Author: Dr Gunalan Nadarajah
In any business, competitive advantage plays a crucial role in ensuring sustainability. Businesses need to prioritise on a range of competitive advantages such as quality, pricing, flexibility, innovation and so forth. There is an opportunity cost in any decision made; if the quality is the priority then the trade-off could be pricing.
Talking about quality, in academic programme offering, international accreditations have been a major focus among the academic institutions, especially among business schools. Take the MBA programme as an example. Universities in Asia are putting growing emphasis on international accreditations. To obtain an internationally recognized accreditation is not easy sailing; many areas need to be fulfilled before officially obtaining the accreditation.
In order to ensure international standards, all areas, ranging from the mission and direction of the School/College, governance, programme structure, learning outcome, evaluation process, quality of the academic staff, facilities, financial sustainability, triple bottom line, etc are being accessed. After going through a series of processes and procedures which are definitely very time- consuming, the accreditation is awarded. Having programmes accredited by international accreditation bodies reflects the quality, for example, there are only 2% of business schools worldwide accredited by the Association of MBA (AMBA) and 5% for AACSB. This should translate to an increase in the number of students’ intake, however, the trend is the other way round.
What went wrong?
Is our marketing a failure? Looks like, there is a lack in reflecting the value for money of the MBA programme. Education is lifelong learning; there should be a gradual increase in the number of applications. Packaging the MBA programme in a proper manner will portray the value for money. In the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution, digitalization in marketing is a must.
Current students no longer prefer the traditional marketing approach. For many, international accreditations are viewed as a promotional tool to show the quality of their programme and eventually capture the market share. This is what is believed to be, but how many of the candidates are solely relying on international accreditations to enrol for an academic programme?
Accreditations come with a price and this cost is being embedded in the tuition fee which increases the total fee. Generally, with the economic slowdown and the increase in the cost of living, some candidates might be looking into the pricing than the prestige that an international accreditation can bring. This rolls back to the basics of marketing– creating awareness. Hence, it is crucial for academic institutions to relook at their strategic marketing plan and also to understand if candidates do actually know and value the accreditations. Some argue that an MBA is no longer relevant and divert the focus to certification programmes.
A study on this matter, especially in Southeast Asia should be carried out before developing a robust strategic direction and promotional plan.
Which is which now – An accreditation to show the quality of a programme, a competitive pricing or an innovation in product offering is required to sustain the market?
Dr. Gunalan Nadarajah is the Alumni and Corporate Relations Director of OYAGSB.