The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has asked the Union human resource ministry to explore the option of privatising the process of accrediting higher education institutions to clear the current backlog, sources have said.
In the recent meeting held by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the policy think tank of the government presented a case for evolving guidelines to allow internationally-reputed institutions to accredit Indian courses and institutions, which is not permitted currently in India.
Accreditation is a process by which the outcomes of the learning process are evaluated by a team of experts.
One of the major reasons why Aayog is pushing for this is the huge backlog in granting accreditation by National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), the agency for accrediting institutions that are under the purview of University Grants Commission (UGC), and the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) that accredits courses in technical education.
According to reports, 6,388 out of 15,000 institutions are qualified to apply for accreditation, the capacity of the NAAC is to accredit only 1,000 institutions a year.
“It would require nine years to clear the backlog at this rate. Similarly, in technical education only 1,000 programmes out of 12,000 programmes are accredited,” a senior official said.
Sources said that though the HRD ministry agreed with the need to push up the process, it is of the view that improving the existing methods and adoption of better technology is a more desirable way than bringing in foreign agencies.
“If international bodies are allowed to conduct accreditation, the cost of accreditation will go up enormously since the foreign bodies would take much more resources to come into India and operate. This could then reflect in their fee structure,” a senior HRD official said.
“The opening up of doors to private operators could bring in issues of quality since these organisations are not under any regulation,” he added.
Accreditation examines and certifies the standards being maintained in higher education using an outcome-based approach. For parents, students and other stakeholders, it acts as a guide to choosing institutions based on assured quality.
It allows institutions and academic administrators to focus on quality improvement of the teaching-learning process.
Accreditation has, therefore, been made mandatory for all the projects like Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA). The AICTE has also made it mandatory for granting fresh courses and for increasing student intake.
Accreditation is granted for a period of five years in each cycle. The accreditation process requires visits and interactions with students and faculty. The process is embedded in the regulations of UGC and AICTE.
The process of getting private players for accreditation in engineering education is more complicated, as India is a signatory to the Washington Accord, that lays down the standards and also authorises only one agency in the country for accreditation.