MHRD must enhance NAAC’s identity

Tags: Op-ed
MHRD must enhance NAAC’s identity
CORRECTIVE MEASURES: The number of institutions, and thereby students, are rapidly growing today. Educational institutions need to operate in a very competitive atmosphere matching global standards
Recently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) made it mandatory for each university and college to get assessed in a time-bound approach. Such a compulsion on these institutes for going through the process of assessment and accreditation by the regulator of higher education (that is, UGC) triggered the suggestion to delink National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) from the UGC too, mainly because the regulator cannot be an assessor.

However, the ministry of human resources development (MHRD) was quick to unlink NAAC from the UGC. Many academicians said that it was indeed a bold decision.

Today, the NAAC functions under the UGC. It is an autonomous entity wherein, a senior academician is appointed as the chairman of the NAAC’s executive committee (EC) by the chairman of the UGC. India has one more body called National Board of Accreditation (NBA), which grades institutions imparting technical education. It was earlier a wing of the All India Council

for Technical Education (AICTE) and was heavily criticised for its “we scratch each other’s back” operative environment practiced by its members. This type of work environment got nurtured right from the inception of the NBA mainly because of weak leadership with narrow-minded thoughts of those at the topmost level in AICTE. Now NBA has also undergone a huge transformation, both operationally and financially. One is not sure whether it is still influenced by professional colleges and universities mainly because professional education is still controlled by big ‘political academicians with big money’.

The need and importance of measuring the quality of education given by higher and professional institutions was recommended in the National Policy on Education, 1986 (NPE). Rajiv Gandhi’s government was in power when the NPE became a reality, but the idea became operational only in 1991. This was done by PV Narasimha Rao, the then prime minister and the then UGC chairman G Ram Reddy. The author of this column, as a member of the UGC, had written the entire policy document on NAAC. Even though the UGC was recommended as a funding body to NAAC, it was clearly seen that NAAC would have no links with the regulator. The president of general council (GC) of NAAC and the chairman of the EC were supposed to be academicians of repute. The GC would meet only once in a year and take review of the work done by the EC and the NAAC, per say. The very first bodies, both of GC and EC, were formed with such autonomy, while the NAAC was a free, strong and respected entity.

In 2000, because of non-academic and unethical usage of power by the then president (who also took charge as the director of NAAC) things went in the wrong direction. The NAAC further became a complex body because one of the members, who was stepping down as a vice chancellor of Karnataka University, had desired to be a director, but was not identified by the selection committee created by the EC of NAAC. He went to the court of law on very flimsy arguments which created further complications. The net result was that the then chairperson of the UGC took a decision to make the chairman of the UGC a permanent president of GC. Thus, the strong link between the UGC and NAAC came in operation. The critical analysis of work done by NAAC in the past one decade shows that NAAC is now a more amenable body in terms of internal level of operations by its officers, the GC and EC.

In the past decade, the NAAC has been called an “expert committee”, by local institutions, which forms a path for the soft scrutiny of data given by institutions and confirming what is presented to the visiting committee is happening throughout the academic year in true sense. Students and teachers too are free in terms of educational delivery and have effective access to other academic and growth services. The credibility and values of NAAC’s operations are deeply involved with the hard and honest work of its officers and the academic honesty of the members of the visiting committee. The director is a very significant person and he has to be strong in all his actions. The chairman, who should spend time (minimum three meetings in a year) in various operative level committees, has to be above the board and has to watch that the director does his job with an open, flexible and honest approach.

Today, the inspection reports of colleges and universities have been a subject of intense scrutiny and there is a serious doubt about the academic honesty of the members of committee that visits the educational institutes. They are falling prey to such ‘custodians of educational institutions’ who have become masters in ‘political and social’ operations.

The MHRD must act in a positive and firm manner if it desires to enhance the identity of NAAC. The number of institutions, and students, are rapidly growing today. Therefore, educational institutions need to operate in a very competitive atmosphere matching global standards. Both NAAC and NBA need to be made a singular entity. We should also initiate private processes of assessment and accreditation and let there be healthy competition. The MHRD should quickly appoint an expert committee to make these things happen in one month’s time. We are not solving a difficult problem; we have a complex situation and addressing it is not a difficult task.

(The writer is former chairman of UGC, former vice-chancellor of University of Pune and founder director of NAAC)


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