India’s Higher Education Overhaul

The Indian higher education system is undergoing rapid transformation with the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP 2020). A target of achieving a Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) of 50% in higher education by 2037 has been set, alongside a focus on enhancing the quality of education, which is crucial for the nation. It is expected that top Indian institutions will aim to compete with the best in the world. Attaining higher levels of quality relies on various processes, including teaching-learning methods, research and innovation, motivated faculty, improved employability skills, ensuring equity and societal inclusion, fostering an academic environment, and a commitment to sustainability rather than solely focusing on infrastructure and resources. 

Accreditation and ranking, integral to the transformation of Indian higher education, are set to undergo a significant change. The Indian government introduced a new accreditation system for all Indian higher education institutions in April 2024. This system, comprising binary accreditation and maturity-based graded accreditation, is designed to streamline, standardise, and make the process of approving, accrediting, and ranking institutions more transparent while incorporating valuable input from stakeholders. These changes are set to herald a new era of clarity and fairness in the accreditation process, fostering a more robust and competitive higher education landscape.

The implementation will occur in two stages. The binary system will be introduced first, replacing the current practice of assigning a score and corresponding grade to an institution. Instead, institutions will be categorised as either “accredited” or “not accredited.” The “not accredited” category will be further divided into two sub-categories: “awaiting accreditation,” indicating that these institutions nearly meet the requirements but require improvement, and “not accredited,” indicating that they fall significantly below accreditation standards.

Under this system, in India, higher education institutions (HEIs) will now be classified as either accredited or not accredited rather than receiving grades during accreditation. Additionally, accreditation authorities will introduce Maturity-Based Graded Accreditation, ranging from Level 1 to 5. This system aims to motivate accredited institutions to improve and reach the highest level, Level 5, which designates them as “Institutions of Global Excellence for Multi-Disciplinary Research and Education.”

These reforms are being led by India’s National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), which is primarily responsible for ensuring the quality of Indian higher education institutions (HEIs). NAAC operates as an autonomous body under the University Grants Commission of India.

As per this new system, a new digital platform will replace the current paper-based system. This updated process aims to maintain data integrity and includes built-in mechanisms to verify data accuracy. Additionally, it will reduce the need for experts to visit institutions for physical data verification. Provisions for substantial penalties will be included for incorrect submissions.

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