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UGC accreditation rules

The University Grants Commission has notified new rules that allow public-private-partnership entities to assess and accredit educational institutions, prompting criticism from academics who say the policy would lead to sale of accreditation grades.

By Basant Kumar Mohanty
  • Published 24.08.18
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The UGC building in Delhi. Stock photo/ Prem Singh

New Delhi: The University Grants Commission has notified new rules that allow public-private-partnership entities to assess and accredit educational institutions, prompting criticism from academics who say the policy would lead to sale of accreditation grades.

The University Grants Commission (Recognition and Monitoring of Assessment & Accreditation Agencies) Regulations, 2018, notified last week, seeks to create multiple agencies for assessment and accreditation and allows government and semi-government agencies to do the job.

The HRD ministry has already approved the new rules.

A semi-government agency has been defined as "an entity or institution, formed by a Government agency with majority stake in a partnership with a private entity which has at least five years of experience in accreditation process, with the exclusive purpose of meeting the objectives of these Regulations".

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) are the official agencies that have been assessing and accrediting institutions in India. But with applications piling up, the two agencies are heavily overburdened.

Prof. R.K. Chauhan, former vice-chancellor of Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology in Hisar, Haryana, said if the NAAC and the NBA were overburdened, the government should have opened more branches. "Why are private entities being allowed to do assessment and accreditation under the garb of semi-government agencies? Allowing private entities in any manner means accreditation grade for sale."

The regulations seek to lay down procedures and criteria for the registration of accreditation and assessment agencies (AAAs). The UGC will set up an accreditation advisory council (AAC) with 10 academics to examine proposals by government and semi-government agencies that want to be registered as AAAs.

A committee appointed by the HRD ministry will identify and recommend members for the advisory council. The council shall select assessment agencies and recommend to the UGC their registration, which would be valid for two years and has to be renewed after that. The AAAs can accredit both technical and non-technical programmes. So long, the NAAC has been accrediting institutions offering non-technical courses, while the NBA has been giving accreditation to technical and professional courses.

Chauhan said the possibility of misuse was there although the private entity in the partnership would have a minority stake. The NDA government under then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he said, had opened up the scope for deemed university status by starting a de-novo category to facilitate "deserving government institutions". But later the provision was allowed to help private institutions too, he said.

"Accreditation and assessment are key to ensuring quality in higher education. The majority of the institutions coming up in India are in the private sector. If some private entity is involved in assessment and accreditation, impartiality cannot be ensured," Chauhan said.

Rajesh Jha, a member of Delhi University's executive council, said: "The government is trying to promote privatisation of higher education. It wants top colleges to take autonomous status to start self-financing courses. It wants to give institution of eminence status to Jio Institute, which is yet to be set up. Now it is involving private entities in accreditation also."

Prof. Abdul Wahid, former VC, Kashmir Central University, however, said even the US and the UK allowed private entities to be part of the accreditation process. "This is a good proposal. From the time it receives a proposal, the NAAC takes one to two years to send a team for inspection. This will facilitate speedy assessment and accreditation." said Wahid, who has been involved with NAAC inspection teams for the past eight years.

UGC secretary Rajnees Jain sought to allay concerns over the new rules. "I think you can read the whole document carefully. It allows only government and semi government entities through a rigorous selection process by a competent body with audit and severe penalty clauses on non-conformance," Jain said in a text message.