This opinion piece is authored by Vishal Dutta, Head of Research at Sannam S4 and Kushagra Yadav, Research Intern at Sannam S4.
The National Board of Accreditation India (NBA) was initially established by All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) in the year 1994, for periodic evaluations of technical institutions and programmes, on the basis of specified norms and standards.
NBA separated from AICTE and became an autonomous body on January 7, 2010 with the objective of Assurance of Quality and Relevance of Education, especially of technical institutions’ professional and technical programmes through accreditation.
On June 13 2014, NBA became the permanent signatory member of the Washington Accord – an International Agreement (originally signed among six countries in 1989) amongst accrediting bodies responsible for undergraduate engineering degree programmes. The Washington Accord recognises the substantial equivalency of programmes accredited by those (accredited) bodies and recommends that graduates of programmes accrediting by any of the (signatory) bodies be recognised by the other bodies as having met the academic requirements for entry to the practice of engineering in the area of their jurisdiction. Thus, the Washington Accord encourages and facilitates the mobility of engineering graduates and professionals at international level.
NBA accredits programmes of technical disciplines at undergraduate, postgraduate, and diploma levels.
The NBA operates a two-tier system of accreditation for all the programmes under its purview. The same set of criteria is considered for the accreditation under the two tiers. The NBA accredited programmes offered by the Tier 1 Institutions are eligible for the recognition of the programmes by other signatories of the Washington Accord. Recognition of graduates of programmes accredited by any signatory by registering or licensing bodies in other signatory jurisdictions is subject to restrictions. Recognition of graduates before the date of admission is not required under the Accord. Other signatories may, at their sole discretion, recognise graduates of accredited programmes from before the admission date.
The Tier-II system is designed for the non-autonomous institutions affiliated to a university.
Quality of technical courses is assessed on the basis of different criteria such as student-faculty ratio, research infrastructure, average student performance index, faculty qualification, and research success rates amongst many others.
An NBA-accreditation renders the verification of quality that ultimately benefits institutions, students, employers, and the public at large. NBA is the sole statutory body in India for the accreditation of technical degrees.
What’s keeping many colleges away?
There is the issue of confusion over the role of accreditation bodies for technical education courses. There is more than one accreditation bodies in India. Since 1945, AICTE was responsible for accrediting technical courses in India. After the creation of NBA, AICTE was responsible for approving technical institutions, while, the NBA became responsible for accrediting technical courses/departments. For example, while an IIT is AICTE-approved as an adequate engineering institution, its Civil Engineering or Electronic Engineering Department might not be NBA-accredited.
Many colleges are still unaware of the importance of NBA accreditation. A majority of them have not opted for it as they lack the required infrastructure and facilities.
The accreditation is given for 3—6 years after which departments take their own time in re-applying for the accreditation. The Board of committee set up by the NBA renews it only on the basis of the compliance report from the departments. The accreditation process is a time consuming one consisting of actual visits by the accrediting officials to physically check and ensure that all the required norms are met by the programme. Stringent rules and the need for designated facilities for research seem to be keeping many colleges away from seeking NBA.
No NBA Accreditation to IITs Engineering programmes
For many years the IIT Council remained firm on not going to the NBA for their courses. In 2014, IITs decided to get their courses accredited by the NBA.5,3 Given the high academic standards of IITs, the institutions were given the freedom to carry out the review themselves and submit the report to NBA. This process is yet to be completed and the programmes offered at IITs are yet to be NBA-accredited.