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Quality Parameters in Higher Education
|by Prof. Dr. Ram Sharma|
We can’t ignore when the recent World Bank Study states that India has earned the distinction of having the world’s second largest education system after China. If we throw a holistic look on the history of our country, we find that “In ancient times Takshashika and Nalanda were great seats of advanced Vedic and Budhist studies respectively. Vallabhi (in Gujarat) and Vikarameshila (in Bihar) flourished in the medieval ages. Nadia and Mithila were other well-known centres. Other institutions known as ‘tols’ in Bengal also carried on the tradition of higher education. The 18th century witnessed the rise of more institutions and a new functional curriculum known as Darse-Nizami was introduced.” 
“Under the formal education system, as on 31st March, 2000, India had 259 Universities/deemed universities and 11594 colleges with a total enrolment of 93.14 lakh students, of whom only 33.24 lakh are female students. The P.G Colleges numbered 1500, with 6911 colleges located in urban areas.” 
Today we see an enormous increase in the numbers of colleges, universities and students. Its result comes out due to the decline in the quality of higher education. Numbers of colleges, universities are increasing day by day but quality in higher education is deteriorating. Nothing illustrates this better than the plummeting faith of the employers in the value of the university degrees and diplomas, and the trend of delinking of degrees from job requirement. Higher education is now taken care of by universities / deemed universities, autonomous colleges and institutions of higher learning like IIT, IIMS, and ALLM etc. Due to the long line of colleges and universities our system of higher education is facing the challenge of managing quality assurance. Therefore the quality of higher education has become a major concern of today.
“The Quality Assurance for Higher Education works to ensure that higher education qualifications in the United Kingdom are of a sound standard .It protects the public interest by checking how universities and colleges maintain their academic standards and quality. It also regulates the Access to higher education diploma-a qualification that enables individuals without A-levels or the usual equivalent to each higher education.” 
India has also its Quality Assurance Agencies and organizations  that play a great role in higher education accreditation. These agencies/organizations aim at maintaining the quality and standard of higher education. They attempt to improve the quality of teaching and encourage initiating research activity, which gives a positive feedback to their teaching programs. Without accreditation
“it is emphasized that these fake institutions have no legal entity to call themselves as university/vishavidyalaya and to award ‘degree’ which are not treated as valid for academic/employment/employment purposes.”
Since India attained independence in 1947, concerted efforts are being made in the country for the improvement of quality in higher education. Quality would mainly depend on the quality of all its facets, be it the Faculty Staff, Students, Infrastructure etc. As such, all the policies, systems and processes should be clearly directed towards attaining improvements in all the relevant facets for the overall rise in the quality of education. Several quality parameters or measures have been outlined in policy documents of the government and are working in our country for the different fields but in higher and technical education, the responsibility of assuring quality is basically given to National Accreditation bodies by National Policy on Education (1986).
UGC and AICTE Acts provide for the establishment of Accreditation bodies like NAAC and NBA respectively. NAAC does institutional assessment of generally the conventional universities while NBA undertakes assessment in professional institutions. The University Grants Commission (UGC, 1953) prescribes the service conditions of teachers, provides curricular guidance through its subject panels, accords recognition to universities, and funnels maintenance /ad hoc grants to the Central Universities and supplementary funds to other universities. Many states have their own UGC to regulate the functioning as well as to provide financial aid to universities in their own jurisdictions.
In 1993 UGC’s Punnaya Committee on funding of higher education stated emphatically, “It is the perception of the committee that the state must continue to accept the major responsibility for funding the essential maintenance and development requirements of the universities.” 
UGC has been taking steps, through various schemes, to promote quality education having regard to the concern Access, Equity, Quality, Excellence, Relevance and Value Based Education. These five goals were the vision of Dr. Radhakrishnan who gave a new direction and life to society through his valuable vision on education. The 1986 Policy and Action Plan and these for the development of higher education is based on the two landmark reports namely the University Education Commission Report of 1948-49 (popularly known as Radhakrishnan Commission) and the Education Commission Report of 1964-66 (popularly known as Kothari Commission) which covers all the levels of education in the country required for the intellectual, spiritual and all-round development of the nation. Chapter xi of Education Commission Report deals exclusively with the ‘Objective and Improvement’ of higher education, which form the crux of the National Policy on Education that come soon after and the commission enunciated five main objectives of universities in the modern world and these are abridged below:
During the plan of xi, twelve more universities were recommended by the Standing Committees on UPE. These universities were called “Centre with potential for excellence “in a particular area by The Standing Committees; National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC, 1994). In order to assess the quality and to stimulate culture of excellence a central body has been introduced in 1994-National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) with its headquarters at Bangalore. The NAAC accredits traditional arts, science and commerce colleges. It assesses the level and relative ranking of the institutions at the national level. Its positive role in quality assurance cannot be commended; it may as well as in order to undertake a critical review of its quality parameters. Its mission is “to make quality the essential element of higher education in India through a combination of self and external quality assessment and accreditation.”  Towards this end it undertakes periodic assessment and accreditation of institutions of higher education or with units thereof, a specific academic programs or projects. Its evaluation of assessment and quality of higher education depends on seven criteria curricular aspects, teaching-learning and evaluation, consultancy and extension, infrastructure and learning resources, student support and progression, organization and management, healthy practices.
First three criteria (areas) are related to educational quality and the last four to institutional support structures. All the criteria have different weight ages .As the first three (education inputs) carry 55 percent weight age while the last four (institutional inputs) carry the rest 45 percent weightage. In other words, it amounts to about equal weight age to both the dimensions, with marginal edge of mere five percent to the educational dimension. This is certainly problematic both logically and empirically; logically because in assessing the quality of an educational institution education should get pride of the place; empirically because nearly 50 percent score to institutional context inheres a possibility of yielding a distorted rating of an education institution.
For instance, the letter, with this kind of weightage structure a resource rich educational institution with poor performance on educational dimension may get a higher score, and thus pass for a better educational institution than the one which is resource poor with higher score on educational dimension. This may be a problem. Quality of an educational institution should be assessed primarily in terms of quality of education and only secondly in terms of institution inputs quality of education. Both quality of education and institutional inputs are treated separately.
“NAAC has a grading system in which institutions are graded on an alpha-numerical scale of 95-100 score for A++ grade to 55-60 score for C grade and seven intermillent grades.”  “A college is accredited on a nine-point scale from A++ to C based on the quality of academic and physical infrastructure as well as student facilities.”  NAAC has accredited 129 out of a total 165 university-level institutions and 2956 colleges out of the total of 5273 colleges. “Exactly 945 colleges in Maharashtra are accredited by NAAC.”  “A mere 13 institutions in Gujarat were accredited by NAAC in 2005.” 
Getting an accreditation from NAAC is mandatory for every college in the state. It would like to expand its activities to reach a large percentage of higher education centers and also to engage in research on the methodology of new accreditation parameters. Research related quality assurance in higher education, continuous modification and fine turning of the assessment and analysis of assessment and accreditation related documents, is imperative to any quality assurance agency. NAAC encourages stakeholder’s participation in quality assessment, encourages higher education institutions to develop internal system and processes for quality assessment, promotes the development and dissemination of best practices as benchmarks of assessment and quality enhancement, and collaborates with other agencies for quality assessment in higher education. NAAC will validate the accrediting agencies and set the standards for quality assessment in higher education. Institutional inputs of quality education are concerned NAAC has done a wonderful job. UGC and NAAC have made and are making commendable contribution towards generating consciousness in higher education circles. The parameters of quality education are also by and large well-conceived and devised. There is always a room for improvement in the existing framework.
Current Quality Status in colleges of higher education in India during 2007 is thus:
Total No. of Universities Level Institutions -367
Total No. of Universities under UGC Purview -317
Number of Universities actually funded by the UGC -164
Number of Universities actually funded by the NAAC -128
Number of Universities accreditated by the NAAC and scoring above 60%.
It is suggested that the following existing schemes on quality improvement may be continued:
1. University with Potential for Excellence (UPE)
2. Colleges with Potential Excellence (CPE)
3. Special Assistance Programme (SAP)
4. Major Research Project (MRP)
5. Faculty Improvement Programme (FIP)
All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE, 1945)
The term ‘AICTE’ refers to technical education and programs and makes them valid. AICTE is the only organization that approves engineering colleges all over the nation. If the college has no approval from AICTE, its engineering degrees are not valid in India. AICTE recognition means having the approval from State Govt. and State Technical University otherwise no engineering college can be started. Once the colleges get an approval from AICTE, they can associate themselves with the state technological university for start taking students for engineering studies. Some specific norms and standards regarding to technical education and programs are recommended and also checked with those minimum conditions by AICTE Council during the approval. With the passing of the AICTE has expanded its scope started “spanning over different departments, such as UG Studies in Engg. & Tech., PG and Research in Engg. and Tech., Management Studies, Vocational Education, Technical Education, Pharmaceutical Education, Architecture, Hotel Management and Catering Technology, Informational Technology, Town and Country Planning.” 
Nine bureaus have been developed by AICTE only to organize, plan and functioning of the above mentioned departments. Due to its wide scope and long time it has become very difficult to have a constant check on the quality of education during the approval time and on the same assess the new application for starting engineering colleges. Its impact could be felt when UGC and AICTE in 2009 were raided by CBI under corruption charges, their responsibilities were taken by NAAC and NBA at the order of the Union Minister of Education. UGC established an autonomous body known as NAAC to have periodic evaluations of art, science and commerce colleges and universities and AICTE established NBA for the same purpose but for engineering colleges and universities.
National Board of Accreditation (NBA, 1994)
National Board of Accreditation is an independent body and now it has become a global seal for the quality of professional education. It takes over the AICTE’s responsibilities and also undertakes assessment in professional institutions and then gives a quality certificate to them. NBA not only assesses/ “checks the quality of an institution but also believes in making the institutions aware of the importance of quality and also helps in improving the quality of the institutions but before providing them accreditation.” NBA accredits program for three or five years. Obviously, programs with five years validity are better than those that have been given three year validity.
Few months ago a program was held related to accreditation named World Summit On Accreditation (WOSA) in New Delhi from 25 March to 28 ,2012 in which the importance of NBA was discussed. This Summit was “a culmination of various initiatives undertaken by NBA to create an environment of global quality standards on Indian Campuses imparting technical and professional education to help seamless mobility during academic studies and also supporting students take us careers with industry.” The theme of this Summit was to achieve excellence through accreditation in higher education and the main objective was “to bring India amongst the world leaders of accreditation which can make India‘s journey in the world smoother in terms of educational and professional areas.”  “NBA has been facilitating improvement of quality and relevance of technical and professional education in the country to bring it at par with international standards.” 
Undoubtedly NBA produces professional talent for industry as the involvement of corporate sector or industry has its involvement in building global quality in higher education is seen. With a view to transform into knowledge society India “is encouraging industry and the corporate sector to support quality education. Reciprocating state initiatives, industry and the corporate sector are also seeking close collaborations with universities, technical institutions and business sectors.”  There are many professional institutions which have NBA accreditation and many are awaiting for. Arya College of Engineering & I.T. (Jaipur) is one of them. Its three branches (CS, Electrical and Automobile) have been recently accredited in 2012 and Arya Institute (Jaipur) is also awaiting for it. At last it may be stated that like NAAC, NBA accreditation is also mandatory.
This article is jointly written by the author with Dr. Anshu Bhardwaj (Sharma) Prof. in English Dept. Arya College of Engg. & I.T. SP-42, RIICO Industrial Area ) Kukas, Delhi Road, Jaipur (Raj.)
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Comments on this Article
02/09/2016 12:35 PM
Professor Vinod Kumar Gupta
03/02/2014 11:35 AM
01/29/2014 10:04 AM
Dr. Subhash Arya
09/10/2012 04:21 AM