Quality Assurance in Higher Education


There is a Sanskrit sloka which says, “The king is respected and adored only in his own kingdom whereas a learned man is respected and adored all over the world” (Swa deshe Poojyathe Raja,Vidhwan Sarvathra Poojyathe). That is why in our country, from ancient times, education (Vidya) was considered to be ‘the third eye’ of man, which not only gave him insight but also mental strength and equilibrium of material and spiritual life. In the modern age of civilisation Swami Vivekananda to is of the view that a national cannot progress without proportionate growth in the education of persons. In his own words, “Education can unlock all doors for a progress. A nation advances in proportion to education and intelligence spread among masses”.

An academic revolution has taken place in higher education particularly in the past half century marked by a paradigm shift in scope and opportunity. Over the years, the higher education system has become an enterprise having much of business orientation with all its exposure to fierce competition at different levels of stakeholders. Indian education system considered as one of the largest of its kind in the world also faces/encounters enormous challenges in the new millennium. These challenges are diversified and manifold stretching from contemporary curriculum development, quality assurance and accreditation and ethical value propositions to policy planning and governance.

Education plays a vital role in the development of any nation. Therefore, there is a premium on both quantity (increased access) and quality (relevance and excellence of academics programmes offered) of higher education. In understanding how the higher education system is regulated it is essential to realise the difference between “Accreditation” and “Recognition” in India. Until recent years, being “recognised” was the only mode of validating postsecondary institutions. The process involved evaluation of the institution in question by the recognising agency in order to establish whether it meets the standards and norms put forth by the agency. Unlike the usual accreditation process which involves periodic review by the accreditation agency to ascertain if an institution is meeting its objectives and established standards, whereas “recognition” is a one-time process.

Accreditation is a process to evaluate, assure and improve educational quality in higher education. Higher education accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services and operations of post-secondary educational institutions or programmes are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met. If standards are met, accredited status is granted by the agency” (Wikipedia). Basically, accreditation is the process by which a non-governmental or private body evaluates the quality of a higher education institution as a whole or of a specific educational programme in order to formally recognise it as having met certain predetermined minimal criteria or standards. The result of this process is usually the awarding of a status (a yes/no decision), of recognition, and sometimes of a licence to operate within a time- limited validity. (Vlãsceanu, et al ., 2007, p. 25).
Accreditation serves dual roles as both a “gatekeeper” to Government Funding agencies and as a process for institutional improvement. UGC Regulations, 2012 mandate that all higher educational institutions be accredited by an accreditation agency. The major accreditation bodies in India are National Board of Accreditation (NBA) established by AICTE and National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) established by UGC for technical and management colleges, Medical Council of India (MCI) for medical colleges and Bar Council of India (BCI) for Legal education, Distance Education Council (DEC) for distance education, National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) for teacher Training education etc. besides Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

Accreditation of educational Institutions/programmes is a global practice and its need has been felt by various developing and developed countries for one or more of the following purposes.

  • Funding decisions
  • State recognition of qualification/ certification of professionals
  • Accountability of Institutions to stakeholders
  • Encouraging self-improvement initiatives by Institutions
  • Quality assurance of educational programme

Accreditation assures the quality and integrity of postsecondary education. The need for this assurance goes far beyond gatekeeping to government funding to serve multiple stakeholders, including students, Institutions, employers, Parents and the public at large. Accreditation is important because:

  • Institution to know its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities through an informed review process.
  • Identification of internal areas of planning and resource allocation
  • Funding agencies look for objective data for performance funding.
  • Institutions to initiate innovative and modern methods of pedagogy.
  • A new sense of direction and identity for institutions.
  • The society looks for reliable information on quality education offered.
  • Employers look for reliable information on the quality of education offered to the prospective recruits. and
  • Intra and inter-institutional interactions.

About the Author

Chaitanya Praveen Gadde, Educational Domain Consultant has 5 years of experience, works with Educational institutes to help them in the areas of Quality Assurance and Campus Digitization.

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