1. Comprehensive Review
- Generally, ICS has achieved most of its stated goals. Various actions taken in order to achieve the targeted goals in terms of improving the ranking of the school; increasing the number students both in terms of quantity and quality; and promoting diversity of students and faculty members have materialized.
- Some initiatives were delayed by COVID-19. However, the school’s quick pivot to online delivery turned out to be very effective in catching up. For instance, building deeper and regular relations with stakeholders and alumni was achieved through hybrid approach by leveraging the growing use of online communications.
- In terms of Internal Quality Assurance, ICS has done quite well in promoting greater ownership among the stakeholders as the element of quality improvement. Results of ICS’s efforts in engendering greater ownership are visible in course and instructor evaluations that are shared among faculty, professional staff and students via the school’s LMS Canvas. The school could use these feedbacks to identify new arising issues and manage them accordingly. Many stakeholders have become informed of ICS’s goals and the quality improvement elements. Through ICS’s LMS Canvas, professional staff, faculty members, general staff and students are able to follow the various identified issues for improvement. In line with promoting internal quality assurance among the internal staff, ICS has been appropriately storing and sharing documents internally. The created documentation on ICS’s activities and the proper storing of it has indeed improved the transparency, which is crucial especially during the pandemics when many staff members are working from home and do not come to the office regularly.
- Performance agreement is a very useful tool to enhance internal quality assurance. ICS needs to ensure that superiors are following up on performance agreements. Informal discussion towards the middle of academic year should be practiced to avoid elements of overlook. In order to create awareness among the external shareholders on the school’s commitment in terms of quality assurance, ICS has been sharing post accreditation and other board certification reports through various platforms including the website. The school has been effectively updating its stakeholders on the implemented improvement initiatives periodically.
- Evidences suggest that ICS has successfully promoted its global branding slogan. The effectiveness of the global branding slogan such as “Premium, Boutique, Bespoke” is apparent from the quality as well as diversity of the students. Based on the interviews during the PRT virtual visit, ICS has apparently done an excellent job in sharing its mission and vision through various approaches and platforms. Through display via classrooms, offices and online (Canvas), ICS has been able to promote awareness and understanding of its mission and vision amongst faculty and staff. Faculty and staff are generally aware of ICS’s mission and learning gos.
- On the fundraising, a lot of actions have been made, however, it is not very clear what was the quantum achieved from this fundraising campaign despite strong encouragement from the school. In addition to the campaign, ICS should be able to come up with a reasonably good formula to reward the achievement of the tenured faculty in charge of fundraising. ICS has ensured that all technical elements supporting the donation program are in place. Guidelines (in English) on how to make donations is currently available. Various technical aspects of ICS donation scheme were ready before the public launching. To accelerate the output of donation, ICS might want to consider win-win arrangement with the donor, for example what sort of benefits donors will get from ICS, possibly in terms of training or knowledge sharing.
- COVID-19 has severely reduced revenue and subsequent funding from NIK, and more time is needed to see the full impact of the initiatives. ICS has executed fruitful contingency plan in ensuring sufficient funding. Newly identified revenue streams have led to a greater return of the ICS’s reserve fund. As face-to-face training was not possible during the pandemic, ICS has designed some online non-degree training modules which were quite useful as people are getting more and more used to online training. Besides, the school has secured some amount of NIK donation but the amount has been declining quite substantially due to COVID-19 and subsequent funding from NIK. Further efforts and promotion are encouraged to ensure continuous increase in donations.
- In terms of educational programs, our observation suggests that ICS has made the finalized EMBA curriculums & diploma policies available and accessible to current and potential stakeholders. ICS has improved robustness of measurements of learning outcome achievement through a more reliable traits and measurement points across academic years. In order to further improve the curriculum, the school planned to engage a wider range of stakeholders for their feedback on the program learning goals, but the initiatives were slightly delayed due to COVID-19. Thus, ICS needs to resort to online platform to compensate the delay. Nevertheless, ICS was able to collect feedback from employers on learning outcomes. ICS also obtained views from EMBA employers on its Alumni.
- To promote feedback from current and potential students, ICS has managed to convince lecturers to list the course learning goals explicitly and make these accessible to students through its LMS Canvas. Through this mechanism, ICS could collect feedback on courses that are of interest to prospective students as well as other relevant information. ICS has successfully reviewed traits and measurement points for all programs to ensure continuing quality student learning. The school’s measurement points for all programs are quite good. Monitoring Educational Goals and objectives to ensure their relevance in terms of the mission and international quality standards has been quite effective. ICS has also been able to solicit opinions of alumni and employers in relation to learning outcomes over the short to medium term in relation to MBA and EMBA learning outcomes. The newly adopted online accounting platform is apparently effective, drawing up a protocol for securing the services of an external ombudsman on an as-needed basis.
- ICS’s strategy to increase the number of applicants has been effective especially for MBA program. The intake of MBA has increased more than two times. Covid-19 pandemic is indeed a blessing in disguise. Switching to online promotional events has indeed attracted a larger crowd of potential students from South and South East Asian countries. EMBA has also received a higher number of applications since the implementation of the strategy. The number of applicants has increased not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of quality.
- Recruitment and maintaining the loyalty of excellent faculty is one of the most important aspects in ensuring quality education. For this reason, ICS has embarked on various initiatives to attract excellent faculty who are talented not only in teaching but also research. From our observation, the school has successfully formalized and systemized recruitment and succession planning resulting in the filling up of vacant faculty positions with excellent PhD holders in the field of Finance and Accounting. ICS has also been able to maintain all the tenured faculty positions allotted by the Ministry of Education. The plan to ensure adequate number of qualified tenured faculty at all times to deliver educational programs and research output has been quite successful.
- Furthermore, ICS has also been excellent in ensuring diversity of its faculty members not only in terms of gender but also in terms of nationalities. Four (4) of the tenured faculty members are non-Japanese nationals and in terms of gender diversity, more than 30% of faculty members are women. To ensure loyalty and that those who are excellent in research are recognized and rewarded accordingly, ICS has introduced promotion-linked Intellectual Contribution requirement. To promote the spirit of working together and excellent achievement among faculty, ICS has initiated transparency and awareness of their colleagues’ contributions and research activities through various platforms including online. The school’s systemic faculty development has further improved the effectiveness of ICS performance monitoring mechanism.
- In the pursuit of ensuring good performance among the faculty, the school has implemented faculty performance agreements which promote self-check/self-evaluation especially on matters related to improvement initiatives. The school’s efforts to monitor quality of outcomes in terms of research and knowledge delivery have been successful. The high student evaluation of ICS faculty in research and courses proves the positive outcomes of the mechanism. The school promotion system is quite well documented. ICS may consider a system for general staff members as well, to ensure the highest quality and motivation. Meanwhile, promotion criteria for professors, associate and assistant professors and instructors are clear for those in tenured and tenure track positions. Implementation of faculty performance agreements has been good. Faculty performance agreements incorporate development goals and annual performance reviews. Tenured faculty, including those newly-appointed are made aware of the requirement to include specific developmental goals in their performance agreement. Through International Affairs@Exchange Team, faculty members are updated on important information related to international affairs such as upcoming opportunities for faculty exchange with partner schools. International Affairs team works with faculty members to identify and share information on upcoming exchange opportunities.
- On top of resident faculty, ICS has also succeeded in attracting high-quality lecturers from various good institutions, which really adds value to the program. ICS’s collaboration with other institutions has been quite impressive. Leveraging on GNAM membership, the school has been able to attract high-quality lecturers from other institutions to teach in ICS programs. As an example, elective courses like Capital Markets and Applied Operations Management were taught by visiting instructors from HEC in Paris and Seoul National University, respectively. In short, being top business school in Japan and accredited by world class accreditation bodies, it is indeed quite easy to further promote faculty exchange program.
- ICS has been able to provide good infrastructure related to its educational program. Information related to the infrastructure is also available on various platforms. ICS initiatives to ensure that the information on available student accommodation is current and the available accommodation options are optimized have been successful. The efforts to monitor documentation of ICS’s activities and operations are already in place. A Common Committee consisting of the Dean, Program Directors, Chief of Staff and one administrative staff member from each program is established to discuss and follow up the matter. Important information is available online via LMS Canvas which include offered programs, relevant courses, school and life in Tokyo and Japan. ICS has acted proactively in providing information on accommodation which is distributed via MBA pre-matriculation materials, including a Canvas page for the students plus the MBA Staff who are always available to provide info and help to incoming and continuing students.
- The efforts to expand information made available to students via Canvas on facilities and services in the Chiyoda campus area, including facilities specific to the culture of current and incoming students, have been remarkably successful. All ICS degree programs (MBA, EMBA & DBA) use the learning management system (LMS) Canvas to disseminate essential information on program-specific pages. Most ICS students reside at the Tokyo International Exchange Center (TIEC), a large specially-designed facility for housing Tokyo-area international students operated by the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO). MBA staff and TIEC communicate on a regular basis to ensure that information given by MBA office is accurate and up-to-date.
The School’s Feedback:
ICS uses feedback from school stakeholders to identify new arising issues, review and update its programs and inform periodic review of its longer-term strategy.
A proposed “ICS People Development Program” aims to revise the existing annual performance review system, shifting the approach from “Performance Reviews” to “Performance Conversations”. Under the new system, there will be both annual and interim ‘conversations’; the latter, approximately half way through the annual performance cycle, will review the progress against set goals and make adjustments accordingly.
Necessary technical aspects of an ICS donation scheme are in place ahead of a public launch of the donation scheme at a time still to be determined. Once the scheme has been launched and has been operating for a period of time, its achievements will become more evident. The principle of transparency will be applied to monies received via the donation scheme.
It is expected that the faculty committee responsible for taking forward the Vision 2040 initiative (in parallel with work to develop and finalize the next ICS Mid/Long-Term Strategic Plan) will, as appropriate, solicit opinions of alumni and employers in relation to learning outcomes over the short to medium term. It is also envisaged that the committee will take feedback on learning outcomes from business and alumni into consideration during the review of learning goals for all programs. This will ensure that the views of stakeholders inform and are reflected in the school’s mission and medium to long-term strategy.
The situation regarding university constraints on preventing ICS from retaining professional staff beyond 5 years also applies in the case of promotions to staff, which unfortunately the school ICS is unable to provide.
2. Dramatic Quality Improvement
- ICS has been able to achieve an excellent Business School status, accredited by AACSB, and recognized as Japan’s leading MBA ranking 17th in Asia in the QS Global 2022 Global MBA rankings.
- Number of applicants has increased dramatically, especially for MBA program. The intake of MBA has increased more than two times. EMBA has also received a higher number of applications since the implementation of the strategy. The number of applicants has increased not only in terms of quantity but also in terms of quality.
- Switching to online promotional events has indeed attracted a larger crowd of potential students from South and South East Asian countries.
- The interviewed students spoke highly of the school and of its faculty, while faculty members are proud to be a part of ICS.
- School has been agile in responding to the ever-changing conditions and challenges.
- It is a combination of reasons that enable ICS to achieve top business ranking and world class accreditations. ICS has spent a lot of energy to promote its global branding slogan. The effectiveness of the global branding slogan “Premium, Boutique, Bespoke” is apparent from the quality as well as diversity of the students. Besides, ICS has ensured the best and most relevant curriculum. To complement the branding strategy, ICS has initiated various actions to attract the best quality faculty in terms of both teaching and research. In addition to the best curriculum and faculty, ICS has also invested in the facilities and infrastructure needed for the programs. Finally, ICS has always maintained good two-way communication with its internal and external stakeholders.
- ICS’s strategies to increase the number of applicants are aligned with the branding efforts. Students will always search for a good business school which offers the best curriculum delivered by the best faculty. Another reason for the dramatic increase in intake has been the much-improved dissemination of information related to ICS as a top business school and the offered programs.
- As we can see, the availability of good technology and how the masses embrace the various online platforms during the pandemic has enabled ICS to reach a wider audience.
- Students’ remarks imply that ICS has generally been able to serve its students well in various aspects i.e. curriculum, faculty and facilities.
- The top management of ICS understands the importance of agility.
3. Matters to be noted
- One of the challenges ahead is to achieve excellence in both research and teaching given the constraints of being part of a national university.
- Beyond the obvious success and excellence of the school, it appears that ICS’s belonging to a national university is a limiting factor. For instance, ICS’s inability to hire support staff on a permanent basis; to increase the number of seats; or to increase tuition reflecting its costs or increased value should encourage the school to innovate or negotiate for a better autonomy.
- Next, professionalization of the support staff is a valid concern as their current contracts are limited, which causes the school to lose important talent, expertise and suffer from low motivation because of uncertain career progress.
- Based on the interview, some students apparently wished for stronger local recognition in Japan and more interactions with the alumni.
- School has done much improvement in terms of learning and research, but ICS needs to promote more involvement in community engagement.
The School’s Feedback:
Teaching excellence has always been a strength at ICS. With a pivot in 2015 to strengthening its research output, ICS recruited more PhD-holding scholars with strong publishing records, has instituted regular forums for faculty to share with peers about their research activities, has established an experimental laboratory and has a rewards scheme for publications in academic journals in place. The school is unique in being Japan based, connected and focused but with programs 100% in English; it is also the first national university business school to be accredited by AACSB, the sole representative school for Japan within the GNAM, and the topranked business school in Japan.
In light of emerging challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on ICS’s financial situation as well as the Vision 2040 initiative and review of the school’s mid and longterm strategic plan, the school, agreeing on its strengths and value propositions, is now moving to review its mission, vision and strategic priorities to position itself for the next 20 years and beyond. In doing so, it will look closely at its strategic differentiators, who it wants to be connected in the business sector and the theoretical underpinning that will provide the most sustainable foundation for its programs and other activities. This will naturally have an impact on how the school seeks to strengthen and develop its faculty and professional staff in the short, medium and long term.
We truly appreciate and respect the commitment of ICS in ensuring the quality of curriculum, faculty and infrastructure as demonstrated in the report and peer review virtual visit. We are also impressed with the elements of diversity as demonstrated in the curriculum delivery which is in English, the number of international students and significant involvement of international faculty. ICS has also been very proactive in fulfilling the need of online infrastructure to ensure effective online curriculum delivery especially given the challenges of covid-19 pandemic. One area that ICS can improve is to address the issue of contract staff. Apparently, some contract staff members are good and ICS may want to consider absorbing them into permanent.