The accreditation of colleges and universities is fundamentally a periodic, voluntary, peer review of higher education institutes (HEIs) to assure quality and fiscal integrity, and promote organizational improvement. There are two basic types of accreditation in education – Institutional and Specialised or Programmatic. In some developed countries like USA, the accreditation has been around for 150 or even more years and their accreditation agencies are non-government, whereas the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), the only institutional accreditation agency in India, is a twenty-eight-year-old autonomous government institution under UGC. Hence, its accreditation criteria are influenced by the government policies and UGC guidelines and keeps on rapidly evolving accordingly. In the 2021 quality mandate of the University Grants Commission (UGC), all HEIs in India should be assessed by the NAAC by 2022. Thousands of HEIs are now preparing themselves for the accreditation process. In the absence of more serious and systematic planning and preparation by these HEIs, the results of their accreditation are not going to be different from this trend and more than 80% of the newly accredited institutes are not likely to qualify for A or higher grade. The following guidelines can help HEIs in their preparations for their NAAC accreditation, especially if they are planning for their first cycle:
The HEI should not view NAAC preparation merely as a documentation exercise for external assessment. Like all quality assurance processes, it too has dual purposes, both pragmatic and inspirational. It should also be seen an opportunity to improve institutional and infrastructure systems while instilling a higher level of energy, team spirit, and innovation. Hence, HEI should preferably be ready to spend around three years in serious preparations for the first cycle of accreditation.
The HEI should represent an environment where people have a strong sense of belonging. The preparation process should actively involve management, faculty and staff, as well as student bodies in some way. A combined contribution of all is required for the successful accreditation
NAAC uses a multi-dimensional framework of seven criteria and more than a hundred parameters for HEI’s assessment. In the very beginning of their preparations, the HEI must initiate an internal quality assurance cell (IQAC). A few external quality assurance experts, preferably with good NAAC experience, should also be involved.
IQAC should initiate implementation of ISO 21001 EOMS as it can be very helpful for developing documentation-supported systems and processes for all units that will help in creating documentary evidence for various parameters in SSR and will also be highly appreciated by the visiting peer team.
IQAC should implement and document an action-oriented feedback process from all stakeholders – particularly students, faculty, alumni, faculty, employers, parents, etc. This feedback collection may take place in many ways and it must be followed by an appropriate analysis and response system through various institution bodies and committees. IQAC and criteria specific teams should do a SWOC analysis, recommend areas of immediate improvement, and start both university-wide as well as unit-specific quality enhancement initiatives.
Institute should set up and activate all the required committees, e.g., Disciplinary Committee, Anti-ragging committee, POSH, Library, etc. These committees should hold regular meetings and take decisions for improvement on specific aspects.
Institute should develop active MoUs and jointly organize academic, research, professional, and social activities with other organisations and also develop student exchange programs with other institutes in India and abroad. It should encourage industrial projects and MOOCs (massive open online courses). Along with this, the HEI needs to encourage extension activities with local society and nearby villages.
Institute should regularly hire well-qualified faculty with Ph.D., and encourage those without Ph.D. to complete it. Some research papers by the faculty should preferably focus on a few areas of national priorities and a few must relate to the needs of local society and industry.
Institute must facilitate students’ participation in conferences, external events, hackathons, competitions, etc., and the it should motivate alumni to make donations because alumni donations are also an important parameter in SSR and it also reflects their success, trust, and gratitude.
Increase automation in all important units including academic and examination through a good ERP.
The institutes must not see NAAC accreditation as an event that concludes with receiving the accreditation certificate. When viewed from the lens of the inspiration purpose of internal improvements, it gives a new sense of directions to build strength and overcome weaknesses and also helps in strengthening systematic ways of planning, development and review of systems and processes for developing culture of evidence and continuous improvement.