2 AACSB International Mentor Handbook PREFACE This handbook focuses on the mentor relationship and responsibilities with a School through the initial accreditation process. The purpose of this handbook is to provide an understanding of the philosophy, procedures and guidelines for the initial accreditation process and the duties and responsibilities of the mentor in conducting a thorough and complete review. Where possible, the School and mentor should follow these guidelines. However, mentors should remain somewhat flexible in conducting reviews to achieve the conceptual aims that (1) bring value to the School, (2) maintain the integrity of AACSB International accreditation, and (3) provide a learning experience to effectively implement the initial accreditation process. Where the Schools or the mentors find they must improvise to accomplish the purposes of the review, documentation of any deviations must be provided. In an effort to provide additional assistance in all areas of the accreditation process AACSB has developed online peer review training that is beneficial to the School, mentor and PRT. The training can be accessed through the following link: Another useful source of information is the accreditation staff liaison. Each institution has an assigned accreditation staff liaison to assist with the business and accounting review process. This individual serves as the designated AACSB staff member for all accreditation related questions and is the liaison between the institution leadership and the volunteer network (mentors, peer review team members, accreditation committees, etc.). The staff liaison is available to assist with any questions regarding the initial accreditation process. Schools and mentors are encouraged to provide feedback on the accreditation process. This information is carefully considered for opportunities to further refine the accreditation process.
3 TABLE OF CONTENTS I. Assignment of the Mentor... 1 Assignment of the Mentor...1 The Mentor s Term...1 Role of the Mentor...1 Mentor Responsibilities to the School...1 Mentor Responsibilities to AACSB/IAC/AAC... 2 School Responsibilities to the Mentor/AACSB/IAC/AAC... 2 II. The Mentor Visit... 2 Purpose of the Mentor Visit... 3 Preparation for the Mentor Visit... 3 During the Visit... 4 Following the Visit... 4 Mentor Reporting Requirements to IAC/AAC... 4 III. Self-Assessment (Gap Analysis)... 5 The Self-Assessment Process and Why It Is Important... 5 Conducting the Self-Assessment and Involving Appropriate Stakeholders... 5 Sources of Information to Guide the Self-Assessment... 5 Characteristics of an Effective Self-Assessment... 6 Communicating the Outcomes of the Self-Assessment... 7 IV. Review of the Initial Self Evaluation Report... 7 Role of the Mentor... 7 Criteria for Evaluating the Initial Self Evaluation Report... 8 Initial Accreditation Committee Recommendations... 8 V. Acceptance of the Initial Self Evaluation Report... 8 Role of the Mentor... 9 How Do We Know We Are on Track?... 9 VI. Initial Accreditation Updates to the iser... 9 VII. Transition to the final phase of the Initial Accreditation Process Hand-off to the Peer Review Team Chair... 10
4 Assignment of the Mentor I. ASSIGNMENT OF THE MENTOR After the accreditation eligibility application has been accepted, a mentor is appointed by the respective Committee Chair (Initial Accreditation Committee (IAC) / Accounting Accreditation Committee (AAC)). Based on recommendations received from AACSB accreditation staff, the committee chair selects a volunteer dean/equivalent or an experienced associate dean familiar with AACSB standards and processes to serve as the School s mentor. These individuals may continue to be assigned as mentors for five years after leaving their position (i.e. retirement, change in role, etc.). The Mentor s Term The mentor can assist a School for up to two years to develop the initial self evaluation report (iser). Once the iser is developed, reviewed and accepted by the IAC/AAC, the mentor continues working with the School for up to three years to assist the school as it implements the actions outlined in the iser. Role of the Mentor The mentor serves as a key resource in advising the school on the self-assessment process and the development of the iser. The mentor asks questions to stimulate a School to define its processes, activities, and outcomes. The mentor may also present various options to help develop a better understanding of the standards and what they mean for an individual School. The mentor is a volunteer who receives no compensation from the School or from AACSB International. Mentor Responsibilities to the School Provide clarification of the philosophy and intent of the standards and their interpretations Be fully informed about AACSB International accreditation standards, and the accreditation process Be available regularly to the dean/equivalent and/or accounting administrator Visit the School and provide feedback relating to the initial accreditation selfassessment and iser development Be encouraging, but also honest and realistic Advise the School about possible culture change and the length of time required to accomplish the improvements envisioned by the School Assist the School to focus on the standards within the context of its mission Ask questions that stimulate the School to define its processes, activities and outcomes 1
5 Mentor Responsibilities to AACSB/IAC/AAC Consult with AACSB International/IAC/AAC when issues or processes need clarification Identify significant problems in the overall initial accreditation process Provide the IAC/AAC liaison with periodic reports on progress toward developing the iser Identify and resolve eligibility issues surrounding the scope of accreditation, social corporate responsibility, the collegiate environment of the school and expectations for ethical behavior Provide an iser critique that discusses the feasibility of the iser and the likely access to and commitment of resources necessary to achieve the iser's goals Provide a recommendation on accepting the iser in the form of mentor comments, which are housed in myaccreditation School Responsibilities to the Mentor and AACSB/IAC/AAC Be sincere about the institutional commitment of resources, time, money, energy, and change required for initial accreditation Review the accreditation standards and identify areas of strengths and weaknesses prior to the mentor's campus visit Identify items in the standards that need clarification Provide accurate data and information about the School, its aspirations, commitment, systems, and processes; exhibit complete honesty and openness; provide information on options that could be applied in meeting the standards Regard the mentor as a source of advice; take responsibility for conducting the selfassessment and preparing the iser Work with the mentor to prepare a campus visit agenda Take consultation seriously and be considerate of the mentor's time Make timely payment of appropriate expenses (including airfare, hotel accommodations, meals, transportation, etc.) for the mentor's campus visit(s) Provide the mentor with periodic reports on progress toward developing the iser Provide feedback on the quality of mentoring and the initial accreditation process II. THE MENTOR VISIT After the mentor is appointed, the School should contact the mentor to determine what information he/she needs to develop an understanding of the School and its current situation related to the accreditation standards. Additionally the School should provide the mentor with materials related to the committee concerns and recommendations articulated in the School s decision letter. 2
6 The visit should be scheduled as soon as possible. The objective of the first visit is to help the School get a better understanding of the accreditation standards, become familiar with AACSB s terminology and assist the school with the development of a standard-bystandard gap analysis of its current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Generally, the visit will occur during months two through four after the application is reviewed and accepted. The visit should be scheduled for up to two days. An initial meeting with the president and chief academic officer helps to establish the consultative nature of the visit and affirm the institutional commitment. Purpose of the Mentor Visit Once appointed, the mentor will conduct an initial on-site visit to: Gain familiarity with the School Identify and resolve eligibility issues (i.e., scope of accreditation, and expectations for ethical behavior, sustainability, corporate and social responsibility and maintaining a collegiate environment) Provide clarification regarding the philosophy and intent of the standards Ensure consistent application of standards among faculty, staff and administration Analyze the School s achievement relative to the standards Identify issues that may help or hinder potential accreditation Confirm the existence of functioning processes and controls that ensure continuous improvement and accomplishment of the mission Assist School in responding to issues raised in the eligibility application acceptance letter Review measurable outcomes of achievement and functioning of processes designed to produce stated outcomes Begin formulating recommendations for quality enhancement and continuous improvement Provide insight to the IAC/AAC concerning the School s perceived timetable for development of the iser Preparation for the Mentor Visit The School should: Initiate contact with the mentor Plan an agenda for the mentor to review Provide the mentor, prior to the visit, information about the campus and School. Suggested information: - Electronic links to program information - Reports (including annual reports) - Brochures - Program exclusion data (if appropriate) - Planning documents - Drafts of materials for iser, if available 3
7 - Budget documents - Faculty vitae - Web site addresses - Institutional and departmental organizational charts - Internal Processes During the Visit The School should: Provide an opportunity for the mentor to become familiar with the School's facilities Provide opportunities for the mentor to talk with stakeholder groups (faculty, students, professional staff, central administration, employers, alumni) about mission and objectives, processes, and resources Allow for open discussion of strengths and areas for improvement, role of faculty, and preparation for the iser Following the Visit The School should: Continue to develop a draft iser in myaccreditation Forward appropriate additional information to the mentor Process mentor's visit expenses in a timely manner Mentor Reporting Requirements to IAC/AAC Within 10 days of each visit, the mentor submits, via myaccreditation, the report and indicates a timetable for completion of the iser. The summary report consists of four distinct sections: observations from visit, including mentor visit schedule, eligibility criterion summary, a standard-by-standard summary, and additional comments and conclusion. As the School develops their iser, the mentor reviews on a regular basis sections of the iser and has clarifying and advisory oriented conversations with the School either via telephone, or in person. During this time, the mentor continues to update the IAC/AAC liaison and AACSB staff liaison on the School s progress toward completion of the iser. The maximum time limit for the completion of the iser is set at two years. However, with the right preparation and the correct guidance of a mentor the iser can be developed in a shorter period of time. When the iser is finalized it needs to be approved by the IAC/AAC. Before the iser is submitted to the IAC/AAC it is reviewed by the mentor who provides a recommendation to the IAC/AAC and the designated accreditation staff liaison. When the iser is accepted by the IAC/AAC, the possible recommendations can be either; 1) move directly to appoint a team chair and start preparing the final Self Evaluation Report, or 2) continue to implement the iser and provide updates to the iser to the committee on an annual basis, or 3) return the iser to the School for additional information. In the last two cases the mentor will continue to work with the school until the School has implemented all the action items noted in the iser. During this time the mentor may, but is not obligated, visit the school. When the committee recommends that a team chair be 4
8 assigned, the mentor s work with the school is completed and an information exchange between mentor and chair should occur so that no information is lost. As long as the mentor is involved with the accreditation efforts of the School, the mentor will keep the appropriate accreditation committee informed. A fourth recommendation, but less likely, can be made by the committee after review of the iser. When the committee feels that the School is too far removed from meeting the standards that it will not be able to meet the standards in the maximum allotted time, the committee can recommend that the School withdraws from the process. At that time, the mentor will be released from the assignment. III. SELF-ASSESSMENT The Self-Assessment Process and Why it is Important The preliminary self-assessment process (also referred to as the gap analysis) is the most critical step in determining the business/accounting academic unit's readiness to pursue AACSB International accreditation. The self-assessment process is a gap analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the School relative to each of the AACSB International standards for accreditation and relative to the School's unique mission and strategic management objectives. As a result, this systematic gap analysis of the business/accounting academic unit's mission, strategic management objectives, faculty, students, professional staff, curriculum, instructional resources, operations, intellectual contributions, and processes provides the basis upon which a realistic and comprehensive self evaluation report can be developed. Conducting the Self-Assessment and Involving Appropriate Stakeholders The self-assessment process involves all stakeholders of the business/accounting academic unit including faculty, administration, professional staff, students, alumni, and business constituencies. There is no prescribed single approach to conducting the self-assessment. A School must develop a SER that meets its specific needs and guides it through a rigorous self-assessment process. The plan for conducting the self-assessment should be developed within the first three months of initial accreditation. It is not expected that the gap analysis will be completed within this three-month time frame. However, the plan of study should be established noting key questions to be answered, key participants, responsible parties, time frames, and appropriate study methods. Data collection should be conducted to support the objectives of the self-assessment and to assist in answering the self-assessment questions. Sources of Information to Guide the Self-Assessment Once the self-assessment plan has been developed, all data should be collected, organized, and analyzed. Possible sources of information that can be used to evaluate the business/accounting academic unit's programs and processes include: Regional accreditation reports Internal reports (e.g., program evaluations, outcomes reports, assessment results, exit surveys) 5
9 External reports (e.g., reports to state boards of regents, state-wide program evaluations) Surveys Interviews Focus group results Other School or university reports. Characteristics of an Effective Self-Assessment and Gap Analysis Systematic The self-assessment should be systematic and well-planned to ensure that it is thorough and comprehensive. Clearly identify the areas to be addressed, the questions to be answered, and the best ways to secure the most valid and reliable information. Objective Avoid overstating the results of the gap analysis or focusing only on the weaknesses or limitations that are identified. The weaknesses need to be remedied and the strengths need to be maintained or enhanced. Multiple sources of input The standards should provide guidance, but should not be used as a laundry list against which to answer "Yes, we do" or "No, we don't." Use multiple sources of input. Consider which groups are in the best position to provide input on key issues. Multiple data collection devices Use multiple data collection devices. Using only reports or the results of one survey will not provide the scope and depth of input that is needed. Use data collection methods best suited to the questions needing answers. For example, the quality of student services, teaching, and interaction with the business community should all be addressed in different ways by different groups. Multiple reviewers to provide objectivity Use multiple reviewers to provide a "reality check." Once the self-assessment data are consolidated, the results should be reviewed by various groups to ensure accurate interpretation. These groups might include: the faculty, a SER committee, a student advisory committee, or members of a business advisory council. Realistic representation of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats Conduct a realistic assessment of strengths, areas for improvement, opportunities, and threats. Continue to realistically assess these within the context of the AACSB International standards (i.e. what gaps need to be closed to meet the expectations of AACSB 6
10 standards as well as what expectations of AACSB standards are currently met and how). Determine the changes, additions, or modifications that may need to be made in programs and processes. Communicating the Outcomes of the Self-Assessment During the self-assessment, communication should be ongoing with all stakeholders and participants. These include the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and business constituencies. All parties need to understand the initial accreditation process and the responsibilities of an initial accreditation School. The results of the gap analysis should be shared with the mentor and should become the basis for the iser. IV. REVIEW OF THE INITIAL SELF EVALUATION REPORT Role of the Mentor The mentor thoroughly reviews the School's initial self evaluation report (iser) and submits a written recommendation, via myaccreditation, to the IAC/AAC which includes a reflection on the School s commitment to achieving AACSB International accreditation; its ability to provide evidence of stakeholder involvement (e.g., students, faculty, staff, community, university administrators) and the commitment of the School to the initial accreditation process and AACSB International accreditation. Additionally, the recommendation should include a reflection on the following areas: The academic unit s understanding of both the initial accreditation process and AACSB International standards for accreditation Mission consensus demonstrated through stakeholder involvement Whether the mission is realistic, visionary, and focused enough to serve as a guide for selection of alternatives and opportunities The likelihood that the School will meet AACSB International standards and attain accreditation. It is part of the mentor s responsibility to recommend that the School should withdraw if it has no reasonable chance to achieve accreditation Internal and external assessment processes for achieving quality and continuous improvement Evidence that processes are used to strengthen curricula, develop faculty and staff, improve instruction, and enhance intellectual activity and that these processes are appropriate and will result in improvement Evidence that the academic unit s iser accurately projects the current situation and future direction and activities to be taken by the academic unit, and that the action steps listed and the corresponding completion dates and assigned responsibilities for each step appear to be realistic, and that these plans enable the academic unit to meet accreditation requirements Any unique strengths or weaknesses that need to be observed and tracked during the initial accreditation process and addressed in the iser update. 7
11 Criteria for Evaluating the Initial Self Evaluation Report To what extent will achievement of the actions outlined in the iser result in attaining a level of quality appropriate for accreditation? Does it include these important elements? Clearly identified objectives and outcomes A schedule for progress checkpoints and completion Measurements of progress Accountable individuals or functions Is it? Specific: does it focus on the issues, outcomes, and processes identified in the selfassessment? Quantifiable: can progress and achievement be tracked and measured? Realistic: are overall and specific outcomes and objectives consistent with the mission and level of resources? Is the targeted year for the initial accreditation visit realistic? The School should be aware that programs in business shall satisfy the standards during the final self-evaluation year. Comprehensive: does it cover all standards? Is the emphasis on overall quality and continuous improvement? Does it explain which AACSB standards expectations are currently met and how? Initial Accreditation Committee Recommendations Each initial iser will be presented and reviewed by the IAC/AAC. The Committee will take one of the following actions: Accept the iser without further comments and invite the school to apply for the initial accreditation visit Accept the iser, with comments outlining concerns of the Committee to be addressed by the School in its annual iser update Request that the iser be revised and resubmitted to address specific issues and concerns identified by the Committee Do Not Accept the iser V. ACCEPTANCE OF THE INITIAL SELF EVALUATION REPORT When the iser has been approved by the IAC/AAC, the School moves to the iser implementation stage. The School is allowed up to five years to align with the standards, with the final two years of alignment corresponding to the development of the final Self-Evaluation report and the visit year. During this period, the School must submit iser updates (at least one per year) to the IAC/AAC. The IAC/AAC reviews the updates 8
12 and provides its comments in the form of a decision letter to the School with a copy to the mentor. Role of the Mentor Once the iser is accepted, the formal relationship between the mentor and the School continues for up to three additional years. The mentor will submit annually, or more frequently if necessary, feedback to the IAC/AAC on the progress the School is making towards alignment with the standards. How Do We Know We Are on Track? The iser update is the only formal contact with AACSB International, aside from the mentor, accreditation staff liaison and eventually the chair, while preparing for accreditation. Business Schools are encouraged to seek advice and evaluation of their progress from the mentor and the accreditation staff liaison. VI. INITIAL ACCREDITATION UPDATES TO THE iser Each year or sooner, the School will make a report to the IAC/AAC on the progress it is making towards meeting the objectives documented in the iser. This update will take place via myaccreditation. Action items that have fallen behind their scheduled completion dates should be discussed in the text of the iser update. The IAC/AAC will review the iser update to determine if acceptable progress is apparent. The iser update will include: 1. Tables 2-1, 15-1, and 15-2 for business and Tables A2-1, A9-1, and A9-2 for accounting. 2. Explain how the School has met the objectives established for the past year of the plan. If the objectives have not been met, provide details. When outcomes or milestones are reported, Schools should support that these outcomes are the result of a continuous improvement process with appropriate stakeholder input. The IAC/AAC s review of iser updates will focus on process development, implementation, and outcomes. 3. Report any changes in the environment (internal or external) that affect the iser (e.g., a new mission, new president, new dean/equivalent, changes in enrollment, or deviations from the projected number of faculty as described in the iser). 4. Explain how existing strengths have been maintained or improved. 5. Report any new areas of necessary improvement that have emerged. 6. Report any other adjustments to the iser (e.g., changes in the time frame leading to the self-evaluation for accreditation). 7. Explain how the School will have the necessary continuing support and resources from the administration to meet the objectives outlined in the iser. 8. An uploaded three to five-page Executive Summary, which should include: 9
13 a) A one paragraph to one page statement and written description of your mission and objectives; b) Written descriptions of the processes that support achievement, the outcomes and measurements associated with those processes, and how the processes and objectives may have changed as a result of your efforts; c) A written summary of self-assessed strengths and weaknesses as they relate to AACSB International s standards and the achievement of specific objectives; d) How your strategic plan relates to your mission development activities; and, e) A written section listing up to five effective practices, which are unique or inherent to the success of your operations. VIII. TRANSITION TO THE FINAL PHASE OF THE INITIAL ACCREDIATION PROCESS When the action items described in the iser are implemented and adequate progress has been demonstrated, the IAC/AAC will direct the School to complete the application for an initial accreditation visit. The letter of application, submitted via myaccreditation, will include the following: Verification of Institution Information Confirmation of scope of programs offered by the School The list of Comparison Groups, including Comparable Peer Group, Competitive Group, and Aspirant Group The timeframe requested for the on-site review to take place. The School must be in academic session during an accreditation visit. Nominations for Peer Review Team Chair/Advisor. The application for initial accreditation information will need to be confirmed by the Chief Executive Officer/President/Chancellor, the Chief Academic Officer, and the Head of the Business School (Dean/Equivalent) and/or Accounting Academic Chair. Upon receipt of the application for initial accreditation, the School will be invoiced for the Initial Accreditation Fee. Handoff to the Peer Review Team Chair Upon receipt of the application for the initial accreditation visit and full payment of the initial accreditation fee, the IAC/AAC will appoint a peer review team chair. The PRT chair is generally a dean/equivalent from an accredited School with extensive experience serving on PRT s, who is from a similar School and/or familiar with the type of School and/or education system in the country. The chair replaces the mentor to assist the School with the development of the final SER and the schedule for the initial accreditation visit. The transition from mentor to the chair should be facilitated by: 10
14 The passing of relevant documents (iser, Strategic Management Plan, iser Updates, School and IAC/AAC correspondence, and other relevant materials) via myaccreditation. A conversation between the mentor and chair to discuss issues and concerns. If possible, an introductory conversation between the mentor, chair, and host School Dean/Equivalent (may be at an AACSB function). The IAC/AAC chair will select additional team members that may or may not appear on the list of comparable schools submitted by the School. Simultaneously, the School works with the chair to prepare a final SER and refine the strategic management plan. The peer review process and the final Self-Evaluation report preparation are detailed in the Initial Accreditation Handbook. 11
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