Institutional distinctiveness and accreditation

Academic dynamism demands to elevate and energise the comprehension of students while transacting course content
Institutional distinctiveness and accreditation
Students in a classroom at Srinagar's Women's College. [Image for representational purpose only] File: Aman Farooq/ GK

BY Prof MOHAMMAD ISMAIL, Dr MEEM HAI ZAFFER and Dr NAZIR AHMAD GILKAR

In J&K Colleges (public/private) are affiliated to a university and governed by HED for their academic and administrative controls respectively. Despite this fact, each HEI has its individuality and enjoys distinctiveness. That is why each college pursues its own vision, mission, goals, objectives and core values. These institutions have own Tarana inconsonance with their vision in poetic form.

Academic dynamism demands to elevate and energise the comprehension of students while transacting course content. Institutional distinctiveness is possible only when competitive ecosystem for teaching-learning and evaluation is created. This way an institution can enjoy comparative advantage and achieve excellence. Adoption of cutting edge pedagogy is to be applied to engage students in brain teasing/storming sessions, to ask innovative questions. Some of these unknown spontaneous questions should make faculty sleepless to find out answers and satisfy academic thirst of students. Otherwise, the students will not think, deliberate and discuss subject matter effectively. This write-up, accordingly, does not subscribe to the view that teachers should come down to the current level of student’s understanding particularly in higher education. This is a flawed argument because it leads to academic saturation and promotes mediocrity.

In this write-up an attempt has been made to discuss certain concepts dealt within this criterion before proceeding for analysis. Accordingly, core values are the fundamental principles of an organization. These guiding principles dictate behaviour and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong. Core values also help organizations to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their goals by creating an unwavering mode and method of guidance. In the context of an academic organization it is pertinent to refer to institutional values pursued by the institution.

Social responsibility is an ethical concern. All kinds of organizations are duty bound to act in the best interests of their environment and society. They are accountable for fulfilling their civic responsibility. The actions/performance of an organization should benefit the society at large. The academic organizations are no exception. Academic growth leads to sustainable development for the welfare of society.

The best academic practices are based on certain well defined attributes. All the best practices are good practices but all good practices cannot be best practices as they need something more. The best practices adopted by HEIs differentiate them from one another.

The Criterion 7 is spread over three (core) Key Indicators. These are Institutional Values and Social Responsibility (50 points/5%), Best Practices (30 points/3%) and Institutional Distinctiveness (20 points /2%). Thus, this criterion is carrying 100 points/10% of aggregate value. The first Key Indicator has 6 Qualitative Metrics. These relate to gender sensitivity, waste management, rain water harvesting, green practices, organising national festivals and transparent functioning. Whereas 13 Quantitative metrics covering the subject matter like gender equity, alternate energy initiatives, lighting power requirements, expenditure on green initiatives, available resources, addressing locational disadvantages, contributing to local community, organising activities, courses on human values, functioning as per professional code and events organised for universal values. However, code of conduct handbook and core values should have been studied under qualitative metrics. The quantitative metrics as usual are expressed in percentages or number of times. The 2nd key indicator highlights at least two best practices adopted by an institution. The 3rd key indicator reflects institutional distinctiveness that differentiates one institution from the other. The 2nd and 3rd key indicators are qualitative / descriptive in nature.

The analysis reveals that select group of qualitative and quantitative metrics are common for all HEIs in the country. The institutions are required to gear up their performance during an accreditation cycle accordingly. However, the institutions have been provided an open choice with regard to the best practices and brand image created by distinctiveness. It is better to organise workshops in the institutions and engage faculty and other stake holders to identify at-least two best practices to be organised frequently in the institution. The ideas thus generated as an outcome of these academic events are very essential to build image of the institution by distinctive performance. Once there is collective wisdom in the institution the score vis-à-vis criterion 7 will be maximum resulting in higher grade for the intuition. Thus, it is an eye opener and a lesson/guidance for us to create institutional differentiation based on core values and best practices for distinctive performance to be followed by others. Very recently the academic organizations have played a significant role towards social responsibility at times of earth quake (2005), floods (2014) and on-going Covid 19 pandemic (2020…).

The need of the hour is to compile Academic Audit Manual based on NAAC seven Criteria for assessment and accreditation. The following academic audit questions vis-a-vis Criterion 7 can be asked:

01. Has the institution taken initiative to review and revisit vision and mission statements at the beginning of reference period for next cycle of accreditation and adoption of NEP 2020?

02. What initiatives the institution has taken in pursuance of its vision and mission towards institutional values, social responsibility and best practices to create distinctiveness/differentiation for the institution?

03. What steps the institution has taken to make a comparison between routine, good and best practices? Roll of different stake holders.

04. How the institution has contributed towards social responsibility to affect equity in the society?

05. For what values an institution is known for and appreciated?

06. What learning objectives and learning outcomes are intended to achieve through a course of study designed for human values? To what extent human values have been developed/inculcated in students and practice thereof?

07. To what extent best practices adopted by an institution have promoted faculty/student growth and development.

08. How and to what extent have the students been enabled through creative and critical processes to deliberate and write upon different issues regarding socio-economic uplift? Impact of different activities carried out on the campus.

09. To what extent alternatives adopted by an institution during present Covid situation have resulted in promoting their intrinsic academic value?

10. How academic audit practices adopted have been able to create brand image for the institution?

In sum, first Key Indicator under Criterion 7 is closed-end as an institution is required to respond to a set of given quantitative and qualitative metrics. Whereas, second and third Key Indicators are open-ended as an institution has a choice with regard to the best practices adoption and institutional distinctiveness createtion. An institution can adopt best practices based on any criterion from 1-6. As a sample a few best practices to be adopted by an institution can be:

a) Eengaging faculty in writing occasional papers on contemporary issues.

b) Book review competitions/workshops may be organised to develop book reading culture in the students and among the society at large.

c) Series of extension and memorial lectures can be organised by inviting eminent experts from different sectors to provide platform to the faculty and students to interact and understand different problems for their resolution. The proceedings can be preserved in digital format as well.

d) Similarly, students pursuing social sciences under the guidance of faculty from different academic disciplines may visit the surrounding areas to conduct surveys on different socio-economic parameters like gender education, skill development, domestic violence, drug addiction, availability of civic facilities, understanding different welfare schemes, formation of self-help groups, engagement with different traditional crafts, medical facilities, condition of schools, preserving of water bodies, adoption of hamlets, etc. These activities are to be organised regularly to create differentiation for institutions by way of best practices. NAAC assessment and accreditation process audit provides scope for research in the shape of projects and doctoral dissertations.

Note: This write-up is dedicated to all creative and inspiring academic leaders and teachers on the eve of teachers’ day.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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