SAAC set for peer team visits

The State Assessment and Accreditation Centre (SAAC) is gearing up to conduct peer team visits to higher education institutions in Kerala for the first cycle of accreditation.

After being initially cold-shouldered by a section of the academic community, around 20 colleges, including arts and science, engineering, teacher training, and nursing colleges, have expressed willingness to undergo assessment. Considering the governmentโ€™s intention to make SAAC accreditation a criterion for new courses and affiliation, many other colleges are expected to follow suit.

While the COVID-19 scenario stalled the activities of SAAC, the Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) has targeted completing the peer team visits by March. Guided by former NAAC director Ranganath H. Annegowda, the exercise will involve academicians who have been part of NAAC peer teams and other experts of various disciplines.

Institutions that have registered for the process mainly include aided and unaided colleges. Sources point out that the exhaustive task of preparing self-study reports, coupled with the restricted attendance of faculty in colleges owing to the pandemic situation, has posed hurdles for government colleges.

State-specific parameters

KSHEC member secretary Rajan Varughese attributed the new-found inclination towards the SAAC accreditation process to its State-specific parameters, including social inclusiveness and equity, which do not figure among the criteria set by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in its grading process.

โ€œSome colleges have also sought an assessment by the SAAC to identify their deficiencies to prop up their prospects in time for the next cycle of NAAC accreditation. Besides, the exercise can be regarded as a threshold accreditation for first-timers to evaluate preparedness for national accreditation. Accreditation by multiple agencies is also bound to improve their chances in various pursuits, including rankings,โ€ Prof. Varughese said.

The government move to consider NAAC grading as a yardstick while allotting new courses for colleges is also perceived to have created an awareness regarding the need to go in for assessments. Lauding the government for adopting the strategy, academicians urged resolve against bowing down to pressure groups that could defeat the purpose.

Sources suspect that a section of private college managements had held back from seeking assessment fearing that submission of their staff details and other information could expose certain inadequacies relating to permanent staff and teacher-student ratio.

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