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Accreditation as a tool for building future skills

In the future, graduates need to be able to move between different environments and cope with new situations. Stepping out of one box and exploring its surroundings is not enough. This is also reflected in the EFMD business accreditation standards.


Merja Lehtomäki

specialist, international accreditations
Haaga-Helia ammttikorkeakoulu

Published : 14.12.2023

The dilemma with working life skills is that as our students graduate, the working life probably has changed from what it was at the beginning of their studies. This idea is supported in the Finnish Innovation Fund SITRA’s report stating that new ways of thinking are needed in the world of constant change and uncertainty that we live in (Dufva & Rekola 2023).

Moreover, the recent QS report (2023) on business students’ skills gaps shows employers agreeing that business graduates are lacking skills such as adaptability, flexibility, problem-solving and applying knowledge into diverse settings. But how can these skills be gained through studies?

As Haaga-Helia is working towards the European Foundation for Management Development EFMD programme accreditation for our international business programme, let’s have a look at how the EFMD standards and criteria can help with this.

EFMD’s approach

EFMD is one of the top organisations assessing business schools’ quality and impact through accreditations. Therefore, we can expect that they have a well-thought view on how to build the skills for the future.

The EFMD standards and criteria (EFMD Global 2023) include three transversal themes that are emphasized through the programme accreditation process.

  1. Internationalisation
  2. ERS (ethics, responsibility and sustainability)
  3. The world of practice

I argue that through these aspects, we can approach the above-mentioned skills gaps and improve the graduates’ problem-solving skills and their ability to cope with uncertain situations.

Improving future skills through internationalisation

The international aspect of education includes, for example, the study environment and the diversity of students. Classrooms embracing diversity will prepare students for different working environments. In terms of curriculum, international skills are built through international and culturally diverse content, examples, and cases, as well as bringing in international visitors and lecturers.

Moreover, the possibilities for language studies and studying or completing one’s work placement abroad also present learning opportunities for problem-solving and coping with uncertainty.

Improving future skills through ethics, responsibility and sustainability

ERS is seen as an important aspect to be included in all studies. It is at the core of problem-solving for the future, as the graduates deal with the wicked problems of climate change, or ethical dilemmas linked to technological innovations such as artificial intelligence.

ERS is also very much linked to the five themes of change listed in the SITRA’s report: nature, people, power, technology and the economy (Dufva & Rekola 2023). These themes are all relevant for business graduates’ careers.

Improving future skills through the world of practice

One of the strengths of Haaga-Helia is our strong links with the surrounding businesses and organisations. In EFMD’s terms, the world of practice.

The compulsory work placement of our students is an important part of our pedagogy. All graduates have experience from the working life and the changing situations it entails. But the world of practice is seen also in the classroom through visitors from companies, real-life case examples and cooperation in different projects.

It is not possible to graduate without being exposed to the world of practice.

Graduates embracing change

Our graduates need to embrace change. It is not enough anymore to just step out of one’s box and see what is outside. Our graduates need to be able to explore different boxes and their surroundings. Our graduates need to deal with the constantly changing contents, as well as to return and visit the origins if needed.

EFMD’s standards and criteria offer us a good tool for building these skills.


Dufva, M. and Rekola, S. 2023. Megatrends 2023: Understanding an era of surprises. Sitra.

EFMD Global. 2023. EFMD Programme Accreditations: Standards and Criteria. Document version 2023.

QS. 2023. The skills gap: What employers want from business school graduates. Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd. London, United Kingdom.

Editing: Marianne Wegmüller

Picture: Haaga-Helia