This year marks the 20thanniversary of EQUIS – EFMD Quality Improvement System, launched two decades ago at the Deans and Directors General Conference at Schloss Gracht, now part of the ESMT Berlin.

This international quality benchmark and improvement process was created to give European and, subsequently, business schools worldwide, a rigorous tool to assess, certify and improve their quality in 10 key areas, including governance, programmes, students, faculty, research and, foremost, internationalisation, ethics, responsibility and sustainability as well as corporate engagement.

Since its establishment, a strong emphasis on internationalisation and corporate connections have been the differentiating points of the EQUIS business school accreditation system. Coupled with recently added ethics, responsibility and sustainability standards, they have created a solid framework for quality measurement for international business schools.

In this interview, Gordon Shenton the former Quality Services Director and the founding father of EQUIS, talks about the evolution of EQUIS since the initial idea, its development and core values, and draws some perspectives for the future.

EQUIS is not only a quality assessment but also a quality improvement process, very much rooted in the mission of EFMD. As David Saunders, the Dean of Smith School of Business at the Queen’s University in Canada and Chairman of the EQUIS Accreditation Board, comments: “No matter how good your school is, you can always improve and that is a critical core component of EQUIS – continuous improvement.”

EQUIS has always aimed at building a community of mutual learning and best practice for business schools coming from different higher-education systems. Sue Cox, Dean Emerita of Lancaster University Management School in the UK and former EFMD Board member, stresses the emphasis on schools’ differentiating points in the EQUIS quality framework. “EQUIS actively encourages schools to consider their unique selling proposition within the strategic planning process,” she says.

Over the last 20 years, EFMD has conducted over 600 peer review visits, with over a thousand outstanding experts devoting their time and knowledge to the development of the system.

More than 10 deans and experts who have contributed to the development of the EQUIS accreditation system have given their voices to the value and role EQUIS has played in enhancing the quality of management education worldwide as well as the future development of the management education industry.

“EQUIS is a way of celebrating excellence in diversity and I’m delighted to see how the EQUIS system and the accredited schools have evolved in these 20 years. There is no one harmonised definition of quality but there is an excellence benchmark and a striving for perfection in the continuous improvement process,”addsEric Cornuel, EFMD’s Director General and CEO.

In its short history, EQUIS accreditation has become widely recognised by potential students, employers, the wider business education industry and the media as the most holistic and rigorous accreditation process, often being a pre-requisite for entry to rankings.

With an estimated number of 15,000 business schools worldwide, only a handful (167 institutions from 41 countries) hold the EQUIS quality label and they can say without being too boastful that they are part of “1% of leading business schools.”

To commemorate this landmark achievement, EFMD plans to celebrate the success of EQUIS over the course of 2017 at EFMD events across the international community.

More information on EQUIS is available at