Accreditation Of An International Bachelor Program Spanning Three Countries
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The paper describes the rather complex accreditation requirements of a tri-national Bachelor of Science program called International Business Management. The program is an integrated co-operation between three European universities in France, Germany and Switzerland and has been successfully operating for 16 years. Students are recruited from all three partner universities and form an integrated, international learning group that moves between the three partner-universities during the course of the degree program. The language of tuition changes from semester to semester: French in France, German in Germany and English in Switzerland. In addition many students take language courses in Spanish and Chinese. During the lecture-free periods, students have to find internships in companies and organizations – in their home region and across the world. They have to work in such internships for at least 48 weeks over the course of the program. At the end of their studies students receive three separate bachelor degrees from the three participating institutions, plus a certificate from the Université franco-allemande. Equipped with this unique international education, most graduates start their careers in multinational companies, NGOs or internationally oriented SMEs – often continuing their education with a master’s degree at a variety of universities and again – around the globe. The paper provides insights into the history of the program, the challenge of management across borders, the selection process and student population, and the content and structure of the program. It describes the accreditation requirements faced by the program, which stem not only from the country-specific accreditation processes (three of them) plus the accreditation by the Université franco-allemande, but in addition from a recently initiated AACSB-accreditation project at one of the partner universities (FHNW, represented by the author). Since the partners in France and Germany are not in the process of acquiring AACSB-accreditation, this represents a particular challenge to this program. It appears that similar examples are rare. The paper thus discusses the current situation regarding the accreditation project, the unique challenges to be faced, the strategy to deal with these challenges, and an outlook towards the steps ahead.