The AMBA light

Mike Jones has seen the MBA's future, and it works
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Mike Jones joined the Association of MBAs (AMBA) as Director-General six months ago. At 54, after a career in personnel and management development, and visiting fellowships at Lancaster and Manchester Business Schools, he understands both industry and academe.

AMBA was founded in 1967 to promote management education in Britain and offer a forum for the exchange of information and for networking. Subsequently it accredited MBA courses, handled enquiries from would-be students, and ran a loan scheme to help students finance their studies.

Mr Jones has spent his first few months diagnosing the needs of AMBA's 8,500 members and developing a "threefold vision" for the future. The first part of this, says Mr Jones, is to be the recognised professional body for accredited MBA degree holders, helping members to continually update their skills and maximise the contribution of their degree to their career.

"We are developing a template which offers a range of different benefits and services according to the particular career profile of an individual and their level of maturity within that career." Services are likely to include career management advice, business start-up packages, continuing professional development courses, a locum service and a better health scheme. There are also plans to launch a journal.

"Our second vision is to be recognised as an independent source of comprehensive information and advice - for prospective students, employers, the press or anybody with any interest in the MBA. Finally we see our accreditation service developing on a much broader international basis."

Under the present AMBA accreditation scheme, schools have courses accredited voluntarily. Each is visited by up to six assessors every seven years and must satisfy tough criteria. The scheme is widely respected at home and abroad, with 33 UK business schools and 16 in mainland Europe now accredited and another 20 schools, from Scandinavia to Australia, actively seeking accreditation.

Late last year the Association of Business Schools (ABS), representing Britain's business schools, claimed to have agreed a joint accreditation scheme with AMBA. But Mr Jones denies this. "It makes sense to maintain our independence. The ABS is a trade association. We are a consumer organisation. Prospective students want an independent guide to where they should invest their time, money and efforts. And employers want an independent guide to where they should direct their recruitment efforts."

Proposals for a European accreditation scheme by the European Fund for Management Development are still in their infancy. AMBA is not part of that either. "It's the same argument. The EFMD is a peer group review association, while we take the independent consumer view."

Moreover, the EFMD aims to accredit whole business schools. This means that they will look not only at MBA courses but also undergraduate, doctoral, and other masters and postgraduate diploma programmes. "Our role," says Mr Jones, "is to focus on the MBA." But he adds: "That's not to say we couldn't develop into whole-school accreditation at some stage"n