Measuring the Impact of Business Schools: Joining EQUIS and BSIS processes

Asist. Prof. Dr Darija Aleksić, Marjan Smonig and Dr Nuša Petek

School of Economics and Business, University of Ljubljana (SEB LU); former Faculty of Economics (FELU)

Business schools have a huge impact on the society as a whole, not only in shaping the business sphere, but they are also responsible for instilling values for a resilient society that go beyond the profit-maximizing logic. School of Economics and Business, University of Ljubljana (SEB LU)’s mission is to build competencies for socially responsible management to master business and economic challenges, which guides the school toward educating responsible individuals who will make a difference and have a positive impact on the whole society.

In 2018 SEB LU jointly undertook two significant processes by the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD), the EQUIS re-accreditation, and the Business School Impact System (BSIS) process. Both help schools to assess their strengths, weaknesses, and their impact. We present the main differences and similarities between the EQUIS accreditation and the BSIS process. The two systems have related, yet slightly different philosophies.

The EQUIS accreditation, as one of the most demanding and prestigious international accreditations, is in many cases the vehicle and final proof of the international recognition of the quality of the school which is achievable by only small number of the business schools. EQUIS accreditation requires the school to judge the overall effectiveness of its own processes. Specifically, this self-evaluation process, required by EQUIS, stimulates the school to gain a clearer understanding of its strategic position by assessing its strengths and weaknesses, by measuring the principal constraints and opportunities determined by its environment, and by looking realistically at the coherence between its ambitions and its resources.

BSIS, on the other hand, is the “Key Tool for Measuring Business School’s Impact on the World Around It”, aimed for measuring how well the business school is achieving its mission and role within the society. BSIS is a data-driven system that encourages the school to identify the tangible and intangible benefits that schools bring to the chosen impact zone. Thereby, the BSIS philosophy encourages the school to evaluate its processes from a broader perspective. It is probably not an overstatement that every school should be interested in knowing this. In general, it could be said that business schools report mostly on inputs and processes, but in most of the cases, very little data is included on the outputs, outcomes, and impacts. As the impact also became one of the most important standards of international accreditations, preparing the BSIS report is a valuable step in achieving international recognition.

BSIS demands to take a hard look at who we are as a school and what our fundamental purpose is. That is why it is so important to start, not with measuring the outputs and outcomes, but with what comes first, and this is the long-term vision of the school. A clear vision means a good vision-driven strategy. As the vision is the outcome we seek, in this situation measuring outputs (direct results), outcomes (the difference, made by outputs), and impact as the ultimate goal, should be simpler and much more effective.

Within the BSIS report, some remarkable features of the SEB LU’s impact have been highlighted. The school’s impact was measured in various ways: we used our internal data, which is regularly collected, accessible secondary data, and prepared several surveys that were sent to different stakeholders. The advice to other schools would be to carefully design the measurement methods and to comprehensively integrate them into existing processes. Measuring the impact of the schools should be an ongoing process, based on standardised methods, enabling the school to track the same type of information, and thereby allowing the school to identify the impact the school has produced over short- or long-term periods.

The outcomes of the EQUIS and BSIS processes on SEB LU’s current and future activities are twofold. EQUIS encourages schools to approach quality as an ongoing process. Based on the comprehensive self-evaluation report and a fruitful discussion with our peer review team, we identified the key areas for improvement, through which we will maintain and further increase the quality of our processes and activities.

On the other hand, the BSIS report confirmed a very strong and positive local and international image of the SEB LU with a high regional, national, and international recognition and reputation. A series of recommendations to improve the school’s impact have been stressed and we believe that the feedback from experts provides a great opportunity to identify future actions to improve quality and impact.

To sum up, we believe there are few important things that significantly signal business school’s impact: the quality of relationships with stakeholders (i.e. students, employees, alumni, business partners, and society), the ability to drive changes, and creating sustainable and socially responsible development solutions for stakeholders and society.

To find out more about possible outcomes of the BSIS process, join us at the BSIS Symposium where Darija, Nuša, Marjan and other BSIS schools will be presenting best practices.