For universities, quality now gains immense importance compared to quantity, as recent announcements by the University Grants Commission (UGC) indicate. Most institutes have been advised to getting a National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) certification.
Regular assessment and accreditation has become mandatory. As per NAAC, institutions are assessed on “quantity (increased access) and quality (relevance and excellence of academic programmes offered).”
UGC will now consider granting autonomy to colleges that have received the highest NAAC accreditation in two consecutive cycles. Apart from a high NAAC grade, autonomy will be granted only to those institutes that adhere to UGC regulations. A college will be provided autonomous status if it obtains a no-objection certificate from the affiliated university.
Institutions will also be considered for grant of autonomy if they adhere to UGC regulations including curbing the menace of ragging on campus, promotion of equality in higher education institutes, grievance cells on campus. About 38 deemed universities graded B and C can also seek NAAC upgrades afresh as per a recent Supreme Court ruling.
Why accreditation is a must
UGC vide its Mandatory Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions, Regulations, 2012, had made accreditation mandatory for all higher educational institutions other than the technical institutions.
Last year, the education regulator had announced funding curbs for institutions without NAAC accreditation.
For UGC-recognised higher education institutions (HEIs) under sections 2(F) and 12B, to accreditation with a specified grade is mandatory if autonomous status is to remain unchanged. DP Singh, director, NAAC, says, “Similarly, HEIs may not continue to get general development assistance/grant by UGC if they are not accredited. For HEIs applying for deemed-to-be university status by ministry of human resource development (MHRD), accreditation is mandatory with a specific grade. Schemes of UGC, MHRD, Department of Biotechnology and Department of Science and Technology are linked with accreditation such as Universities with Potential for Excellence, Colleges with Potential for Excellence and Colleges with Excellence and qualify for specific grade and Cumulative Grade Points Average.”
How institutions are accredited
The NAAC peer team prepares a comprehensive report that is given to the institution for taking steps to improve its quality of education.
“As follow up action, NAAC asks the institution to send its Annual Quality Assurance Report (AQAR). It also conducts and facilitates seminars/conferences across the country on quality related issues to promote quality sustenance. However, the onus of taking remedial measures to improve quality lies on the institution,” says Singh.
Accreditation process overhaul
Elaborating on the changes in the accreditation process, Singh says, “One of the priority areas is giving NAAC a global outlook through collaborations with various international quality assurance agencies and organisations from across the globe, honing skills of staff through bilateral exchange programmes through different national and international agencies, overhauling the existing methodology and infusing international new changes/patterns followed by global quality assurance agencies. We have already formed a high-level expert committee to oversee the change in grading pattern as decided by our executive committee.”
NAAC will also focus on strengthening of internal quality assurance mechanisms and mentoring of HEIs to bring them on par with international institutions. Sending minutes of the meetings of Internal Quality Assurance Cell to the NAAC on a quarterly basis will also be mandatory for every accredited institute. All accredited institutions will also have to submit the AQAR on a yearly basis without fail.
The grade review committee is also mulling creating new grades within the existing A, B, C and D grades for rating institutions. As per the proposed broad-based parameters in the new methodology, institutions scoring CGPA in the range of 3.01 to 4 get A grade (very good), while those securing between 2.01 and 3 receive B grade (good).
The CGPA in the range of 1.51 to 2 will get C grade (satisfactory), while a score of below 1.5 means D grade (unsatisfactory, not accredited).
Implementation of these changes will give a detailed picture of an institute’s performance as per the NAAC assessment. The committee is also considering creating grades within grades such as A, A+, A++, but a final decision will be taken in the next three months. If the sub-grades are proposed for other B and C grade categories too, these will be applicable to other institutions as well such as deemed-to-be universities.
“The accreditation process has been further simplified with the establishment of a Central Application Processing Unit and the time-frame for the process, including letter of intent, Institutional Eligibility for Quality Assessment, have been comparatively reduced. A major initiative to integrate ICT into the process is underway,” adds Singh.
The new parameters that NAAC will develop will help an institute to focus on women empowerment, industry linkages, access for the differently abled, inculcation of human values and professional ethics, among other things. NAAC has worked out several modalities for electronic assessment and accreditation as part of which HEIs applying for second and third cycle accreditation can be considered for electronic assessment and accreditation.