With a fee, consultants offer to help boost NAAC ratings

*It’s an agency that assures a minimum A to colleges applying for accreditation. Bagging 760 out of a total score of 1,000 is “child’s play”, it says. While describing itself as “dependable” for achieving an A++/A+/A under its mentorship, it promises to claim a fee for hand-holding only after the NAAC grade is announced.
*There’s another consultant who claims his capabilities can be put to good use after all evaluation procedures for the accreditation process are over and just before grades are put up for approval before a committee. He says it is possible to pump up scores to secure a higher rating.
Colleges looking for accreditation assistance on the internet can find numerous such questionable consultants and agencies. They publicise an ability to help institutes prepare for the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) assessment, a process which ranks colleges and universities based on faculty and facilities.

The NAAC mechanism is crucial to the higher education sector as students often choose based on grades assigned to institutes. Compiling paperwork and readying up for the big review are central to this process which can leave even established institutes flustered. Yet now, a new breed of consultants are promising to pave the way to a fancy rating by arranging visits of sympathetic inspectors, said a source.
Admittedly, the Council has been made aware of the problem and is looking to tackle it. “To weed out such dubious agencies and agents, NAAC is planning to shoulder the responsibility of handholding and mentoring colleges and universities that are in line to undergo assessment,” said NAAC executive committee chairman Bhushan Patwardhan. In the past, the Council has referred instances of alleged misconduct to the CBI for investigation (see box), but the findings have proved to be inconclusive.
Some private universities that TOI spoke to denied using such consultants. They claimed that their senior teachers and heads of department jointly work on submitting data to NAAC, following which they engage with the team which visits the campus.
But there may be more to it. The NAAC has with it a copy of a proposal by a consultant which claimed to know the probable rank given to an institute before it was even declared. The consultant said he had internal information from “our NAAC official team” on the possible score. “Actual grade: B/B+ Possible to increase: A/A+. Also view the deal amount for the proposed grade. For A+ grade: Rs 10 L. For A grade: 8L.”
Now that word has reached the assessment body, it has issued an advisory. “It has come to the notice of NAAC that some agencies or consultancy firms are approaching higher education institutions with proposals to help in SSR (self study report) preparations to be submitted to NAAC and also making various promises in the name of NAAC officials. It is clarified that NAAC has not authorised any agents or consultants to undertake SSR/SAR preparations work. Concerns from the field are about agents approaching teacher education colleges. Hence, institutions are advised to avoid entertaining such unauthorised agents,” it says.
Some educationists are of the view that the business of ratings and rankings itself is outdated. “If there is transparency, accountability and honesty on every front from institutions, there is no need for a rating…students and parents can make an informed choice,” said former IIT Kanpur director Sanjay Dhande.