Title: Cabinet may consider accreditation bill today
Publication: Times of India
Author: Himanshi Dawan
May 10, 2012
A crucial bill that makes it mandatory for every higher educational institute (except agricultural institutes) and every course to be accredited by an independent agency is likely to come up in the Union Cabinet on Thursday. The bill, if passed, will give students an assessment of the college and course that they are applying for.The much delayed 'Universities of Innovation bill' that aims to establish varsities that will encourage superlative academic quality and research output could also come before the Cabinet.
The 'National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill' will establish a statutory authority that will assess and accredit an institute on the basis of the course, faculty and infrastructure.
The bill, moved by the HRD ministry, has seen certain changes in its provisions after a parliamentary committee suggested that the number of members in the authority be increased from four to eight. The educational institutes will have to accredited within six years while the process of assessment and accreditation was split, officials said.
Assessment and accreditation in higher education will be done through an informed external review process keeping in view effective means of quality assurance to provide a common frame of reference for students and others to obtain credible information on academic quality across institutions. This is likely to assist in student mobility across institutions, domestic as well as international.
Presently, accreditation is voluntary as a result of which less than one-fifth of the colleges and less than one-third of all universities have obtained accreditation. Mandatory accreditation will enable the higher education system in the country to become part of the global quality assurance system.
The authority set up under the proposed legislation will be headed by an academic of national importance instead of the cabinet secretary as proposed earlier.
The ministry expects that accreditation will find acceptability among peer group of international accreditation bodies, necessary for student and teacher mobility and institutional collaborations, within and across borders.
The universities of innovation bill will be set up either by the government or private entities or through public partnerships and offer unmatched academic freedom. The bill will allow existing varsities to upgrade to innovation university status if they adhere to required standards.
The target of setting up 14 such varsities has been dropped on grounds of non-feasibility and the argument that even a few of them will help serve the purpose of fostering a research eco-system, as aimed. While the bill, when it first went to Cabinet earlier this year, ran into trouble with 20 ministries/departments raising red flags over a range of issues, the legislation has passed muster after being vetted by a committee of secretaries.