Simplification & Rationalization of the Process of Accreditations & Rankings of Professional Institutes

Simplification & Rationalizing the Process of Accreditations & Rankings of Professional Institutes

Tejinder Singh Bedi

@tsinghbedi

An alma-mater’s food for thought to improve its rankings

There is no denying that the results of the accreditation of any institute by the the NAAC and NBA can directly affect the brand positioning as well as public’s perception of the institutes graded under their respective processes. Students studying in highly rated accredited colleges are believed to be receiving a relatively higher level of quality of education and generally; may be even superior job placements since the industry too gets enamoured to visit campuses with such certified credentials.

Among the benefits such accreditations aim to extend to the institutes inter-alia include, helping these getting to know of their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities through an informed review process, Identification of internal areas of planning and resource allocation, Collegiality or companionship & cooperation among colleagues on the Campus, Improving objectivity in presentation of data for performance funding, Initiating innovative and modern methods of pedagogy (Methods and practices of teaching theoretical concepts), Supporting development of a new sense of direction and identity for them, Availability of reliable information for society and employers in general on quality education offered to the prospective recruits or pass-outs and an overview of the Intra and Inter-Institutional interactions.

Institutes scoring top grades receive graded autonomy — from greater degree of freedom to launch new programs, planning to increase their intake & establishing new off campuses including foreign collaborations, and more without many regulatory approvals as attracted by the lowly graded. They can also receive government funding for research to be viewed in the eminent league of institutes of the country.

The mandate of NAAC as reflected in its Vision Statement lies in making Quality Assurance an integral part of the functioning of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Towards this realization, NAAC’s instrument is developed to assess and grade institutions of higher education through a three step process and make the outcome as objective as possible.

Though the methodology and the broad framework followed is similar, there is reportedly a slight difference in its focus on the unit of accreditation — from affiliated to constituent or autonomous colleges, universities, health science, teachers and physical education.

While this must be time tested, it is not clear how the institutes offering basic undergraduate and/or post-graduation courses in arts or science can be clubbed with those offering graduation, post graduation or higher levels of courses in the far more complex and advanced streams of studies like the engineering, medicine, law, chartered accountancy or company secretaryship which not only call for much higher level of all of the infrastructural to academic/teaching skills but often also much better qualified or competent students too.

Infact, all the content or links available at NAAC’s web site, do not seem to even define the very basic terminology or categorizations for the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), so commonly referred to in accreditation process by NAAC everywhere.

The NAAC functions through its General Council and a number of committees like its Executive Committee including other academic and advisory sub committees all of which have a galaxy of very senior academicians like the vice-chancellors, directors, deans, principals, heads of departments drawn from all disciplines on their boards with Secretary(HRD) too in some of the apex level committees and its General Council. However the maximum; rather close to cent percent constitution as well as participation in these committees appears to be from various Universities only with hardly any noticeable representation from the industry and/or the corporate sector, which incidentally form the bulk of the end consumers of the final output or products of the institutes/universities accredited by this body as products or outputs of a higher quality oe may we say ‘ assured quality’ — as NAAC’s vision mandates.

As per latest updated data available on the web site of the University Grants Commission under the Ministry of HRD, we now have 911 operating Universities including 48 Central, 400 State, 337 Private, 126 Deemed to be Universities besides another 95 Institutes of national importance putting this tally of institutions under the MHRD at 1006. In addition the MHRD also has 23 IITs, 31 NITs, 7 IISERs — another over 60 institutes of national eminence to manage through the UGC, excluding some State established institutes too. In the year 2014, this figure stood at 677 and just 20 in 1950, having multiplied over 53 times since (1950). In addition, there may be close to 40,000 Colleges (against the last updated figure of 37204 in some government web-sites as at the end of the 2014 fiscal) to be monitored against just about 500 in 1950. The growth during the last 70 years and especially since mid nineties as such has been just phenomenal.

Although, ensuring standards for quality of higher education remain a shared responsibility of both the Centre and the States, all the responsibility for the coordination and determination for the same both in Universities and Colleges has been with the UGC and the other statutory regulatory bodies mentioned. But, the resources with the UGC and for that matter with the NAAC, NBA & the AICTE — the other arms of the education and the HRD Ministries do not or may not seem to have grown by the same proportion.

Considering the rate at which our population is growing to meet its emerging needs in all sectors of education, the number of State owned (Central or State Governments), Private Universities/Institutions and other Colleges have been increasing and will keep increasing further too, there seems a strong justification for separating all institutes of professional courses of higher learning from all those offering basic education in streams of arts and science.

Even the Polytechnics & the ITIs/Centres of Vocational/Skill Development Studies or equivalent need to be bracketed under the category of these suggestive professional courses only though as a sub- group separate from the major group of engineering, medicine, law and such other streams mentioned above. I suggest so for a large number of Diploma holders and even IITs, as an example have a clear path laid out for them to complete their higher engineering studies through the AMIE route or similar other avenues available during the course of careers in the technical streams in our defence services etc.

With increasing digitization having become the order of the day in most spheres of the day today activities of our lives today, time has come to change the approach from having accreditation processes limited only to a small percentage of the institutes coming forward for such gradations to all — the cent percent of the institutes offering at least various technical and/or professional courses by the same dedicated body, which can be adequately staffed and resourced to carry out this process.

Further, the Union and the State Governments should also consider induction of senior most retired technocrats in the age bands of say 60–75, from the corporate sector in the various General Councils/Executive Committees of such Academic bodies like the NAAC, AICTE and the UGC — especially wherever the representation seems very less or completely missing, to be able to utilize their rich hands down experience in various organizations they have been associated with for their growth.

In matters of health and education especially, the very basic approach to allow mushrooming of such facilities with acceptance of varying minimal standards for their establishment and operations seems to have been misplaced for long and can hopefully be corrected in due course, now. Similar approach and models can be deployed subsequently for all of the existing nearly 40,000 other colleges too in due course even if it takes a little longer. The success of the global MNCs holding huge dash boards, PLMS and other personnel data of as many as 30,000 employees or even more on their web-portals — that I am personally aware of, and our own ECI and the UIDAI having already succeeded in capturing data of over 70 crore Indians to successfully run their processes and operations can be good benchmarks to avoid getting scared at the enormity of capturing & updating all information digitally from such a large number of entities, just as an example, as a source not wanting to be quoted from MHRD apprehended.

The MHRD has also been releasing another report for each discipline of study separately under its National Institutional Ranking Framework for the last four years, which also offers a final ranking of each institute’s its framework covers and that consolidated report itself too can be made sufficiently broad based to gradually cover all the institutes as proposed above without exceptions duly incorporating the final ratings these secure under NAAC or NBA accreditations through various other processes of assessment and evaluation, by as far as possible synergizing the processes and findings under each of these autonomous bodies to avoid duplication of assessment on common or similar parameters at least.

While simplifying the process, covering an entire spectrum of the education industry, the suggestions if found acceptable might also reduce the timelines for completing the accreditation/ranking processes besides most importantly offering just one common consolidated lead to all the new generation aspirants to begin with to higher professional education within the country itself, who might actually be rather getting confused over so many ranking reports surfacing from different assessment centers including the many commercially driven private ones too.

(*In Continuation of the author’s earlier write-up — Does PEC really perform poorly in NAAC Rankings?)

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Tejinder Singh Bedi

(*Author Tejinder Singh Bedi is a former technocrat, a people management, CSR Adviser, free-lance writer and a passionate singer)