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Common challenges  in Accreditation & Quality improvement,  Indian or International 

The Most common issue  the aspirational  B-schools face when they take up any accreditation, Indian or international is lack of preparedness as to some of the tough challenges they may face while submitting their initial applications and even later when the process kicks in.  Despite the mentors being present  and trying to be helpful, lack of a systematic way of gathering and preserving  data, absence of periodic surveys, lack of student learning assessment  metrics and such other ,  pose a huge challenge to the schools.  

There are ways to avoid this by first understanding the common factors that  are  to be  noticed across the accreditation systems which would help the schools to  prepare themselves much in advance so that not only accreditation  gets done smoothly but also there would be considerable amount of time and cost saving as well.  In fact what works for accreditation also works for Rating & Ranking like NIRF or ISO 9000 or any other quality improvement system that they may adopt. 

Accreditation as a means of show casing the intrinsic quality and continuous improvement taking place in the Higher Education Campus is today an accepted fact.  Despite the ongoing debate about the efficacy or otherwise of  the utility of accreditation  for growth of  HE campus  the accreditation movement is not going away anytime soon.
Since a large number of campuses are flocking to be accredited and even the governments  all over the world are finding external accreditation  a stronger quality intervention tool than their own  iron-fisted regulatory framework, the campuses  are more than willing today to opt for accreditation.

When it comes to accreditation it comes with different hues and colours  even though broadly they are either programmatic or are institutional.  And by definition it is almost always “voluntary” and  are peer reviewed  to avoid any bias  brought in by self-regulation or by  government regulation. The Indian National Accreditation and Assessment Commission (NAAC) finds accreditation as an “act of granting credit or recognition (especially with respect to educational institutions that maintain suitable standards) This definition of what is accreditation by the official accrediting body of India belonging to the Government owned University Grants Commission   clearly establishes the need for  everyone understanding  accreditation in its proper perspective. A lot depends on Culture (particularly inner), expectations, perceptions, resources, change management. Convincing that we are regional, national, and global over period of  years- is team work by govt, colleges, accreditation markets.

The idea behind any accreditation agency is not to put everyone in one standardized one size fits all mode.  Even the regional accreditation agencies do not  wish to homogenise the institutions   by deploying their standards  and helping the campuses with their interventions to comply with their exacting standards. The idea behind any accreditation is to  recognize the mission of the school  and verify whether in all the areas they enquire  using their standards or principles the schools are adhering to their mission.

Going for your next accreditation?

If a campus is looking to newer accreditation after going through one, chances of a number of factors being brought in as common is high. When campuses undertake quality improvement programs whether individually, back to back or together at the same time, the faculty  would do well by first identifying the common strings across the various systems and process in place at the campuses  in order to use the data in a manner does not waste time and energy on gathering and processing repetitive data.

A matrix of quality commons would greatly help the schools to reach its  quality goals faster and with greater precision.  All the three stakeholders in the quality improvement process namely, the Faculty, the students and the management   should know their respective  roles  in generating and preserving  measurable  data that would eventually be processed for various  Quality measurements needed for Accreditation or for reporting for Ranking Rating  or any other process. 

The workshop: The planned half a day interaction would feature a number of these "Accreditation & Quality Improvement  commons" and ways to identify these  and methods to handle these  much before a formal accreditation process kicks in. The workshop format would be fully interactive and  there would be a number of templates  and  resources would be provided  in the shape of a    workbook. The    workshop that was  held as part of the 12th Annual International Accreditation Conference that featured   a large number of top rated accreditation agencies. 

The sweeping definition of NAAC  puts the onus  of responsibility on the  user  in maintaining “suitable standards” for the  agency to give its recognition.

Mission focus: So the issue is where and when to start on the quality journey? In a way the first brick is always laid with the mission of the school as the mission often reflects the ethos of the founding of the school  and  it defines the direction and the way the school intends to achieve their  goal.

All accreditation systems are mission centric.  Of course there is confusion here too whether Vision, Mission and Action  are separate statement of purpose or  are connected to each other and should be taken as a homogenous whole. The more words that are there is more to prove, is the common dictum with which one should approach these  statements.  The simpler and more straight the vision, less likely is the institution going to waste time and energy in proving that they are working in accordance with their vision while meeting the standards set by the  accreditation agencies.

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