In a move in January this year aimed at improving the quality of higher education in the country, the University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a notification to universities/institutions to apply for accreditation with the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) by December 31, 2015. Such accreditations make it easier for students to opt for quality institutes to study in. For universities, access to grants becomes easier.
Professor AN Rai, director, NAAC, says “Assessment and accreditation are broadly used for understanding the quality status of an institution. The accreditation status indicates that the particular college, a university, or any other recognised unit therein, meets the standards of quality as set by the accreditation agency. To judge colleges and universities on an equal platform, we follow these criteria for assessment — curriculum, 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.”
Besides assessing and grading a college or university after evaluating it against specific parameters and peer review, NAAC also generates a report elaborating on the strengths and weakness of the institution. “Those desiring to improve their quality have a ready reckoner,” says Rai.
Established by the UGC, NAAC’s role is to assess and accredit higher education institutions (HEI) in the country. UGC had also issued a similar notification in 2013. Since then, the number of colleges and universities applying for NAAC accreditation has increased manifold. While the council received about 800 letters of intent or applications for accreditation till 2012, this went up to more than 2,600 in 2013 and over 3,700 in 2014.
For HEIs, getting a rating as high as A means they score really high on all assessment parameters, which include curriculum, infrastructure, research, leadership and teaching. “In the last 20 years of its existence, NAAC has accredited 192/700 universities and 5627/38,000 colleges in the country. Only one-third of such institutions are rated Grade A. This explains why quality of education is so low and the number of unemployables so large. We, therefore, do not figure in the top 200 institutions of the world,” says MM Ansari, member, UGC.
“To incentivise the institutions to go for accreditation, both UGC and MHRD have tied development grants to the accreditation process. The results of the accreditation process will determine the grants that each university will receive. So it is now imperative for universities to not only maintain quality but to also go for peer review. Even grants to be disbursed through Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan are tied to NAAC accreditation,” says Praveen Singh, convener, NAAC Steering Committee, Ambedkar University Delhi.
With an increasing number of HEIs sending letters of intent to NAAC, the council is faced with a challenging task of dealing with application rush.
“There are inordinate delays in carrying out the accreditation process as a large number of requests for accreditation are piling up with the NAAC. This is attributable to inadequate infrastructure with NAAC or lack of appreciation of the problem by UGC/MHRD. In fact, it is lackadaisical attitude of the concerned authorities, which has led to perpetuation of ‘quality crisis’ in the country,” adds Ansari.
NAAC, however, is taking steps to rise to the challenge. “We set up a Central Application Processing Unit in order to streamline the process of applications in September 2014. It is a single point access for institutions to submit letters of intent, applications for Institutional Eligibility for Quality Assessment and Annual Quality Assurance Report,” says a senior NAAC official.
Academic institutes make the move to improve their act
Applications received for accreditation
The first UGC notification to institutes of higher education asking them to go for NAAC accreditation was issued in January 2013. Another was sent out in January 2015
2012: About 800 letters of intent or applications received from colleges and universities
2013: Close to 2697 letters of intent or applications received from colleges and universities
2014: Nearly 3743 letters of intent or applications received from colleges and ­universities
Why is it necessary?
The accreditation enables an institution to know more about its strengths, ­weaknesses and ­opportunities through an informed review process
Helps an institution identify internal areas of planning and resource allocation
Helps institutions as funding agencies look for objective data for performance-­funding
Enables institutions to ­initiate innovative and ­modern methods of ­pedagogy
Allows institutions to get in touch with employers who look for reliable information on the quality of education offered to the prospective recruits
Boosts intra and inter-­institutional interactions
Some colleges in the US accept a three-year degree by a NAAC-accredited institution as equivalent to their four-year programmes
Leads to collegiality on ­campuses
Gives a new sense of ­direction and identity to ­colleges and universities across the country