After making a strong pitch for the merger of national level engineering and medical entrances with the Common University Entrance Test (CUET-UG), the union government is now keen on also merging the accreditation (NAAC) and ranking (NBA) bodies.
While the National Assessment and Accreditation Council or NAAC is the only government agency authorised to accredit universities and colleges, the National Board of Accreditation or NBA is tasked with accrediting only technical education institutions. The latter is also incharge of bringing out the annual ranking of higher education institutions, also known as the NIRF, every year.
The process of creating a single accreditation and ranking system, one of the proposals of the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP), has begun with the Ministry of Education (MoE) setting up a committee for the same under Bhushan Patwardhan, chairman, executive committee, National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).
The move is significant as it comes against the backdrop of a recent announcement by UGC chairman Jagadesh Kumar about merging the NEET, JEE Main with CUET-UG. The government is also working on merging AICTE and UGC into a single overarching higher education regulator called the Higher Education Commission of India or HECI.
The NEP 2020 prescribes the “setting up a meta-accrediting body” called the National Accreditation Council (NAC). At present, “accreditation and ranking of higher educational institutions takes place through multiple agencies and frameworks, which operate independent of each other. We have the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) that accredits technical programmes, while the NAAC accredits non-technical or general programmes. There is the National Institute of Ranking Framework (NIRF), which ranks all the higher educational institutions in India, said a source, adding: “The NEP envisages the creation of NAC, a body which will ensure the synchronized working of these bodies and align them to NEP goals”.
The committee headed by Patwardhan, who was the former vice-chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC), includes Indranil Manna (vice-chancellor, Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra in Ranchi), K N Ganesh (professor, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Tirupati), Dr Surender Prasad (former director, IIT Delhi), B J Rao (vice-chancellor, Central University of Hyderabad) and Dr Manju Singh (joint secretary, UGC). Singh will be the coordinator of the committee.
The six-member committee will study the accreditation methodology of NAAC , NBA and the ranking system of the NIRF. It will recommend a suitable mechanism to ensure communication between the bodies, besides preparing a framework to align the three to form the proposed NAC.
The NEP notes that “accreditation of institutions will be based primarily on basic norms, public self-disclosure, good governance, and outcomes, and it will be carried out by an independent ecosystem of accrediting institutions supervised and overseen by NAC”.
It adds: “The task to function as a recognized accreditor shall be awarded to an appropriate number of institutions by NAC. In the short term, a robust system of graded accreditation shall be established, which will specify phased benchmarks for all HEIs to achieve set levels of quality, self-governance, and autonomy”.