Better than the best? NAAC’s grade discrepancies under lens

NEW DELHI: A deemed university in Bhubaneshwar has pipped to the post the distinguished Indian Institute of Science in terms of its NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) score. It now beats not just the venerable Bengaluru varsity but also every other institution in the country, having bagged the highest score of 3.88, the best ever awarded to a higher education institute.
Following closely is another ‘beacon of excellence’. An engineering college in Bengaluru has recently been awarded a score of 3.83 by the NAAC. Interestingly, it is not rated anywhere close to the best institutes of India on the NIRF (National Institute Ranking Framework) ranking, where it is in the band of 175-200.
For the record, the Indian government’s NIRF ranking 2022 places the IISc (NAAC score: 3.67) as India’s top university. But seven institutes, all in the private domain, presently have a NAAC score that is higher than the best Indian university.
These are not isolated cases. A deemed university in Coimbatore recently jumped up five grades in a span of five years; between the two NAAC cycles, the college which was earlier awarded grade B saw its rating touching the highest level of A++.
The extraordinary grade inflation for universities across India is now being questioned by academicians across the nation, as also internally within the NAAC, which has set up a committee to understand what pumped up the scores of so many Indian higher education institutions.
Data from the accrediting agency reveals the country has never had as many institutes being awarded the glorious A++ grade as now.
Chairman of NAAC’s executive committee, Bhushan Patwardhan, said an audit was currently underway. “We understand there are some discrepancies, and the current system needs to be reviewed and improved upon,” said Patwardhan.
UGC chairman Jagdeesh Kumar concurred when he told TOI, “As a part of the National Education Policy, under one of the verticals, we are looking at how we can bring about synergy among the NAAC, NIRF and the NBA (National Board of Accreditation). Under that, we will look at all kinds of complaints and anomalies too.”
About a month ago, the NAAC had withheld the grading result of M S University, Baroda, after receiving an anonymous tip-off alleging that university authorities had tried to influence the peer review team with gold, cash and other favours. However, the NAAC subsequently released the improved grading, terming the allegations “false”, as per its findings.
According to the NEP, the National Accreditation Council will bring about overall oneness among the accreditation and ranking agencies.
A white paper authored by Patwardhan said that instead of graded accreditation of higher education institutes, their binary accreditation and graded accreditation of academic programmes/ constituent units will be the replacement. The focus of assessment and accreditation will be based on learning outcomes and not on inputs provided by colleges or universities.