Burdening IIMs and IITs with accreditation is a bad idea
The NAAC, which has been accrediting educational institutes since 1994, should act as a ‘super regulator’ for private entitiesanalysis Updated: Oct 12, 2017 16:21 IST
HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar recently announced that the Centre is mulling bringing in IITs and IIMs to help with the accreditation of the higher education institutes in the country. While the intention is to reduce the burden of accreditation bodies like the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), this move is likely to affect the functioning of the IITs and IIMs that are already dealing with severe teaching faculty shortage. Besides, given the recent global ranking results, it is only advisable for our premier institutes – none of whom feature in the top-200 – to introspect and work towards improving their own internal records first.
According to the MHRD, India has 700 universities, 38,000 educational institutions and 1.5 crore students opting for higher education. In a public event in Pune last month, Javadekar admitted that the NAAC is currently issuing accreditation to 1,000 institutions in a year. At this rate, it will take 38 years to evaluate all of them. The ministry has set an ambitious target to complete this work in the next 10 years. This will be impossible to achieve by the NAAC alone. Even this would be too slow, as we need every institution to be accredited at least once every five years going forward.
However, involving IITs and IIMs will not solve the problem. Several IITs have already said they can only extend ‘limited’ help in terms of quality check in academics and curriculum.
Perhaps, the MHRD should pay heed to Niti Aayog’s recommendation of hiring private entities to do the job – however, with a modification in the ‘internationally reputed’ term. The counter argument to this is that hiring internationally reputed agencies would raise costs.
Any private sector company that wants to get into accreditation should be allowed to do so, with proper training by NAAC. The ministry can set up a search committee to shortlist competent professional bodies that can conduct the evaluation on behalf of government agencies. Faculty members from universities and colleges have to undergo training before they can become NAAC-approved accreditors. The number of such faculty members will have to be increased enormously. Alternatively, state governments can also create or empower accreditation authorities that can be initially hand-held by NAAC, with the same set of standards as applied to the private ones.
NAAC, which has been accrediting educational institutes since 1994, should act as a ‘super regulator’ for private entities thus selected by the search committee. This will ensure accountability in the process. If an educational institution is dissatisfied by its rating, it can appeal to NAAC, which can either conduct a second check by one of the other agencies or send its team to evaluate the institution. This will also act as a marker on the credibility of the private agencies.
In 2010, the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill was introduced to streamline the process of accreditation. Among other aspects, the greatest flaw in the bill was the suggestion that “An accreditation agency has to be a non-profit organisation, which is controlled by the central or state government.” Such a move will mean increased pendency and red tape, which will obstruct the process, as it has over the years. Thus, these agencies should only report to NAAC, which is an autonomous body. These agencies should be allowed to make profits to ensure their accountability to the super regulator in times of non-performance or complaints.
Countries such as the UK, USA and Germany allow both public and private accreditors. Students, too, are represented in all these accrediting bodies to safeguard their interests.
Germany’s Accreditation Council (Akkreditierungsrat) ensures quality by accrediting, coordinating and monitoring outside agencies. These accreditation agencies are in turn accredited by the Accreditation Council of the Foundation for the accreditation of study programmes in Germany. It consists of rectors, scientists, representatives of the State, employers and trade unions and students. Austria and Finland also follow a similar process.
The MHRD must evaluate capacity of our premier institutes, international best practices, and the urgent need of quality improvement in higher education before pushing the already overburdened IITs and IIMs with this task.
Antara Sengupta is research fellow with Observer Research Foundation, Mumbai