New Delhi, Jan. 1: The Indian Institutes of Technology have expressed concern over the human resource development ministry's proposal that they help assess and accredit institutions on quality criteria.
After the ministry disclosed plans to start accreditation centres in the premier tech schools and in the Indian Institutes of Management, the matter was discussed at an IIT directors' meeting in IIT Kanpur on December 12.
Several directors were sceptical about the IITs taking on the role of accreditation agencies like the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), which accredits engineering and management programmes, and the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), which accredits general colleges and universities.
Some directors said the proposed role would dilute the tech schools' core mandate of teaching and research in technical education. But they agreed to provide "limited" assistance and expertise so that their core functions would remain unaffected.
HRD minister Prakash Javadekar has been advocating making the IITs parallel assessors alongside the NBA and the NAAC.
In a written reply in the Lok Sabha on December 5, junior HRD minister Mahendra Nath Pandey said: "Government had a proposal to create reliable accreditation centres in IITs, IIMs. Details in this regard are being worked out."
The aim of setting up such accreditation centres is to assist existing agencies like the NBA and the NAAC to speed up the accreditation process. The centres would assess colleges and universities based on the accreditation process of the NBA and the NAAC, Pandey said.
IIT Kanpur director Indranil Manna said the IITs should not be made part of any agency for the purpose of accreditation.
"We are not averse to contributing to the national cause. But we do not want to be part of any agency," Manna said.
He said the core mandate of the IITs was teaching and research, not accreditation.
"We may mentor or help in assessment. We cannot operate like a dedicated agency. We can play a limited role in this," Manna said.
IIT Madras director Bhaskar Ramamurthi said the IITs could play a limited role by assessing the academic aspects of institutions. Accreditation involves assessing physical infrastructure as well as faculty, lab facilities and the academic curriculum.
"There are a lot of experienced teachers in the IITs. They can help in validating the academic aspects of courses and the curriculum. But I do not know if the IITs can become accreditation agencies," Ramamurthi said.
The University Grants Commission, the higher education regulator, has objected to involving IITs in accreditation work, saying it should remain with institutions like the NAAC and the NBA.
A ministry official said the new role was being proposed for the IITs and the IIMs because of heavy load on the two existing agencies. There are 38,000 general colleges, 4,000 engineering colleges and 800 universities in the country.
The rate of accreditation of courses or institutions is abysmal in India. Only 20 per cent of the engineering programmes offered by the 4,000 colleges have so far got accreditation from the NBA.
Also, many institutions are not eligible to apply for accreditation as they do not fulfil minimum requirements like 50 per cent admission in every programme, at least one professor or one associate professor in a department and 10 per cent faculty with PhD qualification.
The functioning of the NAAC has come under scrutiny after it gave Grade A to 17 deemed universities which were declared "unworthy" of a deemed tag by a separate review committee headed by P.N. Tandon.
The ministry wants to involve more organisations in accreditation work so that the load will be shared and competition will bring an improvement in accreditation standards.
Ministry officials attended the IIT directors' meeting and explained the proposal. The IIT asked the officials to work out details about their role.
The ministry is likely to hold a meeting with the UGC, NAAC, NBA and the All India Council of Technical Education to finalise a framework for an accreditation role for the IITs and the IIMs.