Claims of irregularities in the functioning of NAAC
Context- The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an autonomous body under the University Grants Commission (UGC), is facing allegations of irregularities in the way it operates.
On March 5, the chairperson of NAAC’s executive committee, Bhushan Patwardhan, resigned after repeatedly demanding an independent inquiry into the functioning of the council.
On Tuesday, the NAAC released a statement addressing the allegations, saying, “As per the mandate of NAAC, the entire process of accreditation and assessment is robust, transparent, ICT-driven and automated. The system cannot be compromised because the whole process is decentralized, transparent and accessible to the stakeholders through a user friendly portal.”
What are the functions of NAAC?
- The NAAC, set up in 1994, is entrusted with assessing the quality of India’s higher educational institutions. Following a multi-layered assessment process, it awards grades to colleges and universities.
- Its parameters include curriculum, faculty, infrastructure, research and financial well-being. The grades issued by NAAC 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 involves an institute approaching the NAAC for assessment. Once the NAAC sets the process in motion, the applicant has to submit a self-study report (SSR) containing information related to quantitative and qualitative metrics. The data is then validated by expert teams of the NAAC, followed by spot visits by peer teams comprising assessors drawn from universities across India.
Is NAAC accreditation mandatory?
- While the UGC has over the years issued many circulars directing institutes to mandatorily undergo NAAC’s assessment, the process still remains largely voluntary.
- The National Education Policy (2020) has set an ambitious target of getting all higher educational institutes to obtain the highest level of accreditation over the next 15 years.
- However, according to information shared by the Centre in Lok Sabha in February, out of the 1,113 universities and 43,796 colleges in the All India Survey on Higher Education Report 2020-21, only 418 universities and 9,062 colleges were NAAC-accredited as on January 31, 2023.
What has Patwardhan alleged?
- Patwardhan, who took charge as chairman in February 2022, has alleged that people with vested interests are indulging in malpractices, leading to the awarding of questionable grades to some institutions.
- He had first raised the issue with UGC chairman M Jagadesh Kumar last September. Patwardhan had based his allegations on his own experiences as well as the findings of an inquiry he commissioned after taking charge.
- He reiterated his charges in another letter to Kumar on February 26 and expressed his desire to resign. Kumar promptly appointed former AICTE chairperson Anil D Sahasrabudhe to replace Patwardhan. Patwardhan protested this, saying his intent to resign was misconstrued as his final resignation letter. However, on March 5, he put in his papers, citing self-respect and the need to “safeguard the sanctity” of the NAAC.
What were the findings of the inquiry?
- The inquiry committee commissioned by Patwardhan was led by JP Singh Joreel, the director of Information and Library Network, also a UGC centre. It found that the NAAC’s accreditation process was mired in irregularities.
- Firstly, the IT system of the agency was found “compromised”. Also, assessors were being allocated “arbitrarily”, the panel claimed, observing that such practices are sparking potential cases of conflict of interest.
- The report said that nearly 70% of experts from the pool of around 4,000 assessors have not received any opportunity to make site visits, while some have visited multiple times. Among the other lapses highlighted was individuals without authority having full access to the NAAC’s internal system.
Why are so few institutes accredited?
- According to current and former officials of the NAAC, the fear of obtaining poor grades holds institutes back from applying.
- In 2019, the UGC had launched a scheme named ‘Paramarsh’ to address the issue. Under the scheme, some of the best performing institutes were identified to serve as mentors to at least five institutes aspiring to get accredited.
- Last year, the NAAC also explored the possibility of issuing Provisional Accreditation for Colleges (PAC), under which one-year-old institutes could apply for accreditation that would be valid for two years. Currently, only institutes 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.
Conclusion- Ensuring transparency and autonomy in functioning of government institutions will go a long way in promoting Good Governance.
Source- Indian Express
NEWS- Claims of irregularities in the functioning of NAAC
Syllabus- GS-2; Government Policies