THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Assessment and Accreditation Centre (SAAC) under the Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) has begun the process of assessing and accrediting select higher education institutions in the state. However, a section of academics have questioned the validity of the grades given to institutions by the newly set up body.
At present, the KSHEC rules mention only the establishment of an 'Assessment Council' and not an 'Assessment and Accreditation Council'. However, SAAC is reportedly functioning more or less as a sub-centre of KSHEC. This goes against the regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC) that the proposed multiple assessment and accreditation agencies should be independent, it is pointed out.
"The KSHEC rules should be amended to establish an independent assessment and accreditation agency. Only then will the new agency get the validity to accredit higher education institutions," pointed out Dr R Jayaprakash, former member-secretary of KSHEC. As per the UGC Regulations, 2018, only an agency recognised by it, including the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), has the right to assess and accredit higher education institutions.
"A higher education institution which is assessed and accredited by a non-recognised agency will not be entitled to funds from UGC, Rashtriya Uchchattar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) or the Department of Science and Technology (DST)," Jayaprakash pointed out.
Meanwhile, KSHEC vice-chairman Rajan Gurukkal said UGC recognition for SAAC need to be obtained only within a time frame of three years from its date of functioning. He reminded that SAAC was the first agency of its kind in the country.
"The focus is on creating a state-level mechanism to assess and accredit institutions of higher learning and Kerala has been a pioneer on that front. The UGC will recognise SAAC in due course on the basis of its functioning. But lack of UGC recognition at present will not be a stumbling block in the state agency's functioning," Gurukkal clarified.
He added that SAAC accreditation has been made mandatory for self-financing colleges in the state to start new courses. Besides, the aim of SAAC at present was to equip higher education institutions in the state for assessment and accreditation by NAAC. UGC recognition in due course will
help SAAC function as a full-fledged agency that can also assess institutions in other states, Gurukkal added.
According to KSHEC officials, nearly 15 institutions are in various stages of application for SAAC accreditation. Bishop Moore College, Mavelikkara, the first institution assessed by SAAC was awarded 'A' grade recently.