The University Grants Commission has notified new rules that allow entities in the public-private-partnership sector to assess and accredit educational institutions.

The University Grants Commission (Recognition and Monitoring of Assessment and Accreditation Agencies) Regulations, 2018, which were notified on August 20, seek to set up accreditation and assessment agencies and allows government and semi-government entities to register as an agency.

According to the new regulations, the UGC will set up an accreditation advisory council with 10 academics to examine proposals by government and semi-government agencies that seek to register as accreditation and assessment agencies.

At present, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council and the National Board of Accreditation are the official agencies responsible for assessing and accrediting institutions. “To enhance the existing capacity of accreditation for meeting the requirements of HEIs [higher education institutions], it has been decided to allow more accreditation agencies to come into this sphere of activity,” said UGC Secretary Rajnish Jain in a letter to all universities.

RK Chauhan, who was the former vice chancellor of Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology in Haryana, said the government should have opened more branches if the National Assessment and Accreditation Council and the National Board of Accreditation are overburdened. “Why are private entities being allowed to do assessment and accreditation under the garb of semi-government agencies?” he asked, according to The Telegraph. “Allowing private entities in any manner means accreditation grade for sale.”

The regulations define a semi-government agency as “an entity or institution, formed by a government agency with majority stake in a partnership with a private entity which has at least five years of experience in accreditation process...”

“The government is trying to promote privatisation of higher education,” Rajesh Jha, a member of Delhi University’s executive council, told The Telegraph. “It wants top colleges to take autonomous status to start self-financing courses. It wants to give institution of eminence status to Jio Institute, which is yet to be set up. Now it is involving private entities in accreditation also.”

Jain clarified that the new rules allow government and semi-government agencies to be registered as accreditation and assessment agencies only after “a rigorous selection process by a competent body with audit and severe penalty clauses on non-conformance”.