A New North Star

New initiatives will help AACSB International navigate the changing landscape of higher education, says new board chair Linda Livingstone.
A New North Star

This is an exciting time for me to be taking the helm of AACSB International’s board of directors. It’s a time when we are realizing that management education has been living under the same vision for more than 50 years, one defined by the 1959 Carnegie Foundation report by Frank Pierson and the Ford Foundation report by Robert A. Gordon and James E. Howell. Since their publication, these documents have been pushing business schools to build academic credibility and to move beyond the vocational education that characterized business education at the time. This direction has served business schools well, helping them increase their presence and credibility first in the United States and then around the world.

However, this vision no longer can provide the guidance we need in today’s rapidly evolving environment. Higher education is changing dramatically due to technological advances, increasing globalization, and evolving models, as well as more diverse student populations and faculty compositions. Meanwhile, society and business expect more than ever of business schools.

I think Francois Ortalo-Magné, dean of the Wisconsin School of Business, put it best. At a recent meeting of AACSB’s Committee on Issues in Management Education (CIME), Ortalo-Magné noted that what management education needs is a “new North Star.” For centuries, the North Star, known in Old English as a lodestar or “guiding star,” has served as a navigational tool. It’s now an appropriate metaphor for our industry, as we navigate the sometimes precarious and ever-changing seas of higher education.

CIME’s discussion about this new direction has been rooted in how the individuals in our business schools will inspire others, manage organizations, and mentor the next generation of leaders. We are looking at how the needs of business and business schools have changed, as well as how business schools must adapt to remain competitive.

AACSB’s plan for the future includes two main initiatives—the Visioning Initiative and the 2020 Committee. Both efforts will help us better understand and shape the roles management and management education will play in society.


At a recent AACSB meeting, one business school dean wisely suggested that business schools are accountable in three main areas: responsible generation of wealth, responsible consumption, and responsible innovation. Administered in three phases, the Visioning Initiative is intended to define a new vision for management education in these three areas. The effort will examine the future roles of management in society, the evolving expectations of management education, and the emerging opportunities for business schools.

The Visioning Initiative also will look at how the roles of business faculty are evolving to achieve these goals. Business schools are increasingly using different combinations of tenured and nontenured faculty, and they’re encouraging faculty to engage and innovate in a myriad of ways, including research, teaching, consulting, and administrative responsibilities.

Finally, the initiative will consider the new ways that businesses are recruiting, developing, and retaining talent. For example, some companies are planning their talent recruitment and development strategies five or more years in advance. Those who need to hire employees with specific skill sets are turning to alternative providers of business training. Business schools must understand why employers are finding more value in alternative providers—only then can they adjust their programs to fill the skill gaps that employers are facing. CIME will explore whether a disconnect exists between traditional business curricula, which often emphasizes lifelong leadership, and employers’ immediate need for specific talent.

As part of the Visioning Initiative, CIME is soliciting feedback from administrators, academics, corporate representatives, current and prospective students, alumni, and media representatives. We will hold events and conduct multiple research projects to investigate major themes. These activities will lead up to CIME’s final report on the association’s new vision, which AACSB will release at its International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) in 2016 in Boston. The city, which is in many ways AACSB’s spiritual home, is the perfect place not only to celebrate AACSB’s 100th year, but also to set the association on its new path.


AACSB’s 2020 Committee is an effort to inform and strengthen AACSB’s globalization efforts. The committee will explore how business schools worldwide can more effectively relate to their local markets, as well as attract and serve students from diverse cultural and international backgrounds. Its main responsibility is to identify ways to promote the value of accreditation worldwide and to help business schools realize the benefits of globalization.

Because management education varies significantly across borders, the members of the committee realize that they must maintain an unwavering commitment to diversity; they must recognize and leverage differences across schools and their environments. With this in mind, since 2004, AACSB has done tremendous work to globalize the organization and provide a foundation for its next steps:

• It has increased the number of accredited institutions based outside of the U.S. by 168 percent, from 69 to 185.

• It has increased the number of member schools based outside of the U.S. by 128 percent, from 295 to 674. By comparison, the number of U.S. members increased by only one, from 652 to 653.

• Today, AACSB holds many of its conferences and nearly 30 seminars outside of the U.S. That includes ICAM, which was held in Paris in 2006 and in Singapore in 2014.

• Today, nearly 250 schools based outside the U.S. participate in AACSB surveys such as the Business School Questionnaire, Salary Survey, and Accounting Program Questionnaire. In 2004, only a handful of schools outside the U.S., all Canadian, participated.

AACSB has shifted to more global perspectives in its research and thought leadership reports, and BizEd has expanded its international content dramatically. Efforts such as the Marketing Value of Accreditation initiative, an ongoing strategy to raise student awareness about AACSB accreditation globally, and eNEWSLINE Live, AACSB’s online video series, have been international from the start. Other new initiatives, such as the Asia Pacific Leadership Institute and the Teaching Effectiveness Seminar for Latin America, have been developed for certain regions. The association also has formed advisory councils targeting the concerns of business schools in Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America and the Carribbean.

Despite this progress, we have much more to do to fulfill AACSB’s global mission. AACSB’s first phase of globalization focused primarily on developed economies. In its next phase, the organization will more fully delve into the needs of businesses in emerging economies and the schools that serve them. We will examine how the definitions of success and impact for business schools in emerging economies might differ from those in developed countries. For example, schools in countries with higher GDPs tend to measure their success in terms of job placement rates for graduates, while schools in emerging markets measure their success in terms of new business development, job creation, and incomegeneration in an informal economy.

In fact, AACSB still must address the geographical gaps both in its membership and in its services, which include conferences, seminars, and programs that help practitioners transition to academia. Nowhere is this more evident than in emerging countries. Today, only 2.3 percent of institutions awarding business degrees in emerging markets are members of AACSB, compared to 23 percent in developed markets. Only 2.5 percent of schools in emerging markets are engaged in AACSB services, compared to 26 percent in other regions. This comes at a time when experts predict significantly higher population, economic, and tertiary education growth rates in emerging economies than in the developed world.

In Africa, for example, the population of 21-to 29-year-olds is expected to expand 48 percent between 2010 and 2030, representing an estimated 80 million people. This growth, along with strengthening economies and an expanding middle class, promises to spark a rising demand for collegiate business education. Yet local business education is still relatively young and underdeveloped. AACSB can make a positive difference by connecting Africa’s business schools to member institutions in 80 other countries.

In Europe, AACSB can continue to play an important role by developing prospective members, supporting educational offerings, and creating industry knowledge among schools in its second-largest accreditation base. The association soon will open a new regional headquarters for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. It currently is conducting a search for an individual to lead that office.

The next phase of globalization will depend on AACSB’s capacity to gather knowledge internationally, so we can convert this knowledge into programs and services that are relevant to a wider range of business schools. This will be especially important in less developed regions, where differences are likely to be more pronounced both between and within countries. The AACSB 2020 Committee is expected to complete its work and produce a report by the end of the year.


Finally, we have another priority for AACSB this year. After 15 years of transformational leadership, John Fernandes, president and CEO of AACSB, has announced his retirement. Under his leadership, AACSB has grown tremendously. The organization has emphasized the importance of developing international collaborations and has encouraged business schools to develop multicontinental alliances. He also has worked to increase the association’s globalization and international expansion, incorporate technology into higher education, and enhance the value of accreditation.

life isn’t as it used to be for business schools, and it will never be the same. To be effective now, one must be a global player in the marketplace.” As we select a new leader for AACSB, we must take this fact into account. The search process will be multifaceted. We are engaging AACSB members around the world to better understand the association’s future and what it needs from its next CEO. In many ways, this selection process contributes to CIME’s Visioning Initiative, because the next CEO will guide the organization through its next phase of development, innovation, and growth. It is anticipated that finalists for the CEO position will be selected in November, with the new CEO announced in January 2015. I look forward to working with the new AACSB leader.


As AACSB embarks on the next phase of its journey, I’m confident that the organization will be able to better serve business schools around the globe, who in turn will better prepare students for future work. The Visioning Initiative will provide context and a touch point for business schools to evaluate their curricula, research, faculty composition, and community engagement, among other aspects of their missions. Its findings will help support them as they consider how they might improve their service to students, the business world, and society.

The 2020 Committee will enable AACSB to improve its understanding of how management education is evolving worldwide and make the necessary adjustments to serve schools across the globe more effectively. I’m honored to help lead the organization and our industry through this period of enormous change—as we define the nature of our North Star—and I look forward to sharing insights and developments from these important initiatives as they continue to unfold.

Linda Livingstone is the 2014–2015 chair of the board of directors for AACSB International. On August 1, Livingstone became the new dean at The George Washington University School of Business in Washington, D.C. She came from the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles, where she had served as dean since 2002.