NAAC, the quality monitor
An overview of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council whose rating is what every educational institution aims to get.
Futuristic concept: A design for the new NAAC building
FOR NEARLY five decades, a vast majority of the higher education institutions in the country had no benchmark for quality. Quality assurance was an unheard of concept. Colleges and universities mushroomed everywhere. What mattered was only numbers. Ten years ago, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) chose to change all that.
Here's a look at the processes and methods the Council used to go about its task of accrediting 111 universities and 1,910 colleges across India, eight universities and 315 colleges in Karnataka, the highest in the South-Western region.
But before that, an understanding of NAAC and its structure is essential. NAAC is an autonomous body established by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to assess and accredit institutions of higher education in the country. It is an outcome of the recommendations of the National Policy on Education (1986). The NPE had laid special emphasis on upholding the quality of higher education.
The reasons for the need for quality were not hard to find. The higher education system in the country had grown rapidly since independence, institutions had mushroomed with fancy programmes and substandard facilities, leading to a dilution of standards. To arrest this obvious
deterioration of quality, the NPE and the Plan of Action (POA-1992) spelt out the strategic plans for the policies and advocated the establishment of an independent national accreditation body. The stage was set for NAAC to emerge out of the drawing rooms in 1994, with its headquarters in Bangalore.
Over the years, NAAC has assessed and accredited eight universities and 315 colleges in Karnataka. Last year, the Council made an analysis, under seven criteria, of the six traditional universities, one language-specific university and one deemed university it had accredited in the State.
In Curricular aspects, traditional universities (TU) scored 72 percentile, the Language-specific university (LU) 82 and the Deemed university (DU) 86. In Teaching-learning & Evaluation, the scores were 73.17 (TU), 86 (LU) and 76 (DU). In Research, Consultancy & Extension, TU had a score of 72.17, LU 90 and DU 60. Under the criterion "Infrastructure & Learning Resources," the scores were 76.67 (TU), 72 (LU) and 86 (DU). The scores or "Student support & Progression" were 69.5 (TU), 74 (LU) and 72 (DU). In the criterion "Organisation & Management," the scores were 72.33 for TU, 78 for LU and 74 for DU. For the criterion "Healthy Practices," TU scored 72.83 percentile, LU 70 and DU 66.
Vision & mission
The vision and mission of NAAC focus on making quality assurance an integral part of the functioning of higher education institutions. A glimpse of NAAC's vision and mission statements should give a fair idea of what the Council is all about.
The vision is clear: To make quality the defining element of higher education through a combination of self and external quality evaluation, promotion and sustenance initiatives; to translate this into reality, the mission statement seeks to arrange for periodic assessment and accreditation of institutions or units or specific academic programmes or projects; to stimulate the academic environment for promotion of quality of teaching-learning and research in higher education institutions; to encourage self-evaluation, accountability, autonomy and innovations in higher education; to undertake quality-related research studies, consultancy and training programmes; and to collaborate with stakeholders of higher education for quality evaluation, promotion and sustenance.
With quality being the constant mantra of NAAC, institutions ought to know how the Council goes about its task of ensuring that. Its assessment and accreditation methodology is transparent enough to offer an understanding of the quality assurance process.
For the assessment of a unit, NAAC follows a process which is a combination of self-study and peer review. The self-study report to be validated by peers is the backbone of the whole exercise. "Manuals have been developed to suit different units of higher education, with detailed guidelines on the preparation of the self-study report and the other aspects of assessment and accreditation," explains a NAAC official.
The Council has identified the criteria to serve as the basis for its assessment procedures: Curricular Aspects; Teaching-Learning and Evaluation; Research; Consultancy and Extension; Infrastructure and Learning Resources; Student Support and Progression; Organisation and Management; and Healthy Practices. "The self-study report is expected to highlight the functioning of the institution with reference to these criteria."
The validation of the self-study report by peers results in criterion-wise scores and a detailed assessment report. The criterion scores are used to arrive at the overall institutional score.
NAAC assigns the institutional grade on a nine-point scale based on the institutional score. If the overall score is more than 55 per cent, the institution gets the "Accredited Status." For institutional scores of 95 to 100, the grade is "A++." The grades for lower scores are as follows: A+ (90 to 95); A (85 to 90); B++ (80 to 85); B+ (75 to 80); B (70 to 75); C++ (65 to 70); C+ (60 to 65) and C (55 to 60).
Institutions which do not attain the minimum 55 per cent score for accreditation are also intimated and notified, indicating that the institutions were "Assessed and found not qualified for Accreditation." The assessment outcome is valid for a period of five years. Adopting this methodology, NAAC has so far assessed 2,021 higher education institutions, including 111 universities and 1,910 colleges, spread across the country. Now, based on the experience with these institutions, NAAC has launched the re-accreditation method for institutions that have completed five years of accredited status.
Like the first assessment, the framework of re-accreditation also has the core common elements in its methodology self-study and peer review. The seven criteria for assessment and grading pattern are also the same. "The developments made during the accredited period and the action taken on the assessment report will be the focus of reaccreditation."
Under this process, NAAC has proposed to use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for effective data management. A part of the re-accreditation process will be done in the electronic mode. Although most of the re-accreditation framework is similar to the first assessment, there are some unique additional features reflected in the four main considerations: Minimum institutional requirements, emphasis on core values, focus on the impact of first assessment and use of indicators of quality.
To further strengthen the quality consciousness, created by the first assessment among institutions, NAAC intends to ensure that the quality initiatives are internalised and institutionalised. This re-accreditation requires that the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) fulfill two minimum institutional requirements establishment of Internal Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) and use of ICT for data management.
The NAAC has identified the need to expand the system of higher education, impact of technology on educational delivery, increasing private participation in higher education and the impact of globalisation as the drivers of change in Indian higher education.
The re-accreditation framework and its five core values reflect this: Relating to National Development, Fostering Global Competencies among Students, Inculcating the Value System, Promoting the Use of Technology and Quest for Excellence.
The re-accreditation will consider how the quality initiatives triggered by the first assessment in HEIs have been sustained during the accredited period. Due place will also be given to quality enhancement made during the period. Steps taken by the HEIs to overcome the deficiencies mentioned in the first assessment report will be noted.
The NAAC has identified the criterion statements that spell out the best practices expected of a quality institution under each of the seven criteria. It has also detailed core indicators for each criterion. For the criterion "Curricular Aspects," the indicators are: Goal Orientation, Curriculum Development, Programme Options, Academic Flexibility and Feedback
The validity period for the re-accredited status is seven years from the date of approval of the status by the NAAC's executive committee.
The first batch of HEIs one deemed university and 19 colleges that were accredited during 1998-99 have volunteered for re-accreditation. The results are expected to be announced by the end of this academic year.
As the Council officials put it, "the NAAC's efforts to promote usage of the assessment outcome as reliable information for decision-making have been very successful. The UGC has already linked with the outcome of assessment and accreditation its developmental support to educational institutions. With effect from April 1, 2004, the accreditation expenses of colleges recognised by the UGC for funding are directly met by the UGC. The NAAC accreditation, with a suitable grading, has been made a prerequisite for the granting and continuation of autonomous status and deemed-to-be universities for institutions."
Over the last few years, NAAC signed agreements with other national professional bodies for accreditation of specialised bodies. For more information on NAAC, contact No. 2/4, Dr. Rajkumar Road, P.O. Box No. 1075, Rajajinagar, Bangalore-560 010. Ph: 2312 4045/48/49, 2313 3600, 2313 4181. E-mail: email@example.com
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