Continuous assessment and accreditation for higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country has now become all the more important. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an autonomous body by the University Grants Commission, has introduced a slew of reforms to encourage more HEIs to go for accreditation.
Elaborating on the new guidelines and other changes, Professor DP Singh, director, NAAC, says, “The changes have been introduced to reflect the institutions’ performance levels more distinctively as approved by the NAAC executive committee. More data-enabled assessment and accreditation is in the offing. The council is also working on bringing in ICT-enabled solutions to make the assessment and accreditation processes more objective.”
Since 2007, NAAC has been using the four-point grading (A, B, C and D) with CGPA and descriptors for each of the alphabetical grade assigned. “However, it has been a common feeling that four-point grading does not provide clear demarcation of the performance levels of the institutions with a large cohort of institutions clubbed into one single grade. This is why a seven-point grading system has been introduced,” says Professor Singh.
The new accreditation guidelines have been implemented from July 1. The present system of descriptors for letter grades, i.e., very good, good, satisfactory, unsatisfactory, is discontinued in the revised grading system. All institutions will now be graded as per the revised grading system.
Except for the letter grades to be assigned, all other aspects of assessment and accreditation methodology such as the criteria, key aspects, calculation of Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) remain the same. Institutions already accredited in the earlier grading system will continue with the same accreditation status till their validity period. The new seven-point system ranges from 1.51 points to four points on the grading scale and from letters A++ to C.
In another change, it is now mandatory for Internal Quality Assurance Cells (IQAC) of HEIs to submit an Annual Quality Assurance Report (AQAR). The IQACs will be responsible for performance evaluation, quality up-gradation and continuous improvement within the institution.
So far, submission of AQARs was not a mandatory requirement for institutions applying to NAAC second and subsequent cycles of assessment and accreditation. “It has now been decided by the NAAC executive committee that regular submission of AQARs should be made mandatory for second and subsequent cycles of accreditation. AQAR will help in finding out if the institute has improved after the accreditation. It is a useful document which gives an overall picture of the institute’s growth in all the seven criteria identified by NAAC. AQAR submission is necessary for all intuitions. It is one of the eligibility criteria for reaccreditation,” says Professor Singh.
Will these changes encourage more institutions to go for NAAC accreditation? Will it make the accreditation process more objective, transparent and fast?
Concerted efforts are being made at NAAC to speed up assessment and accreditation process and to bring in more objectivity and transparency, says Professor Singh. “Once ICT solutions are in place, the large scale assessment and accreditation will be easier,” he says.
For example, NAAC has decided to videograph its visits to the institutions. The video has to be submitted to NAAC immediately after the visit. It should also be uploaded on the institute’s website. The council has successfully developed and deployed electronic assessment modules for two of its processes, i.e., letter of intent and Institutional Eligibility Quality Assessment (IEQA) and is working on automation of submission of self-study reports and constitution of visiting teams. With the ICT process, most of the data including physical facilities may be validated using ICT-enabled services such as YouTube and through geotagging. HEIs can take videos of infrastructural facilities and upload these on YouTube for larger dissemination of specific information pertaining to the institute.
At present, the onsite visit of an institution by a peer team comprising three to 15 experts (as per size of the institution) for three to four days is necessary for all kinds of institutions and for all the cycles of accreditation which is a time-consuming process. The criteria for assessment include an institute’s performance in areas such as teaching-learning and evaluation, research, consultancy and extension, infrastructure and learning resources, student support and progression, governance, leadership and management and innovations and best practices.