Nearly 100 years ago, on June 16, 1916, a group of deans from some of the most recognized universities of the era joined to create an association dedicated to the advancement and quality of business education. Today, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, better known as AACSB, is an organization of more than 1,200 schools worldwide, 620 of whom are accredited for their business programs (as of June 2011).
What was quite real about the development of an organization like AACSB was that it was driven by demands from the business community, not the academic community. The Industrial Revolution had transformed the United States' rural, agricultural society into an urban, commercial society based in places such as New York and Chicago. Business was not simple anymore, and running a business was not for the faint of heart—or the "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants entrepreneur." John Jacob Astor started out as a dairy salesman and fur trader. Cornelius Vanderbilt quit school at age 11 to work on his father's ferry boat. Andrew Carnegie began his career as a factory worker. And that was fine for the 19th century, but not for the America of 1916. It was a nation just several years away from becoming the world’s industrial leader. Like medicine and law, business was a profession requiring professionals.
But where would professional business training come from? What would be included in the coursework? You could not have just anyone proclaim to be a business school. Sure, there were some fine institutions already in operation—Wharton being one of the first—but there were no standards or regulations guiding business educators. Therefore, in essence, AACSB Accreditation (first adopted in 1919) became the standards by which academic excellence could be measured, by which business education could attain the same respectability and credibility as the more established disciplines of the time experienced.
Today, the AACSB Accreditation Standards have evolved to encompass the rigorous demands of business education, and have become utilized as a guide for business schools. And, AACSB Accreditation has become globally recognized by both educators and businesses as an assurance of quality in business education.