New Delhi: The government will not interfere in the work of the country’s two education accreditation agencies, which will be run independently by competent experts.

“Today, we have made the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) totally autonomous, and we are in the process of making the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) independent," higher education secretary Ashok Thakur said on Monday in New Delhi while addressing a world summit on accreditation.

While the NBA was earlier with the All India Council for Technical Education, the NAAC currently functions under the University Grants Commission (UGC). The NBA accredits courses and the NAAC accredits institutions.

“The government should learn to restrain itself on doing professional work of accreditation," Thakur said. “The government should create only broad, enabling conditions."

The government may rope in private firms to assess and accredit educational institutes, Mint reported on 24 February, citing UGC chairman Ved Prakash. The secretary confirmed the development.

Thakur said the government is setting up a new authority, which will be “an arm’s length body" away from direct government interference to facilitate and coordinate the work of accreditation with little influence from UGC or other agencies. He said the new body will short-list competent entities including private ones to do the job of assessment and accreditation.

“More agencies to accredit will make life easier for institutions," said Gouri Shankar Bramha, assistant professor with the ICFAI Foundation for Higher Education, a deemed university in Hyderabad.

India has 723 universities, including institutions of national importance, 37,204 colleges and 11,356 professional schools offering diplomas. Overall, about 28.6 million students are pursuing higher education, according to official data. Less than 25% of these institutions are accredited.

When the country is talking about the demographic dividend, maintaining a certain standard in higher education is important and to manage the huge network, multiple agencies should shoulder the responsibility, Thakur said.

All these agencies should not be manned by either “politicians or people from pure bureaucracy", the secretary said, adding that government has made accreditation mandatory and linked funding of higher educational institution with it.

Colleges and institutions without accreditation may not get funding from UGC or under the new scheme called the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shikhha Abhiyan (RUSA). Under RUSA, India will spend some 99,000 crore over the next eight years to fund educational institution under state governments.

India is likely to become a permanent member of the Washington Accord, an international treaty for equivalence of engineering degrees among the top 15 countries including the US, and mobility of engineers among these countries. “We hope the good news comes by June 2014. This will help our engineers get jobs in these countries, too." Thakur said. India has been trying for permanent membership since 2007, he said.

The authorities of the Washington Accord have reviewed the accreditation process in India and have submitted a draft report, according to Surendra Prasad, chairman of NBA.

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