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Nod to state education assessors
- UGC decides to allow multiple accreditation agencies

New Delhi, March 12: States will soon be able to set up accreditation agencies to assess higher educational institutions in their jurisdiction, the Centre has said, fulfilling a demand raised off and on by Bengal governments.

Facilitating a federal accreditation paradigm, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has decided to allow multiple accrediting agencies to perform the tasks of quality assessment and accreditation of institutions.

On February 27, the higher education regulator, which is under the HRD ministry, approved the UGC (Recognition and Monitoring of Assessment and Accreditation Agencies) Regulations under which a national accreditation regulatory authority (Nara) will be set up to prescribe standards for creation of an accreditation body.

At present, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) assess and grant accreditation grades to general and engineering institutions, respectively.

Out of nearly 32,000 colleges and 650 universities in the general stream, the NAAC has granted accreditation to about 6,000 colleges and 170 universities. Most private institutions are yet to be assessed.

Ashok Thakur, the secretary for higher education in the HRD ministry, said the Nara would comprise accreditation experts who would frame guidelines on the prerequisites of an accrediting agency and the quality norms to be followed while accrediting to institutions. The new agencies will have to be registered with the Nara.

“Many states want to have their own accrediting agency to conduct assessment of their institutions. The Nara will facilitate creation of multiple accrediting agencies,” Thakur said.

HRD ministry sources said the Bengal government had demanded a provision to allow state-level agencies in 2012 when a bill to set up a national regulatory body for accreditation was moved for discussion in Parliament. The bill was brought by the HRD ministry in 2011.

The Centre accepted the demand and the draft bill was amended, but it could not be passed as it was not taken up in Parliament subsequently. With the House unlikely to convene under UPA II any more, the government asked the UGC to set up an accreditation authority under its own regulations.

Bratya Basu, the higher education minister in the Mamata Banerjee government, said the West Bengal State Higher Education Council had sent a proposal to the Centre for setting up a state-level accreditation agency two years ago.

However, the move to set up a state-level accreditation agency in Bengal was first made by the Left government in 2006-07, a source in the higher education department said.

The then government felt central agencies were unfair in their assessment of institutions in the state. Questions were raised about the parameters used to rate an institution.

A proposal for a state-level agency was sent to the Centre at that time. But it did not materialise because the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government did not follow it up because of opposition in the state.

Many teachers and heads of universities and colleges had said the institutes were already under the UGC, NAAC and the NBA scanners and setting up a new accreditation body would mean monitoring by another agency. This, they felt, would force institutions to get busy with too many assessment procedures through the year and, in turn, affect academic activities.

Following the nod to state-level accreditation agencies, A.S. Brar, the vice-chancellor of Amritsar’s Guru Nanakdev University and a NAAC member, said allowing states to have their own accrediting agencies would decentralise the quality control system of institutions.

“A centralised approach does help higher education. But an accreditation agency at the state level will be more effective in assessing the quality of institutions in the state. They can monitor quality better,” he said.

He said the NAAC was unable to handle accreditation of thousands of institutions.

Brar made it clear that state government institutions would be free to seek accreditation from the state agency or any central agency.

Higher education secretary Thakur said the NBA, the official agency to accredit engineering institutions, was likely to get permanent membership of the Washington Accord, a grouping of 15 nations formed to standardise engineering education. The body is scheduled to meet next June.

Membership of this grouping will help engineering students who decide to study and take up jobs in member countries. India has been a provisional member of the Washington Accord since 2007.