Accreditations impact

June 13, 2024 •

11 min reading

Alphabet soup or real impact: How EHL’s evolution is supported by accreditations

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What first comes to mind when you mention accreditations to faculty, education specialists and university management? A huge amount of work? A necessary evil? Rigor? Regulatory requirement?

Yes, that’s generally the gist of it, but let me tell you it is rarely accompanied by celebratory dances and rejoicing. And yet, from where I stand, they are beautiful instruments of quality assurance and continuous improvement. Ok, I confess, I am an accreditation professional, so my perspective *might* be biased. Throughout my career in higher education, I have, however, seen the added value of accreditation and certification processes, beyond the necessary compliance aspects.

I was reminded the other day that, in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, I moved from the Caribbean to work on the AACSB project, here at EHL Hospitality Business School. It sounds unreal, doesn’t it? So why did I decide to embark on this journey?

EHL’s international renown and its reputation as the leading hospitality management school were the obvious attraction. In addition, the experienced critical evaluator in me couldn’t help but notice that this reputation is not built on a château de cartes. The commitment to excellence and EHL’s pursuit of the most stringent standards of education were the deciding factors.

Four years on and several accreditations later, I belong to a professional team of higher education policy and quality assurance experts which supports the institution in accreditations, compliance and regulatory affairs. This team has grown with the evolution of EHL Hospitality Business School, which has been marked by significant milestones; each of them in parallel with prestigious labels of quality. There is, however, no sugar-coating it, accreditations are huge projects, first to obtain them but then to maintain them.


Why would any university or school engage in complex accreditation processes?
Why did EHL?

In brief, recognition by accreditation agencies confers a crucial added value to EHL by firmly grounding its international leadership in hospitality education. Early on in its strategy definition, educational quality and accreditations held a prominent place because first and foremost, quality assurance supports the mission and vision of an innovative institution like EHL. It helps to shape its academic and professional core.

Founded in 1893 as the world's first hotel management school, EHL became a University of Applied Sciences in 1998 through an association with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland (HES-SO). Affiliation with HES-SO means that EHL benefits from institutional accreditation (delivered by the Swiss Council for Accreditation) and federal recognition of its degree-granting programs (Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science).

EHL SCHOOL CERTIFICATION  Quality Assurance for Hospitality Schools Worldwide  Through the process of certification, we assist learning centers to achieve a  high standard of academic quality assurance that is backed by EHL, the world’s  first and best ranking hospitality business school.  Learn more

So why the need to seek other accreditations?

It is worth noting that our association with HES-SO precedes the creation of the Swiss Accreditation Council and the implementation of the European Credit Transfer System so in the ‘90s, EHL turned towards a mature complementary accreditation system internationally. Accreditation in higher education is an activity long accepted in the United States, but sometimes less known in countries where governmental supervision and control of educational institutions is prevalent. In its modern definition, it is voluntary and has two fundamental purposes: to assure the quality of the institution or program, and to assist in the improvement of the institution or program.

Accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), the oldest accreditation body founded in 1885, marked the beginning of EHL’s internationalization journey in 1998. It allowed EHL to become known in regions of the globe where it wasn’t yet known. EHL has since been home to students from across the world, 126 nationalities currently.

This initial accreditation not only expanded EHL's global reach but also catalyzed significant internal changes. The added value is obvious. The 2013 and 2023 NECHE reaccreditations, for instance, introduced a new internal council system, laying the foundation for participative governance that continues to shape the institution today. It also prompted the establishment of a General Education (GE) framework, coinciding with the publication of the EHL Graduate Definition and resulting in the definition of learning goals. These goals were further refined into Global Learning Outcomes (GLOs) in 2019, forming the basis of EHL's competency-based framework.

Becoming a member of AACSB International —The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, in 2016 represented another major step in EHL's journey.

AACSB is the world’s largest business education network connecting students, academia, and business to advance business education worldwide. Schools that have earned AACSB business accreditation demonstrate an ongoing commitment to excellence in teaching, research, curriculum development, and learner success.

EHL’s membership was followed by the publication of a new mission statement in 2017, which highlighted EHL's commitment to teaching and innovation in the hospitality and service industry. The articulation of applied research in its mission statement led to several organizational changes, including the implementation of a new faculty management system and the launch of research institutes. It is the confirmation of EHL’s eligibility by AACSB in 2020, which firmed up the process towards AACSB accreditation. The basis for the preparation was the new AACSB 2020 Business Standards.

EHL’s MISSION - We bring together academia and hospitality to create the higher education of action-driven individuals and develop insightful thinking together with innovative practices in the international service industry.


Why was this significant?

This was significant for EHL because AACSB standards are principles-based rather than rules-based. The shift from a “one size fits all” model allowed the school to demonstrate its uniqueness. This is the kind of regulatory reporting I enjoy most, one where the institution can “tell its story”. Among traditional business schools, EHL is unique. Firstly, it is a hospitality business school. It teaches the process for making business decisions and for finding solutions to business problems, as well as providing a solid practical foundation in the hospitality sector. Secondly, it operates with an autonomous status and, thirdly, it possesses remarkable infrastructure, including a practical arts environment which enriches the learning experience. This includes the most beautiful classroom in the world: the Michelin-star restaurant Berceau des Sens.

The subsequent acceptance into the initial accreditation process in 2021 demonstrated EHL's dedication to continuous improvement. In parallel, EHL opened its Singapore campus in 2021, subject to a rigorous certification process by the Singaporean Ministry of Education. The challenges encountered during this certification process prompted EHL to refine its processes and data management systems, highlighting the importance of ongoing quality assurance.

As explained by EHL Group's CEO, Professor Markus Venzin, “EHL has transformed from a small Swiss hospitality school into a beacon of hospitality management education and knowledge transfer. The school’s journey of innovation and excellence is a testament to the expertise and passion of our faculty and community – continuously inspiring sustainable growth for our students, our partners, and our industry. Today, we are delighted that EHL is recognized for its excellence as a business school.”


Earlier this year, following a rigorous peer-review process which concluded with a site visit in March 2024, the AACSB’s Initial Accreditation Committee established that EHL Hospitality Business School fulfilled the accreditation requirements and was awarded accreditation for 6 years.

Table 1. EHL Hospitality Business School accreditations

Agency Accreditation/Membership
Swiss Accreditation Council Institutional accreditation through association with HES-SO
NECHE Institutional accreditation
AACSB Institutional accreditation
EduTrust Certification for EHL Campus Singapore from the Singaporean Council for Private Education
European Foundation for Management Development Membership
EFMD Programme Accreditation System (EPAS) for EHL’s Hospitality MBA delivered jointly with CEIBS
Council for Higher Education Accreditation Membership
Swiss Agency of Accreditation and Quality Assurance (AAQ) Program recognition for EHL’s Hospitality MBA delivered jointly with CEIBS

Another accreditation – what does that bring to EHL?

AACSB accreditation constitutes a major milestone in the history of the school and its evolution as a leading institution in hospitality management education. EHL has honed a unique expertise in human centricity, and our graduates are known for their versatile skill set and intuitive understanding of service and people. In the past 10 years, we have seen a broadening of the sectors our graduates aim to work in and a diversity in the companies which seek out their competences. EHL is definitely a business school, a hospitality business school. AACSB accreditation reinforces our competitivity, our capacity to attract talented students and our ability to forge new industry and academic partnerships. In brief, it widens the gap with our competitors.

At the core of our ethos lies a holistic approach to education. It’s a hallmark of the Swiss system, where academic rigor meets hands-on experience, all infused with a passion for hospitality. Our institution and its community have embraced the process of continuous improvement, self-reflection and peer-review, which come with our voluntary engagement in AACSB’s accreditation. Alongside academic accreditation milestones and recognitions, EHL has become a multifaceted, multi-campus University of Applied Sciences, rooted in Switzerland and with a global footprint. It now wholeheartedly joins an accredited network of business schools known for its excellence.”, states Dr. Juan-Francisco Perellon, Chief Academic Officer of the EHL Group.


EHL Hospitality Business School is the only standalone hospitality management school in the world to receive this accolade, and only the 7th school of business and management in Switzerland to be granted this quality label. In addition, the school is a member of EFMD and CHEA (Cf. Table 1), two other membership organizations promoting continuous improvement and accreditation.


With all these accreditations, how do you create synergies?

AACSB, NECHE, CHEA, EFMD … It all sounds like an alphabet soup, some may say. This prompts one question: what is the added value of accreditation? Foremost, rather than viewing accreditation as an administrative burden and/or a self-imposed requirement, EHL always sees it as an opportunity for growth and enhancement.

Quality assurance is continuous and calls for an ever curious and innovative approach as shared by Professor Achim Schmitt, Dean of the Hospitality Business School: “The School’s internationalization and digitalization efforts as part of the recently launched EHL Group Strategy 2027 will ensure a continued engagement with the most demanding quality standards.”.


The synergy lies in the role of accreditations as instruments of continuous improvement. For instance, the establishment of global learning objectives not only serves AACSB's Assurance of Learning (AoL) plan but also provides the basis for NECHE's general education reporting and ensures alignment with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). Equally, EduTrust certification delivered by the Committee for Private Education which allows EHL to operate its Singapore campus, has given a process-driven focus which serves to monitor performance of academic operations and strategy implementation.

But beyond the obvious guiding frameworks that accreditations bring to institutions, the literature has long demonstrated a positive impact on the reputation and performance of institutions, on graduate careers, and on the student experience.


What advice or pointers would you give to institutions seeking voluntary international accreditations?

For me, self-evaluation, evidence-based reflections and transparency must guide the accreditation process, whether it is a requirement or a voluntary endeavor. Embedding accreditation requirements within institutional processes in a way that is useful for planning, decision-making and risk mitigation is essential. Where accreditation is undertaken in a silo, it loses its value, and the engagement of the internal community is likely to be diminished. When it serves, as intended, the institution to go forward, then all stakeholders can fully benefit from it.

An example of this is the EHL internal governance system. Originally instituted to comply with a NECHE Standard, it would be unthinkable to imagine EHL without it today, as it provides a voice to students, staff, and faculty. Another is the EHL’s graduate attributes, which form the basis of the competency framework for all programs. Today, expectations of higher education institutions and business schools go beyond imparting knowledge to students. They have to demonstrate that their learners develop transversal competencies and gain the desired skill set for their sector. Institutions like EHL also have to be true to their mission and benefit positively their community and society at large. That may seem like a lot to ask, but this is where both EHL and its accreditation bodies converge.

Sustainability and corporate social responsibility more broadly are visible everywhere on the EHL Campuses: From the state-of-the-art new Minergy-P-certified building in Lausanne, waste management technology, and support for soft mobility. In addition to being environmentally sensitive, the CSR strategy encourages integration of sustainability in teaching and research, ensuring that the next generation of business leaders are equipped to face global challenges. Engagement in the community is equally present : supporting local charities such La démarche et l’Union Restaurant, offering pro bono junior consultancy to non-profit organizations and encouraging staff volunteering in the communities where the school is located in Switzerland and in Singapore.

AACSB, in particular, is active in showcasing how its accredited members are active in their community impact. Recently, it implemented an optional reporting based on SDGs, the same framework which guides EHL.

The EHL Strategy states its commitment to impact clearly: "A big part of our EHL culture is the act of giving back to our people, our community, our industry, and beyond. Therefore, it is our goal to embed sustainability as a cornerstone of our activities and positively impact those around us. As the world's first hotel school, we carry on our legacy as pioneers and continue to drive research and innovation for the hospitality industry and support its progress post-pandemic. We export our core hospitality expertise into other sectors, to elevate service experiences with a focus on human interaction."

Final words…

Today, the quality of the faculty, its remarkable contribution to research in an applied way, the broad industry sectors that recruit EHL graduates, and the quality of the partnerships the institution boasts are why I enjoy the accreditation projects I have the privilege of supporting. Even if they are demanding. EHL Hospitality Business School's AACSB accreditation and re-accreditation by NECHE are testaments to its commitment to excellence in hospitality management education.

These accreditations not only validate EHL's standing as a leading institution but also underscore its dedication to providing a world-class learning, teaching and working environment. Looking ahead, EHL remains committed to continuous improvement and self-reflection without complacency, to quote from our NECHE peer review report. EHL continues to innovate and meet the highest standards of excellence in business education for its learners and to benefit the industry and society.

Written by

Vice-Chair of EHL Certification Commission Certification & Accreditation Manager (Higher Education)

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