A New Source of Legitimacy for Business Schools
15 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2015
Date Written: April 28, 2015
The highly institutionalized field of management education has been in turmoil. Most business schools are experiencing a legitimacy crisis and have been seeking social approval since the epic 2001 Enron debacle and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC). Many scholars and policymakers have held business school leaders and their alumni responsible for these historic scandals. As a result, the (over)reliance on two main kinds of trust-building mechanisms: accreditations and rankings, as sources of legitimacy, has been insufficient to protect business schools from public distrust. Additionally, this reliance has led to mass-imitation on the international scene and shown its limitations. How can business schools remain legitimate in a global context? Using six business schools in Europe and in the US as case studies, we analyze their search for legitimacy in terms of prestige and reputation-seeking strategies. We show the risks and limitations of these strategies and present authenticity as an alternative source of legitimacy and trust-building. The legitimacy of business schools and the power of authenticity are discussed.
Keywords: legitimacy, business schools, trust-building mechanisms, authenticity
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