The process of democratisation of education for all, particularly in developing countries like Malaysia, has resulted in the mushrooming of both public and private higher education institutions (HEIs). This phenomenon and the exponential growth resulted in greater competition among universities to attract students. So as to ensure one’s competitiveness, ranking and accreditation have become a fundamental measuring indicator for quality and marketing point. Thus, it is not surprising that these academic institutions have poured in significant amount of their resources into acquiring this value added recognition.
Accreditation assurance of quality
In the context of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), the university is actively engaged in internationalisation activities and venturing into international collaborations in marketing our academic programmes and establishing itself as the top business and management educational institution in Asia. As such, an internationally recognised accreditation is a must have and being a university whose niche area is in business and management, the one that is most sought after is the internationally renowned Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB). UUM is proud to have received the accreditation since 2016 and making us one of the elite few in Malaysia.
There are a number of international accreditation agencies for business study programmes in the world. The AACSB International is the most prestigious and oldest global accreditation body for business schools in the world. It provides the quality assurance needed and at present, there are over 1,700 member organisations, and more than 840 accredited business schools worldwide. Attaining AACSB accreditation means that the school is among the top five per cent business schools in the world.
UUM in very elite group
The AACSB accreditation is very relevant to both businesses and institutions of higher learning because it draws on both communities for input and information. AACSB is an official certification or acknowledgement that a degree programme offered by a business school has met all the standards set by the awarding body, such as offering a robust and challenging curriculum, providing effective career development, and constantly demonstrating a commitment to innovate and contribute new knowledge to the field of business studies. UUM is among the first in Malaysia and one of the very few universities in the world (less than five per cent) to qualify into this very elite group. We are indeed proud that our business degree programme has been accredited by the internationally acclaimed AACSB, which is acknowledged for its very high requirement standards. We have successfully endured the arduous and vigorous application process that took the university almost seven years to achieve and fulfil all the education metrics set by AACSB.
What makes the accreditation unique and most sought after is the continuous quality enhancement being introduced as in the case of the latest AACSB 2020 Standards. It covers three broad areas which are namely, strategic management and innovation; learner success; and thought leadership, engagement and societal impact.
Continuous improvement is core to AACSB accredited institutions and it must constantly hedge its own achievement and strive to be better. UUM takes cognizance of this requirement and our business study programme has been continuously enhanced to meet the evolving nature of the learners and to respond to the dynamic job market and the dictates of Education 4.0, which is beyond the student-centred learning. It is about empowering students to structure their learnings within the intended learning objectives. For business study programmes, equipping students with the right transferrable skills is vital to meeting the rapid changes in business knowledge. Thus, innovation in curriculum is of the utmost importance. At UUM, students get to experience a holistic learning experience as the curriculum adheres to these strict requirements.
UUM highly ranked in the world
One of the values upheld by AACSB accredited institutions is social responsibility. It requires HEIs to engage with the community, including businesses, as part process of enriching students’ learning experience. Students at UUM are highly encouraged to share and put into practise their academic knowledge to help improve the community well-being through service-learning projects. Various classes have embedded the community service activities in various class assignments. For example, the Risk Management and Insurance Seminar class periodically organises community outreach programmes with selected schools in the states of Kedah and Perlis with the aim to increase awareness on insurance and safety at school. The community at large benefits from this knowledge transfer engagement while the students stand to gain leadership, teamwork and communication skills in managing the projects.
Being the only university in the country that specialises in business and management studies, UUM has managed to carve its way and make an impact internationally by being ranked highly both by the Times Higher Education (THE) and the QS World University Ranking. In view of all these achievements, we have to ensure that our students stand to benefit fully from such exposures. Therefore, in line with the AACSB accreditation, UUM submitted an unsolicited proposal to Beta Gamma Sigma (BGS) USA with the intention to set up the 1st ever BGS chapter in Malaysia, and the 5th in Southeast Asia. We successfully achieved this honour in 2016 and our students have since continued to achieve many successes. One notable achievement was when the UUM chapter became the recipients of the ‘Highest Chapter Honour’ among the top five per cent business schools in the world in 2017.
UUM is fully aware of how influential and significant BGS society is. To be part of it is a privilege and to be the 1st ever BGS chapter in Malaysia, is indeed an honour. At the individual level, it is the highest recognition a business student anywhere in the world can receive. Only universities accredited with AACSB can establish the BGS chapter. As of today, there are only around 566 BGS chapters around the world and most of the chapters are located in the United States of America.
Stringent selection process
Being a member, there are many benefits one can enjoy, both at UUM and from BGS USA. At UUM, various leaderships and industry engagement programmes are already in the pipeline for the selected ones. Its members will be given priority to participate in exchange programmes, internships in Multinational Corporations (MNC), and many other up-skilling workshops. One can also access various resources from the main BGS website, as well as participate in various programmes in the United States.
UUM aims to be top business school in Asia
One of the strategies adopted by the University in product branding and marketing is to develop international partnerships with world leading industry players and reputable institutions of higher learning, which represent well-known brands and are acknowledged for the quality of their products and services. One notable example was an accord with Qatar Airways, where a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed which allows the University to tap into the carrier’s extensive network of destinations around the world to market our study programmes. The marketing approach developed by Qatar Airways in Product, Pricing and Promotion Strategies are most relevant to the rebranding and marketing exercise envisioned by UUM and sets to improve its image and visibility. The collaboration with a leading international industry player also bodes well for UUM’s quest for a stronger international academic presence and in support of Malaysia’s plan to become the hub for academic excellence in the region.
Furthermore, many MBA and other graduate business study programmes prefer applicants who have received undergraduate study programmes associated with AACSB. With regard to GE, UUM is proud to be among the best in Malaysia in 2019 with more than 92 per cent of its graduates employed upon graduation. UUM is now ranked in the 251-300 band in the QS World University Ranking 2020 for Business and Management Studies, and for the first time, the University is in the 201-250 band of the Times Higher Education (THE) Young University Rankings 2019. Undoubtedly, the industry will benefit tremendously from the high calibre, well-prepared graduates from UUM College of Business.
The year 2020 started with a ‘bang’ of sorts when the world was seized with developments around the current COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries continue to grapple with the new realities emerging almost daily as a result of the pandemic and the search for the vaccine is still proving difficult and illusive. Given that no vaccine is on the near horizon, educational institutions will most likely be forced to introduce the ‘work from home’ (WFH) concept to both, staff and students alike, for a foreseeable future.
Pandemic a blessing in disguise?