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Education reforms: Rating by private bodies, 3-tier autonomy for institutions

Hindustan Times | Jun 10, 2017 | Chetan Chauhan |  Chetan Chauhan |

The top-ranked institutions would get full academic and administrative autonomy while the lowest ranked institutions would remain under the government control.

In a major reform, the government plans to outsource assessment and accreditation of the higher education institutions to private bodies and give full autonomy — academic, financial and administrative — to the top ranked institutions, Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya told HT. This is part of the higher education reform package being finalised by the National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog and the HRD ministry. The Prime Minister’s Office in March had asked them to prepare a blueprint for higher education reform that breeds academic excellence in top institutions of the country. “The reform package is almost ready,” Panagariya said. “For this, we will have to amend or replace the University Grants Commission (UGC) law. The call will be taken by Parliament”. Reforms in higher education sector had been under discussion for a long time but the government had failed to implement them because of resistance from within. More than a decade ago, the National Knowledge Commission constituted by the UPA government had recommended slew of reforms including disbanding the two higher important higher education regulators the UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and proposed an overarching higher education regulator. But, the recommendations remained on paper because of opposition by the HRD ministry and the two bodies.

Before introducing a higher education regulator, the National Democratic Alliance government has decided to set in motion the reforms by making third party mandatory accreditation for all public and private higher education institutions to ensure transparency and quality.  “We want credible private agencies should assess institutions in private agencies,” Panagariya said, adding that even sovereign rating in the United States is done by the private agencies. “The accreditation would be based on academic and research outcome”.  The National Accreditation and Assessment Council (NAAC) has evaluated only 10% of about 10,000 higher education institutions in India and the government wants to bring all institutions under accreditation in the next three years. For this, proposal is to rope in private rating agencies. Autonomy of institutions is the next big reform the government would implement, Panagariya said. The government plans to introduce a three-tier autonomy mechanism in which the institutions having ranked on the top by the HRD ministry will get full academic, administrative and financial autonomy. It would mean these institutions will be free to introduce new courses and schools, revamp curriculum, appoint faculty including from foreign universities and approve research projects. Middle-ranked institutions will have higher autonomy than their current level. It would mean they would be free to introduce new courses and appoint faculty but will have to take approval of the funding agency (HRD ministry) to start new schools and appoint foreign faculty.  The institutions ranked poor would remain under the government control. Sources said that the reforms are being anchored in the Prime Minister’s Office and the changes are being made as suggested by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the review in March 2017. – Courtesy

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IITs reject government plan to make them accrediting agencies

Live Mint | Tue, May 02 2017 | Prakash K Nanda |

IITs have instead agreed to help strengthen existing government accrediting agencies such as NAAC and National Board of Accredition. The HRD ministry has been advocating making IITs and IIMs accrediting agencies to maintain a close watch on the quality of higher education in the country.

Representative image

New Delhi: The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have rejected a government suggestion that they play a larger role by becoming accrediting agencies involved in evaluating colleges and universities in the country. The IITs have instead agreed to help strengthen existing bodies such as the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and the National Board of Accredition (NAB), three government officials said. The human resource development ministry has been advocating making IITs and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) accrediting bodies to maintain a close watch on the quality of the higher education sector. The ministry discussed the plan at an IIT council meeting held in Mumbai on Friday. “Yes, we spoke about the proposal. IITs will not be full fledged accrediting body for evaluating institutions,” said one of the three officials, a member of the IIT council. All three officials declined to be named.“The IITs will spare some faculties and help the existing bodies instead,” said the second official. IITs are expanding their research focus and there is also an increasing demand for expanding student capacity, the second official said, adding that to get involved in full fledged non-IIT administrative work would add to their stress. As such, the elite schools are facing a teacher shortage in the range of 10% to 30% at various IITs. NAAC director D.P. Singh said he had suggested asking the IITs to help the accrediting bodies as “that would lend prestige to the accreditation process”.

NAAC, the apex accrediting body in India, accredits institutions while NAB accredits individual courses. Singh said NAAC had communicated with the IITs and IIMs, while keeping the ministry in the loop and about 50 professors had committed to helping the organization. He said he was targeting 100 professors from top institutions to help with the process. While some of them could train NAAC staff, others could be experts in evaluation and yet others could develop methodology in sync with the international standards to be adopted in India, he said. NAAC seeks to evaluate institutions on 130 parameters from July through a new system. An HRD ministry spokesperson declined to comment. HRD minister Prakash Javadekar has spoken against the existing system and was in favour of making IITs and IIMs accrediting bodies. “We are going to float an idea in which IITs and IIMs will be asked to become accreditation bodies so that there will be multiple choices in front of the institutes and accreditation will be completed in limited time and we can go for more quality education,” Javadekar said in August 2016. India has nearly 50,000 colleges and stand-alone institutions, and 789 universities. But less than 25% of them have any kind of accreditation. – Courtesy

NAAC inspections to have less weightage, penalty for fake data

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi  | April 25, 2017 |

Image Courtesy: pib.nic.in

Self-collected data submitted by an institute to the NAAC is likely take precedence over physical inspection as the HRD Ministry is planning to overhaul the current accreditation framework. Following complaints of corruption, an 80 per cent weightage has been proposed for self-reported data analysed through software-based capturing and 20 per cent weightage to peer review teams.   Provisions of penalty for institutes submitting “fraudulent” information are also likely to be introduced and the number of parameters may be reduced to make the assessmnt more comprehensive. The HRD ministry is also considering allowing a say of the IITs in granting accreditation to institutes.

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), which accredits institutes of higher education in the country, had on March 31 suspended the application process till the grading system undergoes an overhaul.  Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, while inaugurating a national consultation of revised accreditation framework, today pressed upon the need for more accreditation agencies.  “If we want to reach the institutes in a time-bound manner and assess them properly, we need more valuators. Therefore we want to set up at least three to four more institutes and we should also give a message to them in this regard,” he said during the consultation.  “We have asked the IITs to be accreditation agencies. There is a council meeting on April 28 where the issue will be taken up. If they want to do it independently we are ready for it,” Javadekar said.  Higher Education Secretary K K Sharma said ensuring quality assessment will not be an easy task and hence international credibility of the revised tools need to be emphasised upon.  “As per the new methodology in deciding the grade of an institute, the peer team assessment of institutes will be given just 20 per cent weightage instead of the current 100 per cent. Eighty per cent weightage will be given to self reported data which can be analysed through software driven data capture,” he said.  “While the number of parameters should be reduced to make the assessment more comprehensive, a third party verification of the data captured online is also required,” he said, adding provisions of penalty for those submitting false data will also be introduced.

The revised framework focuses on augmented use of technology, greater objectivity, and transparency of the process.  “Working groups of experts have deliberated and developed the formats for universities, autonomous colleges and affiliated colleges. The outcome of a pilot study to validate the framework and feedback by stakeholders will also be considered during the national consultation,” a senior HRD Ministry official said.  “Around 100 experts comprising eminent educationists, current and former vice chancellors, directors, statutory bodies, academics, principals of colleges are participating in the consultation, the inputs of which will be used to fine- tune and finalise the revised accreditation framework which is slated to be launched in July,” he added.  According to the new assessment, the institutes will not know in advance which team will visit them and the accommodation and travel plans of the peer team visit will also be outsourced.  – Courtesy

Govt shifts focus from HRD inspection to self-disclosure for university and college accreditation

Live Mint |  Thu, Apr 20 2017  |   Prashant K Nanda |

Instead of HRD ministry and NAAC sending teams for inspection, educational institutions will now disclose their claims on an online platform for accreditation.

Like what it advocates for industries, the Union government is now shifting focus from inspection of colleges and universities to self-disclosure as a prerequisite for granting accreditation.  Instead of the human resource development (HRD) ministry and the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) sending expert teams for inspection and relying on their field visit report for granting accreditation, educational institutions are now required to disclose their claims on an online platform.  The move comes as accreditation is becoming essential for getting approval to open new departments, courses or extending the legal approval of an institution in entirety. The move will be part of the proposed plan to revamp the NAAC, the apex accreditation body that accredits colleges and universities in India. NAAC off late is facing criticism for poor rigour and subjectivity, hence a need for revamping its function.  The expert field visits which are now the key criterion for grading and accrediting institutions will get only 20% weightage. As part of the restructuring, NAAC has already stopped accrediting institutions beginning 1 April. Beginning July, the new accreditation process will kick in.  The move follows HRD minister Prakash Javadekar expressing unhappiness over the current functioning of NAAC and how it gives very high grades to even some of the institutions which are perceived poor in their education outcome.

“NAAC has embarked in revising its Assessment and Accreditation Framework. The revised framework would be more ICT enabled and is expected to come into effect from July 2017,” NAAC director D.P. Singh said in a circular posted on the official website.  However, all applications received prior to 1 April will be assessed via the old methodology that predominantly uses field visit reports by expert teams. An HRD ministry official said that Javadekar has already expressed his “willingness to rope in top institutions like IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) for the accreditation process to clip the wings of NAAC”.  The new system will now have inputs from top institutions and domain experts and try to reduce possible malpractice in the accreditation process. Once the new system is in place, colleges and universities will not know in advance which team will visit them for evaluation and travel and logistics plan may get outsourced to a third party—in a way, this will add a surprise element and reduce possible joint efforts by some experts and institutions for mutual benefit.  India’s higher education regulators like the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) are now asking colleges and universities to get accredited and accreditation is playing an important role in getting approval for starting new courses, opening departments or extending old approvals. Hence, the HRD ministry feels that unless the NAAC process is revamped, it will not serve the purpose. –  Courtesy

NAAC wants regular academic audits in higher education institutions

Hindustan Times | K Sandeep Kumar  |   Allahabad, Apr 17, 2017 |

National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) wants all institutions of higher education to formally prepare guidelines, statues and ordinances for academic and administrative audit (AAA) so that it becomes an institutionalised practice on all campuses.  The organisation also wants these temples of higher learning to update recent trends in AAA as tool for continuous quality improvement.  For this, NAAC has issued an advisory to all accredited higher education institutions (HEIs) who volunteer to undertake AAA for meeting targets set for excellence. In the advisory note issued by NAAC director prof DP Singh, NAAC has made clear that as the facilitator of quality culture in higher education, it was striving to promote any good practices of AAA brought to its attention.

According to the advisory, “NAAC has evolved tools and guidelines for improving quality in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and for its sustenance. By establishing Internal Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) and undergoing External Quality Assurance process it’s possible to continuously strive for excellence.” NAAC has made plain that it expects the institutions to undertake continuous academic and administrative audits. NAAC has defined academic audit as a scientific and systematic method of reviewing the quality of academic process in the institution. Likewise, administrative audit has been denied as a process of evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of the administrative procedure. It includes assessment of policies, strategies and functions of the various administrative departments and control of the overall administrative system.  –  Courtesy     /        NAAC Notification – Feedback from stakeholders on format of QIF. Please click for details

NAAC suspends application process to undergo overhaul

The New Indian Express | By PTI  | 16th April 2017  |

HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had directed that the grading system must be reworked.

NEW DELHI: The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), which accredits institutions of higher education in the country, has suspended the application process till the grading system undergoes an overhaul. Following complaints of subjectivity in the accreditation process by the NAAC and corruption or misconduct by peer teams during their field visits, the HRD Ministry had directed the council to rework on the assessment framework to bring in transparency, objectivity and technology.  “HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had directed that the grading system must be reworked and hence to bring a new system in place it was necessary to suspend the application process for some time. “Therefore, the receipt of applications for the current assessment has been stopped from March 31 till further announcement,” a senior HRD Ministry official said.

Javadekar will also chair a national consultative meeting on revised accreditation framework on April 25 where over 200 educationists and experts are expected to meet in Delhi to discuss the proposed changes. According to the new assessment, the institutions will not know in advance which team will visit them and the accommodation and travel plans of the peer team visit will be outsourced.  “The peer team’s assessment of the institutions will be also be given just 20 per cent weightage instead of the 100 per cent at present in deciding the grade for an institution and 80 per cent of the weightage will be registered through the Information Communication and Technology (ICT),” the official added. The application process is likely to resume in July with the launch of new accreditation framework. –  Courtesy

NAAC asked to rework accreditation process for higher education institutes

The Times of India | Manash Pratim Gohain | TNN |  Apr 10, 2017 |

NEW DELHI: To do away with “corruption” and subjectivity in assessment and grading of higher education institutions, the ministry of human resource development has asked for a complete overhaul of the accreditation process by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) from July 2017.  Following complaints of corruption by the council’s peer team, the ministry asked NAAC to work towards bringing transparency, objectivity and technology into the grading system.   As per the new methodology, the peer team assessment of institutions will be given just 20% weightage instead of the current 100% in deciding the grade of an institution.

 Moreover, no institution will know in advance which team will visit them and the accommodation and travel plans of the peer team visit will be outsourced.  Major (80%) weightage of the grade will be decided based on technical and objective inputs via use of Information Communication and Technology (ICT). These and many more changes, said officials, are in the pipeline in the accreditation process of higher education institutions in order to bring in transparency, objectivity and technology in the assessment and grading. “There have been complaints from institutions against the conduct of the assessors who are part of the peer team. Therefore, union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar has taken personal interest in qualitative improvement of the grading system,” said a senior official. –  Courtesy

Can India’s universities improve? NAAC Accreditation body ties up with US group to up standards

Hindustan Times |  March 15, 2017 |  Gauri Kohli  |  New Delhi |

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an assessment and accreditation body for higher education institutions in India, has signed a memorandum of affiliation with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) International Quality Group (CIQG) of the US.  CHEA is a US-based organisation of colleges and universities serving as the national advocate for voluntary self-regulation through accreditation.  CIGQ is a forum for colleges, universities, accrediting and quality assurance organisations worldwide to address issues and challenges focused on quality and quality assurance in an international ­setting.  Under this agreement, the two bodies will share best practices in assessment and accreditation, exchange resources and expertise, case studies and will also engage in joint activities such as peer visits of experts to institutions from one country to the other. The group comprises experts from over 40 countries who will regularly share practices and assessment tools, among other things.  It is designed to engage quality assurance and accrediting organisations, higher education providers, organisations and governments in a shared effort to affirm and promote quality in higher education.  Prof DP Singh, director, NAAC, calls it a “step further in making Indian assessment and accreditation practices at par with global standards. The Council is also working with accreditation agencies from around the world to achieve this. Such initiatives will encourage more Indian institutions to go for NAAC accreditation, especially as the University Grants Commission has made it mandatory as it helps an institute get autonomous status. Consistent top grades by the Council will also help institutions improve their performance on the HRD ministry’s National Institutional Ranking Framework. This in turn will enable students make an informed choice about the university or college they wish to join. It will also help institutions improve their enrolment and placements.”

The agreement also states that both NAAC and CHEA will work along the lines of the core principles of the CHEA International Quality Group, a global network of quality assurance and accreditation bodies. This involves working with higher education providers and their leadership, staff and students for the implementation of processes, tools and benchmarks to improve quality.  CHEA and CIQG provide a forum for colleges and universities, accrediting and quality assurance organisations, higher education associations and governments to address issues and challenges for quality assurance in an international setting. At meetings, in webinars and through publications and presentations, CIQG members exchange information and ideas on common interests and concerns including student learning outcomes, new modes of educational delivery, international quality expectation, the role of government, etc.  “As a CIQG member, NAAC has played an active role in this conversation about quality assurance internationally. The memorandum of affiliation is designed to engage quality assurance and accrediting organisations in a shared effort to affirm and promote fundamental principles for higher education quality. The CIQG helps build principles that can be used internationally to advance quality assurance,” says a CHEA spokesperson. –  Courtesy

Secrecy about process of accrediting colleges is baffling

  |  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.

These are:
* 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.

Observations
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

Don’t link grades with the grants: Prof D P Singh, NAAC director

Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Jan 7, 2017  |   Mihika Basu |

For the first time perhaps, the director of the country’s National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), Bengaluru, has said that grades from accreditation agencies must not be linked with grants as it “shifts the focus from process and quality to just outcomes (grades)”. The University Grants Commission (Mandatory Assessment and Accreditation of higher Educational Institutions), Regulations, 2012, made it mandatory for higher educational institutions to get accredited by the accreditation agency after passing out of two batches or six years, in order to be eligible for applying or receiving financial assistance from the Commission under any of its schemes.

“It is my individual opinion that grades should not be linked with grants. When a decision-making body has to take a decision to give funds for a project, only at that point, the grade is considered. So if an important decision has to be taken, it should be taken right at the beginning, at the policy level. Else, an institution ends up working mechanically towards a grade to get funds for a specific project,” Prof D P Singh, NAAC director, told Bangalore Mirror. He was speaking on the sidelines of a session on the role of accreditation in enhancement of quality education and research at the Indian Science Congress, on Friday. Prof Singh further said that a major limitation in the accreditation process is that weaker institutions do not submit their applications for the process, unless forced by the state, so that the institution can get grants under various schemes. “There is also no support for strengthening weaker institutions. This needs to change,” he added. Currently, NAAC accreditation is valid for five years, and institutes are graded on a seven-point scale. It includes 32 key aspects and 196 key indicators.  According to NAAC data, during the pre-mandatory period (1999-2012), 6,402 colleges and 251 universities had been accredited. –  Courtesy