| By DR AMBROSE PINTO | Opinion |
NAAC’s idea of IEQA flawed; it’s a quiz where you aren’t told the answers. An objective assessment would show that an automated reply can’t be charged Rs 28,000
For all new colleges seeking assessment, National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NACC) has a rigorous process. The colleges have to write a letter of intent, first making clear their intention to go for accreditation. They then have to pay a sum of Rs 28,000 and electronically answer some questions. This is known as IEQA (institutional eligibility for quality assurance). An automated message whether the college has made it or not for assessment is received within a few minutes of sending the form. How good is this practice? NAAC has always claimed to be a quality institution with transparency and accountability. In such an institution, the parameters for assessment for new colleges should have been placed on the website. Only those who meet the criteria could have been asked to go for assessment. That would have made NAAC credible and transparent. Why has NAAC adopted the automated process? If a college clears the IEQA, it is permitted to submit its self-study report. If it does not, the money is not refunded. By all standards, this is an unethical practice. An institution can charge an amount proportionate to its service. In this instance, an objective assessment will tell the public that an automated reply cannot be charged Rs 28,000. This is purely profit-making. NAAC has said in a press statement that 50 per cent of colleges do not make the grade at the first instance.
One can imagine the amount of money NAAC makes out of this exercise. Every year, hundreds of colleges fail to make the grade. And why do institutions fail? There is a total secrecy in the whole process of IEQA. The marks allotted to each question have been a secret. NAAC has refused to divulge the right answers. The automated reply informs the colleges that they should improve and apply after six months. In a democratic society, every institution has a right to know the deficiencies of the institution so that they can correct, improve and develop. NAAC was established to improve quality. If NAAC wanted colleges to improve after the colleges had not made the grade, NAAC has a responsibility to instruct the colleges, areas in which they had to improve. If these colleges fail for the second time, then NAAC should partly blamed, for its inadequate guidance. However, NAAC has refused to divulge the marking system or provide feedback despite requests. It is only after St Aloysius Degree College, Bengaluru, filed an RTI that NAAC parted with the information on the markings a few days ago. Sri Wahidul Hasan, public information officer of NAAC through his letter dated on February 2, 2017 provided the information asked for. However, his note says that “the minimum eligibility criteria to each of the indicators mentioned in IEQA should score 4 points in college details and 36 points in institutional data”. To get those four marks is not easy simply because at least six out of ten questions asked are illogical and against the law. Several questions carry no marks.
* If an institution exists for more than ten years, one mark is allotted. But according to NAAC guidelines, eligibility for assessment is “if two batches of students have graduated”. What is the rationale for providing one mark for institutions in existence for more than ten years? In fact, delays should not be rewarded. If a mark had to be awarded, it should have been for colleges who go for accreditation soon after five years.
* Location of the college is given one mark provided the college is located in a semi-urban, rural, tribal or hilly region. What is the reason for denying a mark for urban colleges? There cannot be a principle of reservation for assessment for rural colleges since assessment is mandatory for all colleges. It sounds ridiculous that NAAC, which claims to be a qualitative institution, could even think of a trick like this to be corrupt.
* If an institution is permanently affiliated, it gets a mark. The UGC has laid down in the following the norm that permanent affiliation is only after NAAC accreditation. http://www.ugc.ac.in/oldpdf/regulations/gazetteofIndia24-04-12.pdf
* Women’s colleges are offered a mark. While reservation for women is an appreciable step, to give one mark for a women’s college and to exclude others in assessment is discriminatory.
* Recognition under 2f & 12B gets a mark. Under the amended UGC Act 1956, 2f and 12 B is offered only after permanent affiliation, possible after NAAC assessment.
* Number of degrees offered. If a college has both UG and PG, a mark is given. Universities permit only NAAC-accredited colleges to start PG. Besides, at no place does the accreditation manual mention that a college should have PG course for accreditation.
a. Those who formulated the questions would surely have known the rules and regulations of the UGC, and state universities. One gets the impression that the practice was deliberately planned with ulterior motives. More than 50 per cent of the institutions do not make the grade. One could easily imagine the money NAAC makes out of it.
b. A comparative study of 10 institutions has revealed that some institutions do not have the required eligibility and yet have been assessed. When enquired with, the regional coordinator replied to us that NAAC works on trust and they do not take responsibility for false information provided. It is a strange logic by an institution that informs colleges that they would be checking on the data during self-assessment and institutions that have not provided the right answers would be penalised. To an objective analyst it means that there are other means of clearing the IEQA.
c. Finally, one wonders why NAAC has this practice at all! NAAC could very well tell colleges the requirement for applying for assessment and those who do not meet the required levels do not have to apply. NAAC is for assessment and not for non-assessment. It needs to restrict itself to assess by placing on its website the basic requirements.
According to NAAC authorities, “IEQA is to make sure how the institution understands itself; its strengths, weaknesses, potentials and limitations”. This is pure rhetoric.
It is unfortunate that NAAC does not have the capacity or competence to do it since it has primarily failed in its own role of understanding its own strengths and weaknesses. What is required at this juncture is a thorough cleansing of NAAC. After years of evaluating others, it is time that NAAC is evaluated. There still are good persons in the system. If there is a strong political will, NAAC can become a catalyst of change again. – (Dr Ambrose Pinto SJ is principal of St Aloysius Degree College, Bengaluru) – Courtesy