Quality Assurance and Accreditation in HEIs

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By: Dr. Sajad Hussain Deen

According to a Belgium based organization, Education International (EI), quality education emphasises on the emotional, mental, physical and cognitive growth of each student irrespective of gender, race, culture, socio-economic status or origin. Ministry of human resource development has earmarked Rs. 1012 crores to invest by 2024 for accreditation reforms and decided to make the process mandatory for all higher education institutes. Till date only around 20 % of the institutes and programs are accredited in the field of engineering, pharmacy and architecture in India. MHRD is going to put emphasis on the incentives in the form of financial assistance, increase in programmes and more autonomy to the institutes performing well in national and international accreditations. Out of more than 42000, HEIs only 8700 institutes have been accredited by NAAC so far. On the other hand, so far only 3050 technical programmes have been accredited by NBA out of 15000. HRD ministry has proposed a penalty to be imposed on the institutes who fail to accredit themselves before 2024. The official document of HRD ministry states, “considering the ambitious objective …, it is obvious that the current framework that has only two major accreditation agencies is far from adequate…, while these agencies should be empowered to enhance their capacities, it is imperative that we expand the capacity and reach of the accreditation framework further.”

Quality in education has been a key priority for developing countries like India with growing economy. Gross enrolment ratio in India is around 25 percent, very low as compared to other developed counties such as Canada and other European countries where it is more than 80 percent. China on the other hand has crossed 50 percent. Private institutes can play a pivotal role in increasing the quality of higher education in India. Some of the main challenges in higher education institutions is dearth of funds, non-availability of study material, inadequate resources, lack of qualified teachers and staff. If we want to create competent graduates with knowledge, skill and attitude, we must make accreditation mandatory for all the higher education institutions.

Both country specific and region-specific accreditations are imperative for improving the quality of education. According to the South Asian Development Sector Report 2013 average number of institutions providing engineering education in India private-3184, government-209, in United States private-131, government-228, United Kingdom private-0, government-115, Japan private-148, government-79, China private and government-577, Brazil private-444, government-117, Russian Federation private-92, government-390. Number of engineering students per institution is as follow: India-445, United States-2213, United Kingdom-1275, Japan-2128, China-7331, Brazil-920, Russian Federation-3302. Number of Engineering faculty per institution is as follows: India-19, United States-114, United Kingdom-187, Japan-115, China-496, Brazil-62, Russian Federation-223. Student faculty ratio is as follows: India-24, United States-19.3, United Kingdon-7, Japan-18.5, China-14.8, Brazil-14.8, Russia-14.8.

The National accreditation Organization in United states was formed in 1949 named as Commission on Accreditation. Accredited Board for Engineering and Technology was founded in 1932 as Engineers’ Council for Professional Development. In 1980 EPCD was renamed as ABET. In 1989 an international accreditation board was established which led to the formation of Washington accord. The various criteria’s according to ABET are students, program educational objectives, student outcomes, continuous improvement, curriculum, faculty, facilities, institutional support. On the other hand, Quality Assurance Agency is an accreditation system founded by United Kingdom. It is a centralized international body which was established in 1997 to maintain the standards and quality in higher education by United Kingdom.

This accreditation process includes post-graduation research programme, collaborative provisions, students with disability, external examining, academic appeals and student complaints on academic matters, assessment of students, programme approval, monitoring and review and career education, information and guidance, placements, recruitment and admissions. Ministerial Council on Education, Training and Youth Affairs in Australia adopted the accreditation system called Australian Universities Quality Agency. AUQA is an independent non-profit Australian agency to promote audit and quality in higher education. On the other hand, International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education is an accreditation agency established in 1991 in New Zealand. Asia Pacific Quality Network which is covering the various countries like China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education is committed to establish quality in European higher education. In 2010 Bologna declaration encouraged quality assurance in European union. International Engineering Alliance is an organisation for six multi-lateral agreements which established and enforced international bench mark in engineering association. The activities of International Engineering Alliance are to consistently improve the standards, improve professional competence, assessment and evaluation of competence and participation of activities in engineering. Washington accord plays a significant role in enhancing the academic excellence. There are sixteen countries that are signatories in the Washington accord, including India. It confirms the quality equality in all the signatory countries.

The signatory countries of Washington accord deliver more than 7000 programs producing graduates with similar competencies. Washington accord was signed in 1989 for professional engineering courses having duration of four years. Similarly, Sydney accord was signed in 2001 for engineering and technology courses with three-years duration. Dublin accord was signed in 2002 for technician engineering courses of minimum duration of two years. Seoul accord came in the year 2008 for professional engineers in computing and IT related fields with four-year duration.

The national policies of education in India in 1968 and 1986 played a significant role in developing the quality of education in our higher education institutes. The national policies on education and plan of action in 1986 recommended the establishment of accreditation bodies like NAAC and NBA to maintain the standards of education. National Assessment and Accreditation Council was established by University Grants Commission in 1994. National Board of Accreditation was set up by All India Council for Technical Education for continual improvement in educational quality. NAAC was established to grade the institutes while NBA was established to evaluate the programmes in the institutes.

The purpose of NAAC is to stimulate the academic environment, promote innovation, bring reforms, self-evaluation and accountability in higher education. NAAC accreditation process involves the steps as HEI registration, IIQA submission, SSR submission, SSR quantity metrics assessment for prequalification, Peer team review management process and SSR quality metrics assessment process by Peer Team and grade declaration. The seven criteria for NAAC accreditation are curricular aspects, teaching-learning and evaluation, research, innovations and extension, infrastructure and learning resources, student support and progression, governance, leadership and management, institutional values and best practices.

The key indicators include curriculum design and development, curriculum planning and enrichment, academic flexibility, curriculum enrichment, feedback system, student enrolment and profile, catering to student diversity, teaching-learning process, teacher profile and quality, evaluation process and reforms, student performance and learning outcomes, student satisfaction survey, promotion of research and facilities, resource mobilization for research, innovation ecosystem, research publication and awards, consultancy, extension activities, collaboration, physical activities, library as a learning resource, IT infrastructure, maintenance of campus infrastructure,  student support, student progression, student participation and activities, alumni engagement, institutional vision and leadership, strategy development and deployment, faculty empowerment strategies, financial management and resource mobilization, internal quality assurance system, institutional values and social responsibilities, best practices and institutional distinctiveness.

The institutional grading is based on CGPA and is calculated based on the scores obtained from three sources as system generated scores of the quantitative metrics, the scores from the qualitative metrices including the critical appraisal of the peer team based on spot visit, the scores obtained by the student satisfaction survey. All this is evaluated on a bench mark of zero to four scale with the grading system as A++ (3.51-4), A+ (3.26-3.5), A (3.01-3.25), B++ (2.76-3), B+ (2.51-2.75), B (2.01-2.5), C (1.51-2), while 1.5 and below 1.5 depicts not accredited with grade D.  NBA is a two-tier programme accreditation involving engineering technology (diploma, undergraduate programmes, post-graduate programmes), pharmacy, hotel management, catering technology. Two types of manuals are developed for two types of institutions namely TIER-I and TIER-II institutions.  TIER-I manuals are designed for autonomous institutions where there is greater flexibility in designing the curriculum while as TIER-II manuals are designed for affiliated institutes which are non-autonomous and are affiliated to universities. NBA defines ten important criteria for TIER-I and TIER-II institutes namely vision, mission programme educational objectives, programme curriculum and teaching-learning process, course outcomes and programme outcomes, students’ performance, faculty information and contributions, facilities and technical support, continuous improvement, first year academics, student support systems, and governance, institutional support and financial resources.

The writer is Principal, SSM College of Engineering. [email protected]

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