Intro: National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) is all set to gain functional autonomy from the University Grants Commission (UGC). Prachi Rege gauges expert reactions.
High priests of education believe that Union HRD Ministry’s decision to grant functional autonomy to the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), will improve the plummeting quality of higher education in the country. Naresh Chandra, pro-vice-chancellor, Mumbai University, calls this mandate, "a wonderful gift to the assessment body." Most however, say the change should have happened much earlier.
NAAC parted ways with the University Grants Commission (UGC) early last month, following a dictate from the Union HRD Ministry. The accrediting body will now work independently and report directly to the Ministry. Educationists compare this with the earlier separation of the National Board Accreditation (NBA) and AICTE. In 2010, NBA, which accredits the technical education institutes in the country was given both financial and functional autonomy.
AN Rai, director, NAAC, however welcomes the move. He says, "Functional autonomy means we don`t have to consult with the UGC while setting norms on the assessment parameters and policies." "We will now be directly communicating with the ministry, which will help us to have more freedom to formulate our own rules," he explains. However, UGC will still call shots where finances are concerned.
The move to separate the two nodal higher education authorities was the result of the confusion created due to the presence of multiple accrediting agencies. "Other agencies like the NBA and Accreditation Body (AB) are already working parallel to the NAAC. Besides these, many private players will also be introducing their own accreditation agencies," informs Rai.
Former chairman of NAAC’s executive council Goverdhan Mehta however, is a worried man. “With over 35,000 educational institutes and 700 plus universities springing up across the country, NAAC`s job as an independent assessor is going to be a gigiantic task." Chandra too expresses concern. He says that with UGC’s support NAAC has so far done a good job. They have contributed immensely in monitoring the internal quality of higher education institutes in the country. "However, the accreditator will now have to carry the responsibilty on it`s own terms." he cautions.
An opportunity to function independently develops within an institution a certain quest for excellence, says Chandra. "But with freedom comes responsibility. NAAC now needs to be more organised in its functioning," he emphasizes.
Mehta draws attention to the worlwide phenomenon followed in the higher education domain. "The regulator, assessor and accreditor must not be affiliated to each other. These are supposed to be independent entities. They should remain so for transparency and better functioning."