From old NAAC to new NIRF – Warning to avoid fraudsters continues

Earlier, it was NAAC which had issued warning / caution notice cautioning the Institutions, from getting trapped by unauthorized agencies, which claim to impart tricks for getting A grade, preparing SSRs and also making up deficiencies.

The newly launched National Institutional Ranking Framework [NIRF] it seems has also met the same fate. MHRD within few weeks of its launch has issued a strong caution notice to the Institution to avoid tricksters.

MHRD in its release has mentioned that it has received information that some private companies have started conducting training programmes and workshops on NIRF charging exorbitant amount as registration fee.

MHRD has clarified that NIRF has no association with any of these private companies. It has also informed the stake holders that NIRF portal hosts detailed documentation consisting of NIRF reports on various categories of institutions, help manuals, FAQ, etc. that would help institutions and organisations to understand methodologies for providing data required for ranking of universities.

Failed by Tandon Committee, passed by NAAC

Finally, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)  has brought some good news to several students of 38 Deemed Universities, which were sought to be de-recognised on the basis of the Tandon Committee report, as NAAC has assessed and graded these Deemed Universities after assessment by a robust scientific procedure.

In the year 2006, one Viplav Sharma, had filed a PIL in Supreme Court challenging the manner in which Deemed University status was granted to the Institutions u/s 3 of UGC Act, 1956. During the course of proceedings, MHRD had appointed a Committee headed by Dr. P N Tandon to review the  functioning of the Deemed Universities in  India.

In October 2009, a committee of experts, headed by PN Tandon, reviewed deemed universities and classified those under three categories, firstly 38 deemed universities which justified their continuation, second 44 deemed universities which needed to rectify deficiencies over a three year period and thirdly another 44 deemed universities which the committee felt don’t have the quality to continue the status and were recommended to de-recognised.

These 44 Deemed Universities then rushed to Supreme Court challenging the findings of the Tandon Committee and also the legality / validity of appointment of Tandon Committee. The case then continued for next 6 years, with clod looming large on the existence of these Deemed Universities.

The Supreme Court in the year 2014 without setting aside the Tandon Committee had asked UGC to consider the Reports and submits its own findings. Later, UGC was also taken to task by the Supreme Court for the manner in which it assessed the Deemed Universities, which was similar to that of Tandon Committee.

 

Eventually vide its Order dated 23.04.2015, SC had directed the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) to decide within two weeks the matter of accreditation of deemed universities, who were placed under category ‘C’ by the P N Tandon committee and were recommended for de-recognition of deemed status.

The direction of the Apex Court was significant in light go the fact that NAAC Executive Committee on January 5, 2013 that the council shall not assess and accredit the deemed universities whose cases are pending before the Supreme Court and will wait for the court’s decision.  The time for assessment and accreditation was extended from time to time on request by NAAC.

Finally on 08.09.2015, in a significant order, Supreme Court exempted the Deemed Universities to making a statement of compliance in respect of UGC [ Institutions Deemed to be Universities] Regulations, 2010, as the validity and legality of the Regulations was under challenge before judicial forums.

Resultantly, the C Category Deemed Universities submitted themselves to the process of assessment and accreditation. NAAC assesses Institutions on seven criteria as part of the assessment procedures:   1] Curricular Aspects;  2] Teaching-Learning and Evaluation 3] Research, Consultancy and Extension 4] Infrastructure and Learning Resources 5] Student Support and Progression 6] Governance, Leadership and Management 7] Innovations and Best Practices.

Institutions are graded for each Key Aspect under four categories, viz. A, B, C and D, denoting Very good, Good, Satisfactory and Unsatisfactory levels respectively. The summated score for all the Key Aspects under a Criterion is then calculated with the appropriate weightage applied to it and the GPA is worked out for the Criterion. The Cumulative GPA (CGPA), which gives the final Assessment Outcome, is then calculated from the seven GPAs pertaining to the seven criteria, after applying the prescribed weightage to each Criterion.

On the last hearing on 19.11.2015, the Court was informed that accreditation process has been completed. The Court then directed NAAC to publish the gradation result on its website.

In compliance of the order, NAAC has published the accreditation result of the Deemed Universities.

17 out of 38 Deemed Universities, which were recommended to be de-recognised by Tandon Committee has secured Grade “A”. 20 Universities have achieved Grade “B” and One University has been awarded “C” Grade.

EduLegal View:  

This conclusively proves that the “drawing room” method of out-sourced assessment by Tandon Committee was completely flawed. Eventually, the law of the country prevailed and Institutions have been given justice after long tiring struggle of 6 years.

In true words, meaning, mandate and manifestation of law and supremacy of a regulator has been achieved.

Ranking Framework released for Pharmacy and Architecture Institutions

AICTE, under the aegis of MHRD has released the Parameters and Metrics for Ranking for Pharmacy and Architecture Institutions as part of the National Institutional Ranking Framework.

Earlier, MHRD vide Notification dated 09.10.2014, MHRD had constituted a Committee to suggest a National Framework for performance measurement and ranking of Institutions and Programmes conducted by the Institutions. The Committee was also asked to suggest organizational structure, institutional mechanism and processes for implementation along with time-lines of the National Ranking Framework.

The Committee was of the view that a single ranking framework for complex and diverse education scenario of institutions, as exist in India would be counter productive and meaningless. Hence it decided to follow apple-to-apple approach and proceeded to design a framework in which institutions belonging to different sectoral fields, such as Engineering, Management, etc. should be compared separately in their own respective peer groups. Comprehensive universities, which encompass a large number of academic programs including Arts, Humanities, Sciences etc., should similarly form a separate peer group for comparison. Resultantly, it decided to release Ranking Framework, Parameters and Metrics separately for each category of Institutions.

MHRD then formally, on 29.09.2015 launched the National Institutional Ranking Framework and also released the Parameters and Metrics for Engineering and Management Institutions.

Recently, AICTE, the regulator for Architecture and Pharmacy Education in India has released Parameters and Metrics for Ranking for Pharmacy and Architecture Institutions. The Framework provides that for the purpose of Ranking the Institutions will be divided two categories, first being engaged in Research and Teaching and second being engaged primarily in Teaching.

The Institutions will be assessed and ranked under five broad headings: (1) Teaching, Learning and Resources; (2) Research, Consulting and Collaborative Performance; (3) Graduation Outcomes; (4) Outreach and Inclusivity and (5) Perception.

MHRD has also rolled out participation in Ranking Framework for the Institutions, which are accredited/affiliated to the AICTE/UGC and has also made available a web-based platform the same. The process of submission and participation in the framework has begun from 2nd November 2015.

EduLegaL View:

I have always said that there exists body for assessment and accreditation in this country, like NAAC and NBA and hence MHRD should have attempted to integrate these processes instead of creating separate framework.

A closer look at the term of reference of the Committee, which designed this Framework, also includes, “Suggest linkages with NAAC and NBA, if any.”, as one of the terms of reference. I wonder what has happened to this term of reference.

The Administrators must understand that burdening educational institutions with continued and different assessment is not going to add to their quality, but will reduce their quality.

So where are we going? What are we trying to achieve?

 

NAAC warns Institutions to refrain from Plagiarism in SSR

National Assessment and Accreditation Council [NAAC] taking cognizance of complaints regarding “made up” informations and contents in Self Study Report submitted by the Institutions has warned the Institutions to refrain from venturing into plagiarism.

NAAC in recent past has taken several steps to strengthen the process of Assessment and Accreditation [A&A], which includes compulsory video recording of visits of the Peer Team to the Institutions. It had also issued cautionary Public Notice warning the Institutions about some mischievous agencies, which were conducting workshops claiming assistance in getting Grade “A” and helping in preparing SSR by making up data and contents.

The Revised Procedure of Assessment and Accreditation now involves submitting Letter of Intent (LOI) after uploading the Self-study Report (SSR) on the institutional website. Upon acceptance of LOI, the institution has to submit the SSR within two weeks and thereafter Peer Team visits for the purpose of Assessment followed by the declaration of Accreditation.

NAAC has developed different manuals which provide information on how the self-study report (SSR) is to be prepared, the criteria and key aspects to be addressed and the style of presentation. Still, SSR Preparation it seems has developed as big market and so called experts are helping in preparation and sale of SSRs for a big sum, with colleges ready to bear and cover these expenses.

SSR is the most critical document for the purpose of accreditation. It is like an answer sheet. It contains the vision and mission statement of the Institution, its strengths, infrastructure, facilities and amenities. It also draws the future plan of Institutions. NAAC has found that some Institutions are copying contents from SSR, which are available on the website of participating institutions and passing it as their own.

Considering the importance of SSR in process of Assessment and Accreditation and continuing with the cleansing measure, NAAC after receiving complaints regarding unfair practices of Plagiarism adopted by institutions in the preparation of the self-study report has therefore requested the Institutions to ensure that all claims made in the self-study report are validated prior to its submission to NAAC.

It has also resolved and sent a strong message that any institution indulging in any unfair practice will be debarred from applying for accreditation.

Being debarred from applying for accreditation will mean havoc for erring Institution, as under the UGC (Mandatory Assessment and accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2012, which makes it mandatory for educational institutions to participate in accreditation process, any Institution which is not participating in process of Accreditation will be subject to punitive measures, which may include withholding of grant, revocation of affiliation.

EduLegal View

Before, I give my view, please know that one of the questions in the SSR to be submitted by the Institution is as follows:

3.4.6 What is the official policy of the university to check malpractices and plagiarism in research? Mention the number of plagiarism cases reported and action taken.

It is ironical that the erring participating Institution, which would obviously speak epics in answering the question, would indulge in plagiarism.

Plagiarism is like a sin, it is an act of fraud, and it is an Intellectual Theft and must be dealt with strongly. It is utter violation of institutional and academic ethics. Laws are inadequate to deal with these situations. It has been handled by executive orders. Even the UGC Accreditation Regulations, 2012 does not have any express provision for the same. It is high time that Centre must bring in effective law to deal with malpractices and unfair trade practices in educational institutions.