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Accreditation: The benchmark of excellence for an Indian University India has long been considered to be the second abode

for numerous foreign students who came here to gain knowledge, even when there were very few universities like Nalanda and Takshashila. At present, India has more than 300 universities that include central, state, deemed and private universities and above 2000 private institutions. But, the irony is that not many of these are recognised as quality institutions and the degree awarded by them are not acknowledged by the outside world. Industry experts as well as Indian academia are of the view that almost 70 per cent of the graduates coming out of these institutions are unemployable, thereby, putting a big question mark on the whole quality of education being offered by most of the higher education institutions in the country. It is also being assumed that, as many of the Indian institutions are not accredited and their quality of teaching and learning is not examined by any independent body, their quality is under question by the world community. India Education Review tried to find out whether the quality of education in India now is directly related to Accreditation? Presently, less than one-third of all universities and about one-fifth of the colleges are accredited in India but many of the famous and renowned universities and institutions are not going for accreditation. India has two autonomous accreditation bodies namely National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and National Board of Accreditation (NBA) working under University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) respectively. According to those opposing the accreditation model, these bodies have been working now for almost two decades and they have not been able to live up to the expectations with which they were created and they discriminate during the accreditation process. Many also feel that the process of accreditation is so lengthy and time consuming that by the time an institution gets a particular credit, its quality of education might hamper. While those in favour of the accreditation process feel that many of the known and famous universities and institutions are not going for accreditation because they know that they will not get good credit as there might be several departments in the same institutes which are of sub standard level. Prof. HA Ranganath, director, NAAC talking to India Education Review, said, It is very important to uplift the higher education sector in our country and we have to make sure that all the institutions go for the accreditation process either voluntarily or forcefully. The dynamics here are very challenging as there are all sorts of institutions offering different types of programmes. The National Knowledge Commission and Yashpal Committee constituted to suggest reforms for the education sector also suggested for a system of accreditation free from any type of control. Looking at all these recommendations the Ministry of Human Resource Development came up with Bill to make accreditation mandatory for every institution except Agricultural ones and has been approved by the Cabinet. The Bill which is still waiting to see the light and become an Act makes it mandatory for every higher educational institution in India and every programme conducted by it to get accredited by an accreditation agency. It also states that assessment of such accreditation has to be made before the institution starts the process of admission to such programmes. Existing educational institutions have to get their accreditation within three years (five years for medical institutions).

The Bill also makes way for establishment of a National Accreditation Regulatory Authority (NARA) for higher education sector in India to register and monitor accreditation agencies. These accreditation agencies shall accredit every higher educational institution based on a specified procedure and fees. According to Prof. Ranganath, It has to happen and this law must go through as the future of millions of students is at stake. The institution should themselves go for accreditation as it is the only way to show public the quality of education institution is offering. Prof. Ranganath also holds that many of the institutions do not understand the difference between ranking and accreditation as both are two completely different things. At a time when Indian institutions are trying to compete with the rest of the world to come at par with the best institutions across the globe accreditation become an important element to show the quality standards being maintained here. India is also on the verge of signing the Washington Accord and to help the mobility of students institutions will have to go for accreditation. It is not a new concept and different nations have their own accreditation procedures where both public and private bodies are allowed to accredit an institution. In India several believe that a government body alone cannot do the job on time without any bigotry and a private body should also be allowed to work in parallel, in contrast the government is in no mood to allow that to happen for now. Prof. BC Mazumdar, chairman, NBA highlighted the importance of accreditation by saying, The parents and the prospective students will choose those programmes and institutions which are accredited and employers will also get graduates from that institution because they are well equipped and thirdly the institution itself can assess, evaluate and improve their quality once they get accredited. It helps public and society as a whole. Replying to question on why many of the top institutions are not going for accreditation Prof. Mazumdar said, It is happening because it is voluntary and not mandatory. The Government has to bring the Act to make it mandatory and only than we can come at par with the best institutions in the world and become permanent member of the Washington Accord. India is one of the largest exporter of technical manpower to the world and thus this becomes prudent for the higher education institutions here to not only fulfil the accreditation criteria but also try to excel and set benchmarks for other nations as it will not only help in facilitating mobility of Indian students but will also draw students from aboard to these institutions. Both the existing accreditation agencies also need to significantly improve their methodology of assessing institutions and programmes as it is being done in countries having best institutions in the world and make it more transparent and unbiased to gain trust.