Virander S Chauhan, Chairman, Executive Committee, National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), on why the ranking system needs to be expanded and research activities enhanced at institutions to achieve global standards.
What are the highlights of NAACs (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) revised framework which came into effect last year?
The assessment and accreditation criteria doesnt change very much. In fact, there are 17 criteria which are of international standard, some of which include research output, faculty student ratio, infrastructure and new courses, so the template to judge the quality of an institution more or less remains the same. What we have changed though is the system of assessmentthe way we do it. The revised framework is technologyenabled that will help us receive relevant information on the institutions and we will verify that information. We have been getting feedback in the past from several institutions that visiting NAAC officials or from any other agency leads to misinterpretation of information and doesnt clearly indicates if an institution is good or not. So, we have made the assessment completely objective and transparent. Due to international norms, we will still have a team visiting the institutions but the visits and interactions will be shorter. And about 70 per cent to 75 per cent of the assessment will now be done online and by the data provided by the institutions themselves.
Tell us about some of the key focus areas where indian institutions need to perform better?
Universities and even Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) are starved of infrastructure with poor hostel and sports facilities and bad food. None of the universities in India are funded to the extent a world-class university is. That said, I think we are doing a pretty good job given the money that is available. If you want to be counted in the top 200 or 250 then money is an essential requirement but not a sufficient condition. You also need commitment and total autonomy in hiring. Also, dont forget that in the government institutions, it is our Constitutions responsibility to have reservation and bring people into study. We mustnt forget that in the business of international ranking, we have 50 per cent of our students coming from weaker economic sections. Our universities are transformative universities and we are proud of that. Our nature of education is so different and while a global ranking is based on universities where research is done it is quite expensive in nature. We can do good research but for that we need to have a good infrastructure, the right attitude and promotions in the universities.
As a regulatory body, what challenges are you facing for assessment and accreditation?
NAAC started in 1998 and the first assessment was done in 2000. Participating in the ranking system was voluntary for a long time but now its mandatory. The institutions are now realising that there is something called quality. I am not worried about it as I think that we are still at a nascent stage. It is important that we bring more people into the ambit of ranking.
What according to you is a good university?
I am very clear on this. A good university educates you and not necessarily skills you. So, an excellent institution teaches you how to be patient, it teaches you how to debate, gives you a sense of privilege, and a sense of serving the society. To me, a good university is one which gives importance to physical fitnesssports and extracurricular activities and produces all-rounders.
National Assessment and Accreditation Council
Year of establishment
An autonomous body for conducting assessment and accreditation of institutions of higher education.
General Council and Excutive Council are two main bodies comprising the University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Association of Indian Universities (AIU), universities, colleges and other professional institutions