After participating in a panel discussion earlier this year on how the German business programs might respond to the Bologna Accord (see “Roundtable on future of business education in Germany” in this blog), I came away with the impression that the process would lead to a standard structure option for the first two degrees in business at most universities. I think that this opportunity for structural consistency has many advantages and should be supported.
I also came away with two major concerns: potentially rigid accreditation standards and a lack of response to market demands.
I often consult with new business schools around the world and usually suggest that they consider being innovative and adapting to local needs in the design of their curriculum. Some international accreditation bodies have adopted a “missions based” approach that emphasizes being consistent with a school’s own goals, as opposed to filling pre-established criteria. Thus, a school could be accredited as readily with very a unique curricula approach as with one lifted from a long-established school. Accreditation processes in all parts of the world should evolve in the direction of flexibility and away from rigidity.
Some very successful European business schools certainly understand this and are quite responsive to the needs of industry in the graduates they hire. On the other hand, some members of the Roundtable were concerned that the Bologna process smacks too much of a “push down” from government and less of a “bubbling up” from the markets. A guiding principle for professional schools should be that students need to be prepared for professional life and responsiveness to employers is very important.
Of course our academic programs, while affected by structure, accreditation standards and the influence of practice, are aimed at giving high quality educational experiences. Quality of this sort depends on, among other factors, student qualifications, faculty expertise in research and teaching, curricula relevance and innovations, adequacy of facilities and underlying all of these, overall funding. The Bologna process, as important as it is, does not directly address the fundamental issues of adequate funding of business education, assuring access to all who need it and the shortage of qualified professors.