NAAC to move out of regulator UGC's shadow

In a watershed decision, the human resource development ministry has asked the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), the country's accreditation body for higher education institutions, to snap ties with the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The ministry will take NAAC under its wings.

Today the NAAC functions under the UGC, but the HRD ministry has in a letter bluntly asked the accreditation body and the UGC to keep each other at "an arm's length".

The divorce will require the NAAC to draw up new by-laws, besides amending its memorandum of association.

Sources in the HRD ministry said that apart from the routine administrative changes, the NAAC, whose inspections have been the subject of intense scrutiny and debate while attracting widespread allegations of favours taken and given, has to be revamped and "sanitized".

"After the UGC made accreditation mandatory, the idea of making the NAAC an independent body has been stressed upon in several meetings," an HRD ministry official said.

Across the world, such a separation is the norm.

"The regulator [UGC] and the assessor [NAAC] cannot be the same body; they must be independent," Goverdhan Mehta, chairman of the NAACs executive council, said. "How can assessment be carried out by a body of your own creation?"

He said that assessment and accreditation in the country were late starters, but now the NAAC was mature enough and had the requisite experience to function independently.

Many in the HRD ministry blame the UGC for the limited growth of the NAAC. Officials felt that the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), which grades technical courses, underwent a transformation "financially and functionally" after it was separated from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

The process of making the NBA autonomous and independent of the AICTE was driven by the goal of making the NBA a member of the Washington Accord, which is seen as an international platform for governing quality in undergraduate engineering programmes.

"Thus, keeping in view the existing requirements of a globally accepted quality regime for enhancing student mobility, it is requested to work out a copy of the draft MOA and rules to make the NAAC autonomous in relation to the UGC," the letter dispatched by the HRD ministry stated.

Most members of the NAAC executive committee refused to comment and said that the matter was "confidential".

"We are all working to draw up the best modalities to make NAAC more effective," a member said.

Once the NAAC is independent, the chairperson of the executive council, who is the head of the accreditation body, would be appointed by the ministry.
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