In what could be a major revolution in global education, a worldwide network of quality assurance agencies is working on defining a framework that will prevent students from getting duped by fake institutions globally and help institutions identify bogus accreditation bodies.
Internationally, there are several quality assurance bodies at the national and regional levels which are involved in assessing institutions in various countries.
This includes key quality networks and agencies from Asia, Europe, America, Australia, UK, Africa such as Asia-Pacific Quality Network (APQN), Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) from USA, European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, (ENQA), Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education UK (QAA – UK), and Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), Australia, among others.
Now, the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), a worldwide association of 300 organisations active in quality assurance in higher education, will work with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on developing a Global Quality Assurance Register (GQAR).
INQAAHE and UNESCO will be involved in reviewing and recognising quality assurance bodies and will blacklist fake bodies which give accreditation to HEIs.
“We want students and institutions to be aware that bodies such as International Accreditation Organisation and Accrediting Commission International exist, which are not authorised to grant accreditation to institutions,” says Dr Jagannath Patil, immediate past president of INQAAHE.
External Quality Assurance Agencies (EQAAs) which are full members of INQAAHE and other recognised EQAAs, quality networks, national and regional review/recognition bodies in higher education are among those which will benefit from the initiative. This suggests that all bodies will be engaged in review, recognition or listing of accreditation agencies and will form an alliance and launch GQAR as a joint global initiative.
“If we can work with inter-governmental bodies like UNESCO to support this venture, it will be a great help for quality assurance agencies, institutions and students all over the world. The general assembly of INQAAHE held in Fiji welcomed this new initiative,” says Dr Patil.
Once the project is finalised and agreements worked out between different national, regional and international bodies, peer review done by one body will be considered by others for grant of recognition or listing on register. This will be a good facility for agencies.
Besides this, all agencies engaged in review and recognition of accreditation agencies, can come together and provide a listing of quality assured accreditation agencies on a single platform GQAR. This will also serve as a one-stop solution for those who are looking for recognised QA bodies.
Challenges to be addressed, however, include comparability of criteria or standards adopted by different review bodies. These are evolved over time in different contexts and socio-economic or even in varied legal systems.
“In some systems, good standing with government is a key requirement. Other systems advocate field or market-based independence and autonomy. How such delicate issues would be addressed in mutual recognition is a challenge. The biggest challenge is that different bodies have started at different points of time and a lot of significance and involvement is attached with the review process. Accepting review by other agency could be an issue,” Patil says.
Many bodies or academic institutes could be put off by the competition or feel there’s encroachment on their domain or territory. Financial issues, too, could complicate things. Doing away with own review and relying on another could create problems. Even if mutual recognition is possible, there could be concerns of revenue sharing. A major challenge is identifying someone to take the initiative and figuring out the role and stakes involved for multiple, high-profile stakeholders if they need to come together.
Assessment and accreditation is a must for higher education institutions (HEIs) in India and students joining colleges should always check the accreditations of the college or university they are joining. The University Grants Commission has already made regular assessment and accreditation must for higher education institutions (HEIs) in India. In India, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and National Board of Accreditation are among the major bodies responsible for accrediting and assessing HEIs. As per NAAC, institutions are assessed on “quantity (increased access) and quality (relevance and excellence of academic programmes offered).”