The report of the Overarching Committee constituted by Ministry of Education in November 2022 under the chairmanship of Dr. K. Radhakrishnan Chairman BoG, IIT Kanpur & Chairperson, and Standing Committee of IIT Council was made public on May 12 for consultation. The report has a an inbuilt timeline of targets for movement of this consultation with the all-important TRANSITION to new accreditation system set for 31 December 2023.
The committee has recommended transition from the present 8-point grading system of NAAC to an ‘Adapted Binary Accreditation System.’ The new system will categorization of HEIs as: Accredited; Not Accredited (i.e. far below the standards for accreditation); Awaiting Accreditation (i.e. on the threshold for Accreditation).
HEIs from the accredited group may be encouraged to become mentors, with suitable credit given during their re-accreditation and mentor the Institutions falling ‘far below the standards for accreditation’. Accredited Institutions will have to cross the ‘Level 1’ to ‘Level 4’ of Institutes of National Excellence, [moving up as they evolve ‘in-depth in their disciplines’ and/or in-breadth in disciplines]. ‘Level-5’ is for Multi-Disciplinary Research and Educational Institutions of global standing (as envisioned in NEP 2020). This classification could be a necessary condition for graded autonomy.
The timeline starts with eliciting suggestions from Academic Experts (including those from IITs) and feedback from Public (including a few regional interactive workshops) 22 May – 24 Jul 2. After this, in the second stage, harmonisation of Data Variables, and Business 22 May – 21 Aug 3. Upgradation of ‘One Nation One Data Platform‘will take place between 22 May – 21 Aug 4.
Consolidated Review by M/o Education will be held on 31 Aug 2023 5. This will be followed by Integrated Test and Evaluation and Trial Runs by an independent agency – like SAMARTH, INFLIBNET, SWAYAM using inclusive test cases (of say 25 HEIs), demonstrating robustness, end-to-end service time and ‘ease of doing business’ from 1 Sep – 9 Oct 6.
System retuning and Re-evaluation happens from 10 – 28 Oct 7 and System’s Readiness for Operational service on 31 Oct 2023 8. Appropriate Statutory Clearances is proposed to be obtained by each Agency, and HEIs (e.g. IITs) 10 Oct – 30 Nov 9.
User Manual and Outreach; Announcement to Stakeholders by AICTE, NBA, NAAC and NIRF that henceforth take data from this common portal only between 10 Oct – 30 Nov 10. It will be followed by Transition Campaigns and Readiness Review 1 – 22 Dec 2023 11. Finally, Transition to New Accreditation System takes place on 31 Dec 2023.
This overarching Committee (apart from Dr. K. Radhakrishnan with Prof. Mridul Hazarika Vice-Chancellor, Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva Viswavidyalaya, Assam, Prof. Bharat Bhasker Professor, IIM Lucknow (Director IIM Ahmedabad) and Joint Secretary Higher eEducation (MoE) as members), set up by the Ministry of Education in November 2022 deliberated on the current periodic approvals, assessment, accreditation and ranking of HEIs over six sittings in tandem with a sub-committee of specialists; as well as consulted senior functionaries of the Ministry, UGC, AICTE, NAAC, NBA, and NIRF and Council of IITs, and thereafter evolved a set of transformative reforms to strengthen the periodic assessment and accreditation of ‘All HEIs’ of India. Also, during this exercise, the overarching Committee considered the reports of three related Committees of UGC, together with the report of an Audit Committee of NAAC that had been set up by the then Chairman of its Executive Committee. Eventually, a high level brainstorming session, held on 22 March 2023, provided valuable inputs, besides the resolve to prepare for mission-mode transition by 31 December 2023.
The committee noted the low level of willingness of HEIs to volunteer for this process continues to be a cause of concern. “Aside the plurality of all-encompassing information (much of which may not be completely applicable for diverse categories of HEIs), as well as the cumbersome and tiresome process for collection of the information sought by these agencies (that too at different periodicity), there are concerns on subjectivity in the processes, and inconsistencies between assessment by different agencies,” the report mentions.
The reform process was eventually thought through and narrowed down to a set of recommendations contained in the report. It calls for simplification of the Accreditation process, especially for the first cycle, and bring down periodicity for Re-accreditation to three years. Existing stipulation for annual re-approvals (by AICTE for technical educational programmes) could be done away with, if the scope of programme does not alter significantly. Include all HEIs and every programme in the newly proposed assessment and accreditation system, with due regard for their statutory dispensations (e.g. IITs). Consider the heterogeneity of HEIs in the country, categorise them based on their orientation/vision and heritage/legacy, and then seek information from the HEIs that are appropriate to their category (rather than a one-size-fits-all model in vogue currently). The classification proposed is: 1. Multi-disciplinary Education and Research Intensive 2. Research-Intensive 3. Teaching-Intensive 4. Specialised Streams 5. Vocational and Skill-Intensive 6. Community Engagement & Service. There is also a category of Heritage and Legacy Old and Established Institute as well as New and Upcoming Institute.
The committee also is of the view that accredit with due consideration for Inputs, Processes, Outcomes and Impact across different attributes of HEI (instead of being largely input-centric as at present). A framework for parametrising Input, Process, Outcomes, and Impact has been suggested. Linking parameters to essential variables, and, assigning weightages (business logics) for the varied purposes of approval, accreditation and scoring/ranking is a work in progress.
Develop a ‘Unified Elicitation Tool’ to collect the superset of data from HEIs for the varied purposes (of approval, accreditation, scoring/ranking) with in-built design for collateral cross-checking to check authenticity of data and, in conjunction with it, introduce maximally the technology-driven modern systems, to replace the existing manual/hybrid systems of assessment and accreditation thereby minimising subjectivity and enhancing transparency and credibility. The ‘One Nation One Data Platform’ may be upgraded to a robust architecture.