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Controversy Over NAAC’s System

Context:

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), which carries out quality checks or assessments of Indian Higher-level Educational Institutions (HEIs), courted controversy recently over the rating of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and allegations of bribery in the process.

Relevance:

GS II: Education, Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is NAAC?
  2. What is the latest controversy about?
  3. How many institutions in India are accredited?
  4. Can all higher educational institutes apply for accreditation?

What is NAAC?

  • The NAAC, an autonomous body under the University Grants Commission (UGC), assesses and certifies HEIs with gradings as part of accreditation.
  • Through a multi-layered process, a higher education institution learns whether it meets the standards of quality set by the evaluator in terms of curriculum, faculty, infrastructure, research, and other parameters. The ratings of institutions range from A++ to C.
    • If an institution is graded D, it means it is not accredited.
How is the accreditation process carried out?
  • The first step has an applicant institution submitting a self-study report of information related to quantitative and qualitative metrics.
  • The data is then validated by NAAC expert teams, followed by peer team visits to the institutions. This last step has sparked controversy.

What is the latest controversy about?

  • NAAC had reportedly withheld the grading of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda after receiving an anonymous complaint that the university unduly tried to influence the peer review team with gold, cash and other favours.
    • Recently, NAAC released the improved grading, terming the allegations as “false”.
  • Interestingly, the controversy has surfaced at a time when the council is considering reducing the role of the peer team visits in the overall scheme of things.

What are the alternatives being explored?

  • From the prevailing “input-based” approach, the NAAC plans to adopt an “outcome-based approach”.
    • The current system is akin to accepting the claim of a PhD candidate that his thesis is of high quality. Instead, it suggests that emphasis should be on finding out if students are equipped with relevant skills and academic abilities.
  • Rather than relying exclusively on the self-study reports of the HEIs, the NAAC should ask institutions to provide evidence such as samples of learning materials, continuous assessment tasks and final examinations to show they have outcomes of learning specified in the syllabus, according to the white paper.
How many institutions in India are accredited?
  • There are 1,043 universities and 42,343 colleges listed on the portal of the All India Survey on Higher Education.
  • As per the latest data from June 21, there were 406 universities and 8,686 colleges that were NAAC-accredited.
  • Among the states, Maharashtra accounts for the highest number of accredited colleges at 1,869 – more than twice as many as Karnataka’s 914, the second highest. Tamil Nadu has the most accredited universities at 43.

Can all higher educational institutes apply for accreditation?

  • Under the rules, only higher education institutions that are at least six years old, or from where at least two batches of students have graduated, can apply.
  • The accreditation is valid for five years.
  • Aspiring institutes need to be recognised by the UGC and have regular students enrolled in their full-time teaching and research programmes.
  • There are only 19 universities and 121 colleges that have been reviewed by the NAAC four times, with a gap of five years between each grading.
  • When an institution undergoes the accreditation process for the first time it is referred to as Cycle 1, and the subsequent five-year periods as Cycles 2, 3 and so on.

-Source: Indian Express


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October 2022
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