All do not seem to be well with the colleges and universities of Assam. Going by what a news- item on the front page of this newspaper reported in its Sunday edition, the non-accreditation of a large number of institutions for higher education across the State under the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) may spell disaster for the development of infrastructure in such institutions under the New Education Policy, 2020. According to the provisions of this recently-adopted policy, it is very important for institutions of higher education – both colleges and universities – to attain NAAC accreditation with a good score in order to maintain its healthy survival. In order to receive grants for infrastructure development by the higher education institutes under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), a college will have to compulsorily possess a valid NAAC accreditation. This means, those colleges without valid NAAC accreditation will be deprived of the opportunities and facilities to develop vital infrastructure. In other words failure to obtain a valid NAAC accreditation will directly cause an adverse impact on imparting quality education to their students. That exactly is why the education department of the Assam government has directed the colleges to take urgent steps for obtaining NAAC accreditation with good score.
Needless to say, 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 academic programmes offered) of higher education. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council was set up to facilitate the volunteering institutions to assess their performance vis-a-vis set parameters through introspection and a process that provides space for participation of the institution. NAAC uses a well-defined transparent and ICT (Information and Communication Technology)-based methodology, which is similar to that used by many global quality assurance agencies. While the National Assessment and Accreditation Council has laid out a series of distinct parameters for colleges and universities to become eligible for the accreditation, it is also important to understand what benefits flow out from this accreditation. As has been pronounced by NAAC, the list of benefits of accreditation include (i) the ability of an institution to know its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities through an informed review process, (ii) scope of identification of internal areas of planning and resource allocation, (iii) ensuring collegiality on the campus, (iv) meeting criteria of funding agencies which look for objective data for performance funding, (vi) scope for the institutions to initiate innovative and modern methods of pedagogy, (vii) creating a new sense of direction and identity for institutions, (viii) contributing towards the overall development of the society whose members look for reliable information on quality education offered, (ix) meeting the requirements of employers who look for reliable information on the quality of education offered to the prospective recruits, and (x) facilitating intra and inter-institutional interactions which help in the overall personality development of the students.
As has been reported by this newspaper on Sunday, in Assam, as on date, there are 1,016 institutes of higher education including government, provincialized and private ones. These include government, provincialized and private ones. Of them, two are Central universities, 13 State universities, one State Open university, five private universities, one each law and spiritual university, 425 government and provincialized colleges, 292 degree government and provincialized colleges, among others. Of them however, only 208 colleges and six universities currently have accreditation from the NAAC. This speaks volumes about the status of our institutes of higher education. College and university teachers happen to be the best-paid salaried people in the state. They are all supposed to have been selected on the basis of their academic qualification. That a sizeable number of college teachers in Assam possess 'excellent' marks from some universities outside the region notorious for offering very high scores in the post-graduate examination after having obtained low marks in the undergraduate level is another matter. Equally important is the fact that many college teachers possess PhD degrees from private universities which are known for offering such degrees in lieu of a few lakh rupees. About contributing of the majority of college and university teachers towards development of all-round personality of the students and making them responsible citizens, the less said the better.