Bridging the gaps

  • Dimple Bhavsar & Pawan Sharma, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Feb 13, 2015 16:54 IST

Troubled by the high number of colleges that are not accredited, the University Grants Commission (UGC), two weeks ago, threatened to pull the plug on financial assistance to all aided institutes that do not acquire accreditation by December 31.

In Mumbai, of the 740 colleges, a total of 551 colleges have no accreditation from the UGC’s National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).

Many of these are institutes with respected faculty and large student bodies, offering vital educational infrastructure. They do have shortcomings. Some have no permanent principal; others do not have their own labs and use other institutes’ infrastructure as required; still others have no canteen or sports ground.

But if funding is halted, say educationists, it will affect the thousands of students who depend on these colleges. And even for unaided institutes, the lack of accreditation will affect future plans to add courses or expand institutes.

The solution, they suggest, is graded or provisional accreditation that recognises the deserving institutes that do not meet all the existing requirements.

“Since, all colleges do not have the potential to meet all requirements, there can be separate sections to classify them according to their ability,” says SS Mantha, former chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education which accredits technical institutes in India. “They can be granted provisional accreditation to encourage them to better their facilities.” Currently, the NAAC rates higher education institutions against a single, standardised set of requirements which must be reviewed every five years, by every degree and diploma college.

Rajan Saxena, vice-chancellor of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) deemed university in Vile Parle says that while UGC’s said notice is a positive step, NAAC is not equipped to grant accreditation to so many institutes in the given time limit, with the existing criteria. “Like foreign agencies, NAAC should also have some
category between accreditation and non-accreditation.”

University of Mumbai registrar MA Khan says that this should not be an excuse for institutions to escape getting a better grade from the accreditation body. “If you don’t have space, hire a place and set up your canteen or labs. Colleges too, have been taking the process lightly and the notice is aimed at getting them into action.” He agrees, however, that the NAAC does not have the time or manpower to analyse so many details within the deadline set.

“The NAAC shouldn’t use the same yardstick for every institute in every state,” says Ashok Wadia, principal of Jai Hind College in Churchgate. “For instance, in Mumbai colleges suffer due to space constraints. That does not mean that they are not offering quality education.”

A prime example of a premier aided college that does not make the cut, for instance, is Mithibai College in Vile Parle. They have not been accredited since 2009, because it does not have a permanent principal.

“The college has not been able to get a suitable candidate as they lack some or the other criteria for the post,” says former acting principal DB Gadkari. But it currently has a student body of around 12,000 and has produced board and university toppers at a steady rate since its establishment in 1961.It will lose out on funds for research if it doesn’t get accreditation henceforth.

Another respected institute, Usha Pravin Gandhi College of Management in Vile Parle, does not have accreditation either, because it did not have a full-fledged building to accommodate all students. The institute has since constructed a five-storey building, but now does not have a permanent principal. With student strength of 1,050, the college had a maximum cut-off score of 89.39% in 2014.

“Like MU’s temporary affiliation, NAAC too should have certain provisions where a deserving college can be considered for some accreditation and can improve subsequently to aim for a better rank,” says Anju Kapoor, acting principal of the institute.

Mumbai University has a system of temporary affiliation where a college is given affiliation for a period of one year, to be extended if it fulfils certain criteria. Permanent affiliation can follow, as the institute meets the requirements for that tag. “This is to encourage the college to achieve our specified goals,” says Khan. This, he says, could be followed by the UGC too.

In Mumbai, the factors holding back some respected colleges are similar. One key issue is space — which means the colleges cannot always have labs or a playground or canteen.

“We have not applied for NAAC accreditation as we run our degree college on our secondary school premises. We would love to expand but we don’t have the space,” says RK Prasad, principal of Gramin Sikshan Santha’s Arts, Commerce and Science Degree College, an aided institute in Thane. The college serves students from economically weaker sections. With a current student body of 1,400, it produced the university topper in Marathi in 2010. “Without accreditation, we could be forced to scale back even on existing infrastructure, affecting our students,” says Prasad.

At Gurukul College in Ghatkopar, one application was rejected in 2012 for lack of faculty. “We have managed to fill the gaps and are applying again,” says principal Kshitij Prabha. “They could have given us a lower rank for further improvement.”

"Like the MU’s temporary affiliation, the NAAC too should have provisions where a deserving college can be considered for some accreditation and can improve subsequently to aim for a better rank."
~Anju Kapoor, acting principal, UPG College of Management, Vile Parle

"With UGC’s latest notification, aided colleges will be adversely affected and unaided ones will face problems when they seek to add courses or undertake similar growth-related endeavours."
~MA KHAN, registrar, University of Mumbai

"NAAC measures colleges against established parameters that define quality in education. This rating is the most viable certification of quality for students And employers, to help them choose the right college."
~AN Rai, director, NAAC

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