The National Board of Accreditation (NAB) which provides accreditation to engineering institutes in the country will now outsource the process to independent credit rating agencies ie ICRA, CRISIL and CARE.
"This will help graduates of accreditated programmes in India to get recognition from the 8 member countries who are signatories of the Washington Accord," says NBA chairman and IIM A director Bakul Dholakia.
- Sunday Times of India, July 24 2005
In plain and simple terms what this means is an alternative to AICTE, which has granted too many dud institutes affiliation and thus inspires little confidence.
But while I am hopeful that ICRA, CRISIL and the like will do a better job - after all they have their own credibility to think about! - I would submit that the entire process must become more participative. The only way to monitor colleges on an ongoing basis is to keep an open channel of communcation with their biggest stakeholders - the students.
I would therefore advocate:
a) Transparency: The parameters on the basis of which accreditation is granted eg infrastructure, permanent faculty and lab requirements must be clearly mentioned on the NAB website.
Further, the claims of each college in terms of what it provides must be individually detailed on the site.
b) Accountability: Students must be encouraged to inform NAB if there are any deviations from the standard. Because it is common practice for colleges to set up facilities (which are otherwise non-existent) just before inspections (of which they always, mysteriously receive prior intimation).
The NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) is plagued by this problem. A couple of years ago NDTV did an expose of DY Patil Medical college - which in Munnabhai MBBS style set up an entire functioning hospital for the benefit of the Medical Council of India inspection.
It was reported by NDTV at the time:
The team of inspectors faced hostility at the college until the Governor of Maharashtra intervened and sought dates. When they finally managed to inspect the college, they found that D Y Patil's Navi Mumbai College had no functional hospital. Medical, dental and engineering colleges were being run from the same building and the forensic department had been created in basement just two days prior to inspection.
In the medical college run by D Y Patil at Kolhapur, the team found most patients were fake. One hour after the inspection admitted patients had disappeared, even those who were given tractions were nowhere to be seen.
You get the picture. Similar things are known to happen in engineering colleges. And B schools (here, the biggest problem is inflated placement statistics).
The point is, there must be a helpline/ email id through which students can alert NAB to these kind of ghaplas. ICRA should guarantee that the student's identity will be kept anonymous AND that the complaint will be acted upon - maybe by a surprise inspection - within a 7 day timeframe.
Action is the keyword here. AICTE does provide an email id for queries/ suggestions by students but we have no idea whether they are taken serious note of!