The era of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation in the 1990s resulted in changing the economic and socio-cultural environment in countries across the world. It made the world come closer with greater collaborations and networking between companies, industries and businesses of different nations including India (Debab, 2011) (Roy, 2016). This networking resulted in the emergence of newer professions. It also resulted in interaction with people coming from different regions of the world with diverse cultural backgrounds, creating a need to prepare the Indian workforce with suitable skill sets to match the requirements of the emerging professions. It was during this period that the Indian Education Policy changed bringing in privatisation of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), collaborative programs with foreign universities and a greater number of self-financing courses (Varghese, 2012.) (Abrol, 2016) (Alam & Halder, 2016) (Baweja, 2017). The private institutions along with the Government aided HEIs provided additional capacity in terms of availability of seats, choice of programs and courses to cater to the growing number of students seeking higher education. Private HEIs did not depend on government funding to function but generated their own revenue through fees, donations and sponsorships.
The need for quality monitoring in HEIs
The private HEIs could attract meritorious students by focusing on developing a set of soft and hard skills for the emerging professions through self-financing programs and courses. The HEIs offering traditional courses had to become competitive and efficient to match pace with these private educational institutes to stay relevant. The quality of education imparted in both types of institutions- private and government aided had to be monitored to bring about equivalence and healthy competition. For private institutes it was essential to ensure quality faculty and facilities in proportion to the fees demanded. For government aided institutes, a complete student-centric system approach had to be implemented. Both types of HEIs required to be fit in order to be recognised as premier institutes capable of making students not just contributing citizens of the country but also competent to take on global challenges.
The National Assessment and Accreditation Council, NAAC established in 1994 as an autonomous body of the UGC with the purpose of assuring quality as an integral part of the functioning of HEIs especially in the globalised era where the quality of education would determine the students skill. The NAAC has been instrumental in ensuring quality initiatives and changing the perspective of HEIs. The NAAC grading though not mandatory in the beginning sowed the seeds of professionalism and accountability in education (Prabhu, 2012) (Mohanty, 2013). Healthy competition amongst colleges and universities benefitted the students who could take advantage of innovative programs with teaching learning evaluation methodologies suitable to them. The concepts of stakeholders and student as a consumer emerged. Many HEIs have started revising their position of being people oriented to process oriented and have started implementing management principles and methodologies in day-to-day administration (Singh, 2018).
Revised NAAC Accreditation Framework
Though NAAC revised accreditation methodologies periodically, the five NAAC Core Values remain steadfast and the cornerstones for the assessment of the HEIs. (NAAC Affiliated College Manual, 2019)
Contribution to National Development
Fostering Global Competencies among Students
Inculcating a Value System among Students
Promoting the Use of Technology
Quest for Excellence
The revised NAAC Framework implemented from July 2017 is path breaking in many ways-
It moves away from human subjectivity and biases to an objective third-party evaluation bringing in uniformity and impartiality in the assessment process.
The focus of assessment changed from the process to the outcome. To see whether the programs and courses have defined objectives and projected outcomes and if the actual outcomes match these.
ICT enabled process made factual data essential streamlining documentation. Orderly and systematic presentation of documentation is possible reducing ambiguity
The Data Validation and Verification (DVV) process checks and cross-checks data for duplication and errors or mismatched information.
The data becomes the reflection of the institutions capacity and capability. Institutions weaknesses and challenges are revealed and serious introspection is possible. Corrective measures or solutions can be sought and implemented.
The Student Satisfaction Survey (SSS) becomes another measure of fulfilment of expectations of the main stakeholders-students.
Features such as geotagging of photos, updating of website with several reports makes the institutes claims authentic and trustworthy.
Finally, the process proves eco-sensitive as it prevents printing and stationary use.
The process of Accreditation in the new framework- is well thought out and practical
The manual and instruction videos give explicit, clear information on filling in the registration, Institutional Information for Quality Assessment (IIQA), Self-Study Report (SSR), SSS and the DVV processes.
The registration of the HEI and the dedicated portal for each HEI is laudable. This helps not just the Assessment and Accreditation (A&A) process for every cycle but also for uploading the Annual Quality Assurance Report (AQAR) and archiving the institutions data and documentation.
The IIQA process sifts institutions eligible and non-eligible for accreditation.
The SSS is well described in the manual and on the NAAC website. The NAAC has made the survey transparent by giving opportunity to institutions to prepare students for the online technique. As a fringe benefit, students are able to create their own mail addresses and become a part of the ICT
The DVV process prevents data mismatch and duplication and provides a chance to the HEIs to rectify data.
The logistics of the Peer Team visit taken care by NAAC relieves the institution of the responsibility of arranging accommodation and travel arrangements for the team members.
The entire time period from registration till the Peer Team visit is paced well thus releasing the institution within a short time from the assessment process
The revised assessment framework though raised certain questions-
Is the scoring and grading system customized for type of HEI? For example- Co-ed/womens College; urban/rural/tribal setting; type of students enrolled and so on.
Are the NAAC Peer Teams well trained to assess the Qualitative matrices of the methodology?
Does the DVV process consider yearly incremental growth than absolute number? As incremental growth shows the efforts taken by an HEI to improve upon a particular aspect.
If extensive documentary evidence is uploaded in the SSR, should the same be checked during the Peer teams visit? Interactions with faculty or other stakeholders can be more fruitful to find out the thinking and reasoning behind the organisation of events and programmes or just gathering the philosophy of the college.
Does fulfilment of NAAC Peer Team recommendations from the earlier cycle eligible for any score in the new framework?
Preparing for NAAC Assessment with the revised Framework
The HEI desirous of undertaking the NAAC assessment should prepare itself well
The Principal and IQAC must first conduct orientation for the faculty, administrative and support staff to familiarise them with the revised methodology. This should be done to order to understand the time and efforts that will be required of them to prepare for the entire process. To also understand the kind and quantity of data and documentation necessary.
The Principal must form the NAAC Steering Committee with a coordinator. Each committee member maybe allotted a particular criterion to divide work and for ease of data collection. This will also distribute the responsibility to every member. Each steering committee member must have a team comprised of faculty as well as administrative and support staff as per the need of the criterion and the expertise and interest of team members
The Coordinator has the duty to circulate all information about the new process, the correct NAAC manual according to type of institute and cycle of accreditation to all stakeholders.
The NAAC Steering Committee should read the manual thoroughly for the instructions, formulas and format of the questions under each criterion, study the key aspects, the weightages for each criterion and questions, the form in which data is required, the templates for filling in the data and extended templates. The abbreviations and glossary will give a better understanding of the terms and the data required. The SOP for DVV is an important document that should be used as a ready reckoner for documentation.
Regular meetings criterion-wise and of the NSC should be held to discuss the progress and hindrances if any for data collection
The data has to be checked for its authenticity by examining documentary proofs. It must be then collated year-wise.
Overlapping of data may occur in the different criterion. Care must be taken to see that the data is placed where it is best suited. If it is to be placed in two or more questions in different criterion, the perspective from which it needs to be presented must be understood.
A NAAC tab on the home page of the HEIs website has to be created and timely website updates with report of events, photographs, minutes of meetings, mandatory declarations as per the requirement are essential.
A committee to gather students data for SSS must also work alongside to orient students about the NAAC process, their role and the SSS. Students can be assisted in creating email addresses if required.
The data collected by the criterion-wise teams should be filled in the templates given in the NAAC manual along with the related documentation. Additional information can be prepared along with links to website/photos/reports as desired. The NSC member responsible for the related criterion must check the data. The final checking has to be done by the NAAC coordinator before submitting to the Principal for approval. All documentations readied for uploading need to be authenticated by the Principal with signature and stamp of the college. All photos to be uploaded as documentary proofs especially for Criterion IV must be geotagged.
Once the SSR is ready as a soft copy, only then the IIQA should be sent to NAAC. After the IIQA approval, a period of 45 days is available for uploading the SSR. Changes may be made to the data or documentation at the time of uploading as there maybe slight differences in manual templates and final templates on the portal.
Cross checking all data for mismatches or duplications across criteria is necessary.
Methodology adopted by Smt. Maniben M.P. Shah Womens College of Arts and Commerce
The preparations for the third cycle of NAAC accreditation started immediately after receiving the Grade for the 2nd cycle of NAAC Accreditation in 2013 with the IQAC playing a pivotal role. The Peer Team listed 11 recommendations and also suggested applying to the UGC for grant of College with Potential for Excellence and then for Autonomy.
Under the guidance of the two external IQAC experts Mr. Uday Gaitonde, Former Executive Secretary, NCQM and Mr. Sunil Mantri, Director at Universal Education Mumbai Area, the College adopted a systematic methodology to fulfil NAAC recommendations. The recommendations were first grouped into the 7 NAAC criteria. Each recommendation was then turned into a KEY RESULT AREA (KRA). Once the KRAs were identified, teams to work for the KRAs were formed. Consent was sought from each faculty member and from the administrative and supporting staff before their inclusion in the KRA teams. Thus 7 KRA teams based on the 7 NAAC criteria were formed. Each team selected its team leader and an IQAC member was allotted as a facilitator.
The teams now set objectives for the KRAs based on the SMART principles: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound. A system was developed for continual monitoring and feedback. Every 6 months, the KRA teams presented before the QAC members and other teams the extent of work accomplished. The teams could add fresh KRAs or modify existing KRAs as per requirement.
Outcome of the process
The college was able to fulfil 9 out of the 11 recommendations as well as accomplish the task of receiving the UGC-CPE grant with the KRA methodology. The College also received Autonomy from the academic year June 2019.
The College underwent the third cycle of accreditation in the new framework and received B++ Grade with CGPA of 2.88 in August 2019.
The college has been able to identify areas of excellence and areas which require to be strengthened.
The associations formed between teachers, students, parents, alumni, administrative and support staff, management and principal has helped to strengthen the belief that any process is a collective responsibility and the onus of maintaining quality lies with every stakeholder. The experience has been enriching and elevating.