What is a “Business School”?
Although many people think that a Business School is a graduate school where managerial science is taught and MBAs are granted, in fact, a business school provides education to a much broader subset of the population than just graduate students.
In 2004, Japanese law schools were given a new impetus within a newly established system. This also served to raise public awareness of business schools, where managerial studies were taught as part of this new system. This type of education, however, has been a tradition in Western countries for nearly 100 years. It is relatively unknown in Japan that business schools are part of both undergraduate and postgraduate university education. Saying that you graduated from a business school does not depict whether your education was part of your undergraduate major or whether you studied managerial science at a graduate school (and were awarded a Master’s degree or Ph.D.).
An MBA is not the only Master’s degree awarded at a business school. The MBA is the study of management science overall, while the Master of Science (MSc) is for a particular field of study within the managerial science domain (for example, an MSc in Finance or Marketing, among others). In many cases, MSc courses accept students who have no experience in the business world, something that is often required for an MBA program.
Business schools further provide the general public with so-called “executive education” (leadership development), where a degree is not the end goal. At some business schools, the scale of executive education is larger than that of their MBA program. Some businessperson-training companies that exclusively provide executive education also call themselves business schools. It seems that some kind of standard is necessary to enable us to determine a more narrow definition of a “business school.”
Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has legally stipulated University Establishment Standards, which serve as a kind of “minimum standards” under which a business school can be permitted to grant university degrees, whether Bachelor’s, Master’s, or doctoral degrees. That said, Japan has both national and private universities, and there are ordinary graduate schools as well as “professional graduate schools.” Thus, there is no single standard for delineating institutions where business school-equivalent education is offered.
This situation is not limited to Japanese business schools, but is a worldwide issue. Different countries naturally maintain different university-establishment standards, and even different states or provinces within an individual country may have different standards and/or regulations. The fact is, a number of standards currently exist for defining “business schools.”
Various organizations exist (AACSB, EQUIS, AMBA) that seek to establish business school standards from a global perspective, and to provide institutions that meet those standards with their accreditation. The goal of such international certification for business schools is to provide a means of ensuring program quality and research prowess at individual schools, based on a global perspective. In the end, business schools should strive to improve themselves in the course of mutual competition, which would benefit all.
Program Structure at a Business School (example: MIT Sloan School of Management)
・ Executive Education (Leadership Development)
・ Master of Science
This kind of structure is so well-known in Western societies as to be common sense. When speaking about business schools in those countries, one is asked whether he or she is speaking of undergraduate or graduate education. Increasingly, such an understanding accompanies higher education that is provided in Middle Eastern countries and China. The fact is, however, that there are still only a few Japanese people who have a sufficient understanding of these facts.
A current problem in Japan is whether professional schools should add the English title “Such-and-such School of Business” to their department. My foreign friends have a joke about such professional schools, wondering whether they teach, for example, “beauty business,” “flower business,” or “pet business,” and so on. I can only blush in response.
What are referred to as “professional schools” in Japan are go by different names in Western countries, including “vocational schools,” “career schools,” or “career colleges,” and so forth. These schools are dedicated to training in a specific profession. The ACCSC organization in the United States provides accreditation for such schools; meanwhile, in Japan, these institutions, too, may call themselves “business schools.”