellent job producing results for students as the accreditation is specifically focused on them. So in order to be granted accreditation by the IACBE the institution has to be student-centered and student-focused. They have to be doing everything that they can to ensure that the students succeed.
So, our accreditation is focused on the student. Consequently, they can be assured that if an institution has IACBE accreditation, that institution is focusing on the student and their success.
What sets IACBE apart from AACSB and ACBSP?
The answer to that question is: our outcomes focus. We are the global leader in mission driven and outcomes based quality assurance. The other two accrediting bodies focus more on the inputs into the educational process.
In education, you have inputs into the process such as faculty, the curriculum, facilities, infrastructure, technology. Then through teaching and other processes, those inputs are converted into educational outcomes – student learning, acquisition of competencies, skills and abilities. What sets the IACBE apart is that we believe quality lies in those outcomes. Are students learning what they need to learn to be successful? Are they acquiring the skills they need in order to be successful? Is the business school functioning effectively? Is the business school accomplishing its mission?
The other two accrediting bodies focus more on the inputs and they define quality, for example, in terms of how many PhDs an institution has. Well, from our perspective that’s not a measure of quality. You can have excellent inputs but the outcomes may not be very good at all. And since we are talking about higher education, education implies that someone’s being educated – the students. That’s where quality should lie, in the quality of student learning outcomes. So that is what sets us apart from the other accrediting bodies. We focus on the outcomes, the other two accrediting bodies focus more on inputs or processes.
In 2011 you received CHEA recognition, what did that mean for you and what does it consequently mean for Stamford and other institutions that are IACBE accredited?
CHEA is an acronym for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. That is a national recognition body in the United States. IACBE is recognized by CHEA.
What that means is that, for example, when IACBE accredits an institution such as Stamford; that institution wants to be assured that the accreditation is legitimate. So who accredits the accreditor? Who validates or certifies that the quality assurance agency or accreditation agency is valid and meets certain standards for the accreditation process? That is what that CHEA recognition means for IACBE. We have to meet certain standards and go through a very comprehensive, strenuous process to be recognized. Consequently, recognition by CHEA is tantamount to the accreditors’ accreditor.
So what it means for the institution is that the institution can be assured that its accreditation is being granted by a legitimate, reliable, recognized accreditation agency.
Why do you think Stamford was the first university in Thailand to receive IACBE recognition? What sets it apart from other universities in the region?
I think there is quite a difference when it comes to Stamford. The site visit team that did the accreditation visit back in April, and our board of commissioners (that’s our independent accreditation decision making body), were both very impressed by the fact that Stamford was very student-centric, very student-oriented and really believes in outcomes based education.
One of the things that really sets Stamford apart is that it was very apparent to the site visit team – through its visit here but also through the review of their sub-study – that the business faculty are dedicated and committed to student learning and doing everything that they can to ensure that students are successful. And as I mentioned earlier, that’s our basic purpose at the IACBE.
Are there any particular aspects of Stamford that have stood out for you on your visits?
Yes, there were several areas actually that both the site visit team and the board of commissioners pointed out for commendations. Commendations are basically areas where the site visit team and commissioners both thought that Stamford was doing an excellent job. I have already mention the student focus.
I think among IACBE schools Stamford is probably near, if not at the very top, of the list of the most diverse institutions that we have. Both in terms of faculty and students. We were very impressed with that.
Also the business and industry linkages that Stamford has are remarkable. That’s exemplified by the co-branded programs with Accor Hotel, l’Oreal, IMPACT Arena and so on. Those co-branded programs are very innovative and they are unique to Stamford.
It is very clear that not only is Stamford outcomes-focused and student-focused but they are also employability-focused. So in order to develop those necessary skills and abilities they are incorporating real-world projects into their courses. As a result, students will graduate with the competencies, skills and abilities they will need to be successful, on day one of their careers.
Stamford’s Center for Teaching and Learning for its faculty, and the Center for Academic Excellence for its students are both intertwined. This is where learning occurs. Learning occurs in that interface between faculty and students, so the establishment of these two centers is another indication of Stamford’s dedication to the students and its student-focused approach. This also made Stamford stand out.
Do you think Thailand, and South East Asia generally, are a growing market for IACBE?
That’s a very good question and certainly as president of the IACBE, I hope so. Hopefully we took our first step in that endeavor yesterday when we met with the Commission on Higher Education for Thailand. We were very fortunate that they granted us time on their agenda to be able to talk a little bit about IACBE and our particular philosophy and approach to assurance and accreditation, and more generally about outcomes-based education and the benefits associated with that.
Outcomes-based education is only now getting started in Asia and South East Asia. So we hope that at yesterday’s meeting we took the first steps in being able to expand this partnership between the IACBE and other schools in South East Asia. That is how we see our purpose.
In a lot of cases, institutions view their relationship with their accreditors as an adversarial one. But if you ask any of our members, such as Stamford, what they value about their association with the IACBE, I think one of the things that they will tell you, what they have told me, is that the IACBE is their partner. We want to be a full partner with our members and help them to succeed as collegially and collaboratively as possible. That is what we do.
Any final words?
I am happy that Stamford has invited me back and that they’re not sick of me yet as I have really enjoyed my visits to Bangkok and to Thailand. I am looking forward to coming back within the next six months or so because Stamford is going to be expanding its accreditation to include the MBA programs at Asoke Campus, as well as the undergraduate BA programs at the Hua Hin campus.