Many in Delhi University have taken the National Assessment and Accreditation Council‘s (NAAC) ratings with a healthy dose of scepticism. It’s not surprising that the CGPA scores and the inevitable ranking of them do not match either the public perception or the actual worth of the institutions judged. Consequently, St Stephen’s ranking below less popular colleges in DU is mildly embarrassing but not to be taken too seriously.
“The quality of teachers hasn’t gone down,” said Nandita Narain who teaches mathematics at the college. “Students come to us for the lectures, tutorials, extra-curricular activities and the atmosphere. We haven’t lost any of that.” She maintained that the interaction with faculty members had gone well but the one with students may have been less cordial.
St Stephen’s, as another senior teacher pointed out, was going through a phase of turmoil when the NAAC process was undertaken. Practically all of 2015 was spent in unsavoury battles with various students—one over an e-magazine and another, a sexual harassment case—that went to court. This, together with attempts to amend the college’s constitution led to “severe polarisation” in the college.
“NAAC requires you to have an internal quality assessment committee, which includes the most senior teachers. The committee formed had new, junior teachers and most of the data was not provided at all,” he said. The teacher alleged that the former principal had himself complained of the faculty being “fossilised.” “He (the ex-principal) was trying to tell everyone that the college is going to the dogs because of the teachers,” he said. “The NAAC score is a complete misrepresentation.”
NAAC may not capture the real picture even in times of peace. As Narain opines, members of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association at least don’t take the NAAC terribly seriously”. “We see this as a ploy to further their privatisation agenda by linking NAAC to funding. Those doing well will be pushed toward autonomy,” she said.
Academics fear this will be used to “de-link” the colleges with better grades from the universities and get them to “generate their own funds.” “This means dismembering the university and could mean massive fee hike,” said Rudrashish Chakraborty of the English department at Kirori Mal College. That, in turn, will impact diversity that NAAC seeks to reward.
Chakraborty doesn’t believe the NAAC score reflects the real picture. He helped with the process at KMC, that’s received a 3.54 score—the third highest in DU so far—more out of “loyalty to the institution” than any faith in the value of the accreditation. “NAAC follows a one-size-fits-all norm, a uniform set for universities and colleges. That can’t work. It doesn’t take into account the material conditions of different institutions and how they survive. The only objective of this is to give legitimacy to private educational institutions in terms of grades,” he said.
Both Chakraborty and Narain point out that there’s “disproportionate weightage” to research in undergraduate college and to parameters over which colleges may not have a lot of control—infrastructure for public-funded institutions, curriculum, leadership when they are ruled centrally by the university administration.
“The criteria have to be finely calibrated keeping in mind the diversity of the education system but these considerations are hardly factored in,” said Chakraborty. “NAAC doesn’t have a mechanism to recognise the contribution of teachers in the classroom, that is, good teaching which benefits students. It ends up promoting self-interest in the form of individual research and projects at the cost of collective interest, especially that of students.”
NAAC peer team visit to colleges/ universities lasts for 3 days & the team prepared evaluation report on the basis of self study report prepared by the institution. Half hearted attempt is made o… Read MoreGobardhanprasad Dalai
Facilities for research for non-science subjects are hard to come by too and how do you increase support for students without funds? “This is a very mechanical way of looking at things. There’s nothing academic about it, no depth or serious exploration of the actual problems. Where there should be a surprise visit, we have a three-day carnival,” he retorted.
The good it does is incidental to the actual process and purpose of the exercise. KMC and several other colleges refurbished and augmented their infrastructure for the NAAC assessment round. “It brought the college that had been in a state of decline together. It arrested that decline. It created a bond between all the stakeholders—teachers, students, parents—and created a social bond in the professional space,” added Chakraborty.