The Slovenia Times

Accreditation standards guide resourcing efforts to keep up with the best



Why did you pursue these accreditations at a time when it was not the practice in this region?

Nada Zupan: It all started about 20 years ago with the visionary leadership of the dean at that time, Professor Ferdinand Trošt and his team. They understood that the only way forward and toward better quality was to open up and internationalise. It quickly became obvious that we needed to benchmark against the best schools and follow the trends in modern business education. International accreditations seemed a logical tool to help us move in the right direction. In hindsight, it was a rather bold decision to first pursue the EQUIS accreditation by EFMD, which is very selective. FELU was EQUIS accredited in 2006 and today there are only 176 accredited schools around the world. However, it was the decision that made us who we are today. With every (re)accreditation we have been learning and improving. FELU has pioneered many things in Slovenia that were then shared as best practice within and beyond the university. In my view, continuous improvement by following the ever-evolving standards of quality in business education is the main value of these accreditations. Of course, it takes a lot of hard work to constantly improve processes, programs and their delivery, research output and services. Everybody at the school needs to get involved in order to succeed. This year, we were very happy to complete the third EQUIS re-accreditation and for the first time we have been accredited for five years and not for three as previously, this is an important recognition of our progress and quality. In the next year we will undergo AACSB and AMBA re-accreditations.

What are the benefits to FELU of having these accreditations?

Nada Zupan: Accreditation standards serve as a guide of where to place our efforts and resources to keep up with the best. Usually, public educational institutions are rather rigid and slow, and accreditations are a welcome form of external pressure that makes us more agile and effective in implementing change. In addition to the impact on continuous improvement, accreditations serve as the seal of quality. This is very important for FELU, coming from a less known and small country like Slovenia, it has helped us to gain international respect and become visible on the international business education map. This year, for the first time, we are listed among the best business schools on the FT European Business School Ranking of the Top 95 schools. We have managed to position ourselves as a desired partner for student and staff exchanges, joint programs and research. We are able to attract an increasing number of international students, teachers and researchers to FELU. All of this helps us to develop cross-cultural awareness and competencies, broadens our horizons and prepares us to work and live in a globalised world.

How difficult was it for FELU to achieve triple accreditation?

Nada Zupan: The small number of triple accredited schools around the world, just 88 as of September 2018, attests to both the accreditation standards and the processes being very demanding. We simply need to do more things and everything better than we could have been doing if we didn't push for this high quality confirmed by the accreditations. When they talk about how little work is done by public employees, I really don't see any of that at FELU. Come to see us in July when most others are on vacation and we are hosting about 600 international students and teachers for our summer school, "Take the best from East and West". This year it is celebrating 20 years! We strive to get better all the time but, unfortunately, quality in higher education is not sufficiently recognised as a priority by the Slovenian government and resources are not effectively allocated. Almost all the investment in quality and internationalisation come from the faculty's own resources, earned in the market. Our accreditors are often surprised by how much we are able to do with the resources we have. Anyway, so far so good, we just need to be careful that we don't run out of enthusiasm, which is our main fuel. Accreditations are difficult to get and equally challenging to keep.

Why does impact matter?

Marjan Smonig: Using the words of the EFMD Global Network, business schools are under increasing demands to demonstrate their impact and are referring more and more frequently to the issue of impact when defining their mission/vision/strategy. From the data of EFMD Global in 2018, out of the 55 schools to which the AACSB and EFMD board members belong, 42 (that is 76%) use the terms "impact" or "influence" in defining their core purpose. But it is not enough to "merely" mention impact. Schools need to understand the strategic value in assessing, measuring and analysing impact. The Business School Impact System (BSIS) scheme is designed to determine the extent of a school's impact upon its local environment - the city or region in which it is located. The BSIS process is offered as a joint venture between the EFMD Global Network and FNEGE as a service to EFMD members in any part of the world.

Are you living up to the mission of FELU?

Marjan Smonig: Completed in September 2018, the BSIS report concluded that FELU has significant financial impact on the impact zone and highlighted some remarkable features of the school:

  • the major player in the field of management education in Slovenia and in the region; is providing up-to-date, top-quality business education to a large number of Slovenian students and with over 600 international students it offers a vibrant learning environment.
  • has both an exceptional academic impact, its research and intellectual impact are global and local.
  • has a very extensive impact on firms and organisations in Slovenia, thanks to its active, experiential pedagogy that constantly seeks to link learning and practice.
  • is strongly embedded in the country, is at the heart of the Slovenian networks and plays a significant role within its economic and political ecosystem.
  • has an impact in the societal sphere that is both broad and deep; the school is a role model in terms of ERS for other institutions in its environment.

The report stressed a very strong and positive local and international image of the school with excellent regional, national and international recognition and reputation.

Are there any FELU activities planned as a follow-up to the BSIS Report?

Marjan Smonig: The report confirmed that FELU has an extensive impact on firms and organisations in Slovenia. In 2018, FELU started to disseminate the research results. On 17 December, the FELU Research Day will be organised, focusing on evaluating the year, 2018, and the objectives and activities for 2019. In light of the BSIS results and recommendations, the focal point of the research day will be the relevancy and dissemination of research. "Relevancy and Dissemination of Research Work" is also the title of the lecture by the invited guest, Vivienne Parry.
An excessive and convincing story to tell regarding the impact and activities of FELU and its faculty is the recent news that the book "Making Sustainability Work: Best Practices in Managing and Measuring Corporate Social, Environmental and Economic Impacts", of which Professor Adriana Rejc Buhovac is co-author with Marc Epstein, was selected by Bookauthority as one of the world's most influential books in the area of sustainability.

What are the EFMD Global Network activities planned for the future?

Marjan Smonig: With the increasing interest in impact and the number of schools signing on to the BSIS process, building a community to facilitate interaction and to share best practices is becoming increasingly necessary. On 24-25 April 2019, EFMD GN will organise its first BSIS symposium on impact, bringing together a broad range of Business Schools (BSIS and non-BSIS schools) to share experiences, advance the conversation on impact and strengthen our growing community.
By having a FELU representative on the organising committee of the symposium, our school has an important role in the preparation of the event. Also, due to the fact that FELU was the global pilot in introducing the joint visit Equis/BSIS, at the symposium a special contribution from FELU as a testimony to the synergies between Equis accreditation and BSIS is foreseen.

Is there an 'impact' of the BSIS process on the FELU?

Marjan Smonig: As Professor Metka Tekavčič, the Dean of the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana, said at the end of the BSIS process, "going through this process was an experience of broadening horizons for FELU and expanding our understanding of the impact on different stakeholders. The BSIS feedback, with recommendations from the experts, provides a great opportunity for the school to confirm and identify future actions to improve quality and impact."


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