New Delhi: After failing to pass the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority Bill in Parliament, the government on Friday decided to make accreditation mandatory for all higher educational institutes through an executive order as it seeks to improve academic quality.

The government decision means any new college will need accreditation before it can open, which is likely to lead to outrage among private education providers that have been opposing the move.

The decision will mean more than 33,000 colleges and around 10,000 technical institutes will need mandatory accreditation in a few months after the government puts the system in place by February. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has the power to grant the accreditation and an order to this effect will be passed soon, human resource development (HRD) minister M.M. Pallam Raju said on Friday.

Accreditation involves assessment of colleges and universities against benchmarks set by the accreditation authority. Students who graduate from accredited institutions are more likely to find favour with potential employers, who will have an idea of the quality of education they have received.

The accreditation Bill has been awaiting Parliamentary approval for the last two years. Raju said it could not be passed in the just concluded Parliament session because of “several disturbances".

“Both the UGC and the AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) will issue similar guidelines to make the process mandatory (in order to certify academic quality). When the Bill comes through in Parliament, this decision will be integrated with that," Ashok Thakur, higher education secretary, told reporters.

Currently, less than 15% of the institutes are accredited because the process is voluntary.

Even India’s universities have a poor record in securing accreditation. Of the 612 universities in the country, only 172 have been accredited.

HRD ministry officials said that since the 12th Five Year Plan’s (2012-17) focus is more on quality than expansion in higher education, accreditation would be the first major step in assuring this.

Raju said the government is setting up the Indian Board of Accreditation to expedite the process. Currently, there are two accreditation bodies under AICTE and UGC. While all new institutes will need accreditation, the older ones will get a few years to comply with the guidelines.

Private education providers said they wouldn’t accept the imposition of mandatory accreditation and warned that any such move would deter private participation in higher education. Some 63.9% of higher educational institutes in India are owned by private entities, according to a recent report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) lobby group and consulting firm Ernst and Young.

“The quality improvement logic cannot be forced. It’s not humanly possible for upcoming colleges to comply with their guidelines. An education institute needs time to come to a certain level. There should be a conducive atmosphere and incentive from the government to the private sector," said H. Chaturvedi, alternate president of the Educational Promotion Society for India (EPSI), which represents private education providers.

Renu Bapna, an advisor to AICTE, said the new accreditation body will be autonomous and free to draw expertise from industry and experts in the private sector. “The more the number of institutes (accreditation bodies), the better it will be as the task is huge," said Bapna.