If all goes well, Indian universities will soon be on par with some of its renowned global counterparts as the country is set to get full-fledged membership of Washington Accord by June 2014. Ankush Kumar, with inputs from Mohd Ujaley of Elets News Network (ENN) explore India’s chances of becoming signatory to Washington Accord
India is a provisional member of Washington Accord since 2007 and is confident to get the full-fledged status by June when a meeting of the body is due to take place. This will enable global recognition of Indian degrees improving employability of Indian engineers in other countries. The Accord signed in 1989 is an international agreement among bodies responsible for accrediting engineering degree programmes. So far, 16 countries are signatories to it.
India has 723 universities, which include many 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 an official data. Less than 25 percent of these institutions are accredited.
There is a grave need for accreditation process to keep pace with higher education institutions in the world. It will also help in keeping abreast of changes in higher education. Several factors hinder the global employability of professionals. For instance, deep-rooted and highly contextual differences in educational framework of countries continue to be major impediments in credentialing engineers and management professionals. If the educational frameworks of different countries contain pre-defined set of internationally expected norms, then, it may form the basis of harmonizing the various educational systems.
Gregory Prastacos, Dean, Stevens Institute of Technology, USA, says, “Accreditation guarantees the quality of education provided is according to the standards agreed upon, from content and relevance, to pedagogy and connections to industry. It’s a quality guarantee not only to students and parents, but also to employers, who can be assured of the quality of education, a job candidate has received before employment.”
Accreditation: Indian Context
Accreditation is an integral part of the higher education institutions. The two accreditations that higher education in stitutes in India are required to have are accreditation to regulatory bodies, and accreditation to professional associations. Accreditation to regulatory bodies, such as AICTE, NAAC and UGC ensures that academic institutes are developing and maintaining certain level of standards in terms of infrastructure, faculty, pedagogy, etc. Without accreditation, institutes may go for sub-standard measures at students’ cost. Accreditation to professional associations such as the Bar Council of India, Energy Institute UK, Council of Architects, Indian Institute of Town Planners, etc. validates academic rigor required for the profession, industry acceptability of qualification, and reinforces employability of graduates.
“Accreditation is very vital for survival of an institute. If you have got accreditation from good universities, you can proudly say that I am grooming students of international standards,” said Padma Shri Dr Pritam Singh, Director General, International Management Institute.
India has 723 universities, which include many 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 an official data. Less than 25 percent of these institutions are accredited
India has a robust system of accreditation of the professional institutes, which are also recognized by the industry within the country even though internationally, the country is yet to get accreditation for its courses. This has been preventing the Indian professionals to get recognition abroad easily and in turn practice their profession. It is being rectified now with the country moving towards becoming a full signatory to the Washington Accord.
According to Ashok Thakur, Secretary, Department of Higher E d u c a t i o n , “Once we get the full-fledged members h i p status of the Washington Accord, we will be able to get global recognition for our Indian degrees and improve mobility of students and engineers. After acquiring full status of the Washington Accord, employability of Indian engineers in other countries will go up substantially. This will help our students pursuing technical education”. Right now, India is a provisional member of Washington Accord since 2007 and is confident to get the full-fledged status by June when a meeting of the body is due to take place. Two members were deputed by the Washington Accord to help India align its accreditation norms with the best international practices.
He further added, “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. As far as IITs are concerned, they are free to decide if they wish to be accredited by these bodies as these premier institutes have so far refused to be accredited.”
From Provisional to Signatory
India represented by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA), New Delhi was accepted as a provisional member of the Washington Accord in 2007 and is still holding the provisional member status. By conferring provisional status, the signatories have indicated their confidence that NBA-AICTE has the potential capability to reach full signatory status. NBA is preparing to apply for full signatory status of Washington Accord under the guidance of the mentors appointed by IEA Secretariat (Secretariat of Washington Accord).
If this happens, it will be an important step forward. It will bring accreditation into focus in India. It will also ensure seamless mobility of our students in different countries and continents for employment and other purposes. It will also bring greater international credibility to our accreditation processes, and increase our confidence in delivering quality education to our youngsters,” said Surendra Prasad, Chairman, National Board of Accreditation.
Steps are also being taken to set up National Accreditation Regulatory Authority (NARA), supplementing the country’s efforts to improve quality and meet international standards. He further added, “The role of NARA is stipulated to be very different from that of NBA. While NBA will remain the main accreditation agency for accreditation of professional technical education and has no regulatory role; NARA is a much more powerful concept, which will bring accreditation to the centre stage of higher education. If and when enacted, NARA will regulate the standards of all accrediting agencies, which may come up in future in various fields of education.”
The Washington Accord was signed in 1989. It is an agreement between the bodies responsible for accrediting professional engineering degree programmes in each of the signatory countries. It recognizes the substantial equivalency of programmes accredited by those bodies, and recommends that graduates of accredited programmes in any of the signatory countries be recognized by the other countries as having met the academic requirements for entry to the practice of engineering. The Washington Accord covers professional engineering undergraduate degrees. Engineering technology and postgraduatelevel programmes are not covered by the Accord.
The Washington Accord Agreement applies only to accreditations conducted by the signatories within their respective national or territorial boundaries. The signatories are not bound to recognize programmes accredited or recognized as substantially equivalent by other signatories outside their national boundaries.