Don’t bur­den IIMs and IITs with ac­cred­i­ta­tion

The nAAC, which has been re­spon­si­ble since 1994, should act as a ‘su­per reg­u­la­tor’ for pri­vate en­ti­ties

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - COMMENT - ANTARA SEN­GUPTA Antara Sen­gupta is re­search fel­low with Ob­server Re­search Foun­da­tion, Mum­bai The views ex­pressed are per­sonal

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 won’t solve the prob­lem. Sev­eral IITs have al­ready said they can only ex­tend ‘lim­ited’ help in terms of qual­ity check in aca­demics and cur­ric­ula.

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 hand­held 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 (Akk re di tie rungs rat) 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.

THE UK, USA AND GER­MANY AL­LOW BOTH PUB­LIC AND PRI­VATE ACCREDITORS. STU­DENTS, TOO, ARE REP­RE­SENTED IN TH­ESE BODIES

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