The A-Z of Accreditation in India: A complete guide that includes process, framework and its impact on the higher education system
An introduction to what accreditation is, and a list of governing bodies
India is a country with a very diverse educational system. Nowadays education/learnings are not restricted to colleges or universities. Numerous options like MOOCs, BOOTCAMPS, ISA’s and startup have come forward to bridge the existing gap between universities and the market. With the number of colleges increased in every state, it is important that certain things like community/alumni, placements & accreditation take the center stage. Getting a degree from an accreditated university can change your career path entirely.
Accreditation is a barometer of the quality of education and infrastructure that a higher educational institute will surely provide.
What does Accreditation mean:
Accreditation is a process of voluntary, non-governmental review of educational institutions and programs. Through accreditation, business schools provide stakeholders with the assurance that they:
- Guide educational delivery by a carefully constructed mission.
- Select and support students to produce outstanding graduates.
- Deliver degree programs with qualified faculty.
- Structure learning through relevant curricula.
- Contribute to knowledge through research and scholarship
Why accredit your programs?
In a competitive international market, students and industry are demanding more.
Accreditation of your programs can help you to:
- Attract the best students
- Provide students with a good foundation for professional registration
- Meet the demands of the industry
- Benchmark programs against other global programs.
Institutes ‘not accredited’ by 2030 by NAAC shall cease to exist or would be asked to merge, and would thus lose their identity forever.
Getting an accredited degree will mean that you will be a preferred candidate for other universities across the globe and future employers as well.
In India, getting accredited is mandatory for all post-secondary educational institutions, as without accreditation, no institute can award degrees or call themselves a center of learning in the first place. Here’s a concise list of the top accreditation bodies in India:
- AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education): All India Council for Technical Education is a national-level body dedicated to technical education under the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development. It is responsible for the accreditation of graduate and post-graduate programs under specific categories. It also approves the formation of new institutions and courses along with specifying the intake capacity of these higher educational institutions in India.
- NBA (National Board of Accreditation): This was established under AICTE as an autonomous body for regular evaluation of technical institutions and programs according to the norms published by AICTE. Its main agenda is to keep track of the quality and relevance of the courses offered.
- ABET Inc: While this is a non-profit accreditation ISO 9001 certified body/organization that accredits college and university programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. Based out of Baltimore, USA, it offers programmatic accreditation in India as well, apart from 22 other countries. Specifically, it is focused on evaluating an individual program of study, rather than the whole institution. ABET accreditation is achieved through a peer-review process.
- AACSB: AACSB International is a not-for-profit corporation devoted to the promotion and improvement of higher education in business administration and accreditation. Established in 1916, AACSB is the premier accrediting agency for bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs in business administration and accounting. AACSB now holds international recognition by the ISO.
Also check here a tete-tete with Dr Sharma Director of NAAC has to say about accreditation.
The assessment and accreditation process:what universities need to know today
First, to set up a higher educational institute in India, these are the routes that candidates can take today:
- Private University: Out of the 29 states in India, only 20 have set up a regulatory framework to set up a private university. States like UP have a separate act for each university, while Rajasthan has both an umbrella act and a separate act for universities.Here is the complete list that allows the setup of a private university.
2. Deemed-to-be University: There are two types of institutions that are granted this status by the UGC Central Government: the general category of higher educational institutions and the de-novo category of institutions.
3. Affiliation with a Government University: Private colleges that are affiliated to a Government University like Visveswaraya Technical University (Karnataka) has the least amount of jurisdiction when it comes to administration and academics.
Higher education institutions that have recorded at least two batches of graduates or have existed for at least 6 years, are eligible for the accreditation process.
With respect to revised rules Institutes can now apply for NAAC any time of the year. Institutes were required to get accredited within 6 months of becoming eligible to apply.
In current times, any institute cannot afford to score a low grade and loathe in mediocrity for 5 long years in the case of NAAC and 3 years for the NBA.
As no accreditation is ∝ to no new admissions, here’s what you should keep in mind
Preparations for the accreditation must, therefore, begin at least 3 years and more in advance to document every activity, process, practice, and initiative if the objective is to score a top grade.
It’s not a one-time activity as per SEQI’s rule an institute or a university needs to assign a team or a person to take care of the Accreditation duties and process.
There are two types of accreditation that bodies in India generally offer:
- Institutional accreditation: This is the type of accreditation that is granted when the institute exceeds the minimum standards of quality set by the accreditation body. For students, it helps determine the acceptable institutes for program enrollment.
2. Department accreditation: Here, individual departments also get to showcase their competence and reliability. While not all accreditation bodies support program/department accreditation, some do and it is worth looking into to further boost the credibility of your institution.
B. Overview of the NAAC process
Now that you’re aware of the different routes you can take to get accreditated, let’s take a look at the assessment process, enlisted by NAAC:
Broadly, let’s first categorize
- Eligibility criteria
- Units of assessment
- Criteria and weightages
- Assessment outcome
1. Eligibility criteria
For private/ Deemed-to-be universities, they have to be recognized by the government/UGC for the accreditation process to take place. Additionally, these institutions must have regular students enrolled full-time, along with full-time teaching faculty. Research programs must also be available in the course curriculum. Lastly, the campus to be assessed and accreditated must be present within India.
For autonomous colleges/ Affiliated universities: If these affiliated colleges that are a part of a private/ Deemed-to-be university reporting to the UGC, will not be considered as separate entities for the purpose of accreditation. These representatives of these entities will be required to be present on the main campus at the time of accreditation. If these colleges are not affiliated to any university, then the programs offered must be recognized by a body like the AIU (Association of Indian Universities) or any other government agency.
2. Units of Assessment: As mentioned earlier, an institution can be assessed/ accredited depending on if it wants to pursue institution-wide accreditation or departmental accreditation.
3. Criteria and weightages: Normally, accreditation bodies categorize higher educational institutions into three types:
- Autonomous College and
- Affiliated colleges.
Based on this classification, they are assigned different weightages based on the organizational focused of the different higher educational institutions.
4. Grading: Higher educational institutions are graded based on 4 major grade criteria-
- A (Very good),
- B (Good),
- C (Satisfactory) and
- D (Unsatisfactory).
The assigned grade point is added with the assigned weight given to the institution under its respective category to calculate GPA and CGPA scores. This is the bit that determines the final assessment outcome.
5. Assessment outcomes: This is usually a combination of both quantitative and qualitative metrics. The final assessment document that is released will contain a peer team report which includes both description and recommendation. The second aspect of the final document will have a system-generated quality profile and the third part will be an institution-grade sheet that will have the final results inclusive of a student
As per new updates: Don’t forget to use the option to opt-out from quantitative metrics, equal to 50 weight points for inapplicable criteria, subject to certain riders
For further detailed information, here is a complete guide on ‘Regulatory Structure of Higher Education in India by the Centre for Civil Society’ that outlines every minute detail of the accreditation and assessment process for higher educational institutions.
iC. Overview of the ABET process
ABET process (for engineering institutes)
- Check your UG/PG program and have a name Engineering with it for EAC (Engineering Accreditation Commission) to accept.
- Before formally applying get more information from EAC on your questions.
- Prepare your Request for Evaluation (RFE). A separate RFE for each Commission depending on the Program being applied for.
- Get RFE approval from NBA before 31st Jan of the Calendar year selected for applying. Keep authority for degree-granting ready.
- Ensure RFE submitted by 31st January of the Calendar year, so selected and await acceptance. This would be uploaded on the ABET website.
- ABET assigns Team Chair to guide the institute.
- Submit fee as laid down on the ABET website.
- Submit SSR (comprising 7 criteria) to ABET HQ & Chair by July 01. Submit transcripts.
- The onsite review will be conducted by 3 ABET experts for 3 days.
- There is no Ranking or grade. It is Accredited/Not Accredited.
- The next review maybe after 6 years.
- Deans gave the evaluation by the Peer team to check for any error of fact.
For more information download here.
D. Overview of the process for AACSB
Here is the accreditation Process for Management Schools:
- If you intend to go for AACSB, be prepared for a long haul of engagements. It takes easily, 2 years and more for the process to complete, after a letter from IAC recommending initial accreditation is received. Hence start now.
- Submit eligibility application via accreditation with the non-refundable eligibility application fee, comprising no more than 35 pages (not including tables) at any time of the year.
- Institutes may submit a draft of eligibility application for preliminary review prior to formal application.
- After 3 months of acceptance of application a Mentor is assigned for 2 years who helps in preparing iSER. Institute needs to call for Mentor’s visit to the Institute. The visit of the Mentor is followed by the Institute submitting “Initial Self Assessment Report” (iSER) + background information + gap analysis + EE, of approximately 100 pages.
- After acceptance of iSER, there will be a transition from Mentor to Chair who enables the institute to submit final iSER after the recommendation of iSER is implemented.
- Contact System Manager for doubts, if any at accreditation or +18137696546.
The Eligibility application comprises of following 5 parts which are reviewed by the IAC and intimates deficiencies if any by uploading on the website:
- Institutional Contact Information.
- Background Information.
- AACSB Eligibility criteria
- Faculty composition and Research
- Engagement, Innovation, and Impact
You would be required to work on the following criteria (7 c above) for your eligibility application:
- Core values Guiding Principles:
- Criteria A: Ethical Behavior
- Criteria B: Collegiate Environment
- Criteria C: Commitment to corporate and social responsibility
- General Criteria:
- Criteria D: Accreditation Scope & AACSB membership
- Criteria E: Oversight, Sustainability, and Continuous Improvement.
- Criteria F: Policy on Continuous adherence to standards and integrity of submission to AACSB
- This will be followed by the Peer Review Team visit. The next review shall be after 5 years.
Stepwise process for NBA enclosed here
The next phase of establishing credibility: SEQI
SEQI stands for School Education Quality Index and was started by MHRD and NITI AYOG under the Government of India. Its main purpose is to evaluate the performance of states and union territories in the school education sector.
Establishing an index like this would school in the UTs to identify their strengths and weaknesses, along with ensuring course correction and policy interventions early on. SEQI is divided into 2 categories mainly:
- Outcomes: This includes teaching, infrastructure, and facility capabilities.
- Policies: This comprises of governance processes and structural reforms
SEQI as an index gives the highest weight to learning outcomes. On the flip side, this index also acts as a feedback to various education-based government initiatives and their implementation.
BONUS: Download SEQI’s complete document and guide here (2019).
Here’s one visible impact that SEQI has brought about.
In a country like India, building a toilet for females and things like female menstruation were looked down upon for the longest time. With a survey conducted by NITI Ayog and the SEQI initiative, it brought to light that most primary and secondary schools did not have a girl’s toilet.
This infrastructure lackage can seriously harm a school’s credibility, and can further act as an excuse for many parents in the rural areas to not send their daughters to get an education.
What a thing like SEQI does is enforces a certain standard that can improve the educational experience for many aspiring students. While basic amenities will not directly impact a student’s test scores, it will surely make his/her life easier while studying.
Thus, according to a leading news outlet, NITI Ayog was proud to announce that more than 95% of schools across 7 UTs and 29 states have a girl’s toilet. United Nations India even tweeted about it here.
The purpose of any assessment/ accreditation program or a composite index like SEQI is to not only set objective benchmarks but also to ensure annual improvements and encourage state-led innovations.
Consistency towards reaching a certain quality of education is the need of the hour for the Indian education system as a whole. While we may not reach the highest level overnight, incremental steps like these, which if followed diligently, will certainly take us there.
With SEQI, it is promising that out of 34 key indicators and 1000 points, the highest weight is given to learning outcomes, clocking at 600/1000 points. Keeping the grand scheme of things in focus, initiatives like these not only increase the communication between governments and schools but also within the school fraternity itself.
Consistency through collaboration is an inspiring way forward, and the results justify the existence of such initiatives themselves.