The administration of eight universities eagerly received President and CEO of the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) Jeffrey Alderman on Wednesday, in hopes of being granted accreditation for their programs.

Jeff Alderman
Jeff Alderman, President and CEO of ACBSP

What ACBSP offers is academic accreditation, more specifically accreditation of business education programs. The US based NGO has been offering accreditation for associate, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degree programs worldwide since 1988.

Currently, 10 business programs offered by 10 different universities in Mongolia have already been accredited by ACBSP. It also has a working relationships with more than 20 universities, including eight that are pending approval or preparing for their accreditation application.

The council boasts memberships of more than 13,000 business education professionals. Through that, CEO Jeffrey Alderman claims it provides many opportunities and benefits to universities that decide to accredit their programs. First and foremost, the accreditation of Mongolian universities gives the nation a voice in international education and legitimizes the education that students receive, says Alderman. Furthermore, it also opens up an array of opportunities for universities such as sharing, exploring, and the implementation of best practices cultivated amongst business schools around the world over time.

Also paying a visit to Mongolia was Olin Oedekoven, CEO of ACBSP’s partner organization, Peregrine Academic Services. Peregrine is in charge of assessing student outcome, which is one of the priorities of ACBSP. It is a way of assessing what a student has learned over the course of their education without having to rely the on grading system of universities. Peregrine assesses student outcome and relays the results back to the university, who can decide to improve their operations accordingly.

Olin Oedekoven, President and CEO of Peregrine Academic Services (right)

The business programs of the following Mongolian universities have already received ACBSP accreditation:

1. Institute of Finance and Economics (June 2012)

2. Business School of Mongolian National University (June 2013)

3. Business Administration and Humanitarian School of Science and Technology University (November 2013)

4. Mandakh Registration Institute (June 2014)

5. San Institute (June 2014)

6. Etugen Institute (June 2014)

7. Economy and Business School of Agriculture University (November 2014)

8. Seruuleg Institute (November 2014)

9. Ider Institute (November 2014)

10. National University of Economics (November 2016)

The UB Post sat down with President and CEO of ACBSP Jeffrey Alderman and President and CEO of Peregrine Academic Services OIin Oedekoven to discuss the operations of both the ACBSP and Peregrine in Mongolia and the impact accreditation has on universities.

First off, how did the operations of ACBSP begin in Mongolia?

Jeffrey Alderman: Let me first give a little background on what ACBSP is and how we came to be in Mongolia. ACBSP is an acronym for the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. We exist to help business schools fulfill their greatest potential and to help them work better. That includes a set of standards and criteria, six standards, from leadership to stakeholder focus and student assessment outcome. Student assessment outcome is when students enter school, they are tested on a variety of knowledge facts and understanding of business and then by the end, when they graduate regardless of what their grades are, they are assessed on the outcome on the learning that they have had while they were in school. A lot of students are able to get A’s but they may not retain that knowledge that they were taught.

We work within all six continents, sixty countries, we call it global accreditation. Mongolia was a great opportunity for us for many reasons – one of the reasons is that we focus on teaching and teaching excellence and Mongolian schools have a celebrated history of teaching excellence. In 2010, the Director of the Mongolian National Council for Education Accreditation (MNCEA) V.Alzakhgui and his team were looking for a way to better the potential of Mongolian universities. He decided that ACBSP was the best accreditor for the Mongolian higher education. The Institute of Finance and Economics, now the University of Finance and Economics, was the first university to get accredited in 2012.

Is it correct that you accredit programs and specifically business programs rather than the school itself?

Jeffrey Alderman: That’s correct. Our accreditation is concerning their business program rather than an institutional accreditation. In Mongolia, we have 20 schools that we work with. MNCEA is always identifying the next group of schools they feel would be ready for accreditation.

What differences have you noticed in the Mongolian higher education system compared to that of the United States?

Olin Oedekoven: Mongolian higher education is very similar to the US’s, an undergraduate degree is four years and you take a combination of general education as well as your concentration degree major. The credit to graduate is 120 to 125 for undergraduates and around 36 to 40 for graduate programs. Mongolia’s higher education system is very similar to that of the US’s, more so than that of Europe’s. In Europe, it’s less general education and more concentration courses, and it’s typically three years for an undergraduate program.

Jeffrey Alderman: To add onto what Olin said, we learn about higher education in Mongolia through MNCEA, we have a memorandum of understanding and we work closely with the council. Accreditation is judged on meeting the criteria and the standards but what’s important is that this gives Mongolia a voice in higher education, specifically management education, throughout the world rather than being isolated. As I said, we have a presence in 60 countries. Technology has brought us all closer together and allowed the sharing of best practices. We learn as much from our Mongolian schools just as they learn from us.

Are your organizations more focused on the outcome of the universities rather than their teaching methodology?

Jeffrey Alderman: That’s right, we don’t set the pedagogy of the business school – we are really focused on outcome and specifically student outcome. Student outcome assessment is probably the biggest hurdle to a school. The school gives their grades but they are not reliable as anybody can game the grading system. We want to see outcome and schools will be able to learn from within and make changes if necessary. Our organization is less prescriptive, we don’t mandate what schools have to do, which is one of the strengths of our accreditation.

Olin Oedekoven: The schools will internally figure out the process, ACBSP is about the outcome, the end state.

And Mr. Oedekoven, your company, Peregrine, assesses the outcome, correct?

Olin Oedekoven: Correct, schools then use those results to feedback into and find out how they can improve. How they improve depends on them.

Do your organizations give recommendations to schools on how to develop further?

Olin Oedekoven: Peregrine gives more recommendations, ACBSP does not necessarily. However, we don’t get in the middle of how the school operates. It is not our place to say, “You are teaching poorly,” we say “How do you want to get better?” Now, it’s not a function of good and bad, it’s always quality and continuous improvement. So, we may share some best practices. ACBSP has a network of 13,000 faculty members around the world that you can pool best practices from. But it’s really up to the school to discover the practice that works for them.

Jeffrey Alderman: ACBSP is about continuous improvement as Olin said. It’s not just about getting one diploma or certificate. Schools should be proud of their achievement but it is important to maintain the accreditation and that is why we require a quality assurance assessment every two years.

What are the main advantages and opportunities that accreditation with the ACBSP open up for not only schools but the students in particular?

Jeffrey Alderman: While ACBSP does not prescribe how you should be teaching, you’ll be teaching it better. Therefore, your students are more prepared for the next step, whether it be a professional career or a graduate degree. I always use this story as an example, back in the 1980’s, the three big automakers had a quality assurance problem, their cars looked new but people were not buying them because they were not running well. Out of that came a new manufacturing process called ISO 9000, which is transferable across all manufacturing. What ISO does for manufacturing, accreditation does for academics in preparing students for their next endeavor.

Olin Oedekoven: Accreditation does a couple of different things for students. First, it gives their degrees credibility. Not only in Mongolia, but internationally. Say you are Peabody Energy and you come to Mongolia and need to hire 100 applicants, one of the screening criteria is where you got your degree. Is it an accredited, recognized degree? As an employer, I’m going to look for the seal of approval just as a consumer would look at brands. It also allows for Mongolian students with a ACBSP accredited degree to enroll in a graduate program abroad, as it is accepted globally. Once you have ACBSP accreditation, it assures quality.

Jeffrey Alderman: The ACBSP network allows articulation; we offer opportunities to move between schools in our network.

Olin Oedekoven: That opportunity is open to the faculty as well. In addition to running Peregrine, I teach at two universities in Ghana and Switzerland, both ACBSP accredited schools. I would never teach for a non-accredited school, it would lower my resume. I had a conversation with an Indian university recently and they were asking how to attract more international faculty, I told them that step one is accreditation. No faculty is going to look at you seriously unless you are accredited, no matter the pay.

So would you say it is an industry standard?

Jeffrey Alderman: It is a standard of excellence. We have empirical data on this, less than seven percent of all business programs are accredited. If you are among that seven percent, you are among the best business schools.

An issue that has been discussed in terms of education in developing countries such as Mongolia is the problem of brain drain. Many young people go to study abroad and never come back. Do you think that ACBSP accreditation will help Mongolia retain its young workforce?

Jeffrey Alderman: There are a lot of factors that result in brain drain. In competitive forces in a capital market, it will include pay structure, compensation, benefits and the candidate themselves. However, I would say, in general, raising the profile of all higher education in any country whether in Mongolia or India or any of the other countries we work in, it lends more credibility to the students themselves. If students believe they are getting quality education, they may want to stay. The US has some of the best, if not most recognizable schools in the world, but not everybody can go to Harvard or Princeton. Schools will have to separate themselves based on their own institutional recognition; we do believe that programmatic accreditation helps people understand that there are good schools everywhere. That will hopefully help countries retain their talent in the long-term. We do believe that accreditation helps level the playing field and gives schools an added layer of visibility to students and their stakeholders.


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