The Development of Responsible Management Education in European Business Schools : Responses to the 2013 EQUIS Accreditation Standards

  • Mathias Falkenstein

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


AbstractFor the global business school community, the twenty-first century inaugurated a season of introspection. As global sustainability concerns grew in prominence, critical debate about the purpose of business and its role in society could not be left without an educational response. At the same time, however, it raised the question of whether business schools were at all ready to equip their students for leadership in a world faced by crucial economic, social, and environmental challenges. The answer is not self-evidently positive. Various authors grapple with questions on the purpose of business schools and their relationship with business and society. This empirical study examines the influence of EQUIS accreditation standards on business school practices in the areas of institutional strategies, programmes, faculty, research, and development, as well as in responsible management education at large. Although accreditation is not the only factor that determines what business schools believe, do, and become, it is an important shaper of the direction in which they will find their way forward in the face of twenty-first–century management education imperatives. This has especially become the case since the inclusion of ethics, responsibility, and sustainability (ERS) in the revised EQUIS standards. The analysis is drawn from a qualitative multi-case study where the author outlined a theoretical framework by developing an understanding of the organisational responses to EQUIS standards, using interviews and document review as the primary source of information. The case study included private, public, stand-alone, and university-embedded business schools. The findings show that business schools engage in a variety of ERS activities in their research and education portfolio. However, different stakeholder expectations pressure business schools to become more ethical, responsible, and sustainable, which leads to a decoupling of the schools’ “ERS talk” from their “ERS actions”. The decoupling can be seen as the consequence of a school’s translation, editing, and imitation activities in order to appear committed to society’s demands. Despite budget constraints and limited autonomy, public business schools seem to be more engaged in ERS education and research as compared to private institutions. Also, a multidisciplinary environment further supports ERS development as compared to stand-alone business schools. The research proposes core changes and developments that business schools may take into consideration to provide a systematic response to EQUIS ERS standards and criteria.
Date of Award27 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRajani Naidoo (Supervisor) & Krista Bondy (Supervisor)


  • Business Schools
  • Isomorphism
  • Decoupling
  • Responsible Management Education
  • Ethics
  • Sustainability
  • Future of Management Education

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