Careers

Academic Audit: the need of the hour

The inspection team from the Government College of Technology in discussion with Principal Joseph V. Thanikal (left) of Kumaraguru College of Technology in the city. Photo: M. Periasamy  

It is estimated that the national gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education in India is around 19 per cent of which around 5 per cent is in technical education.

Again, according to an estimate, at least 25 million students every year are eligible for higher education (after schools). The issue is: are there enough higher education institutes to absorb these 25 million students? The challenge is also to provide quality education, which implies that all the students who qualify should be employable.

This is dependent primarily on three stakeholders — students, faculty members and the industry. The industry very rarely takes an interest in providing quality education through guest lectures or visiting faculty, but loves to criticise and say that the quality of teaching is bad or the contents are outdated.

The only personnel from the industry who are readily available as guest lecturers or visiting faculty are those who are retired and would now like to “contribute to the society.” This implies that the burden of providing quality education lies mainly on faculty members.

The objective of students is to get a good academic record while the faculty aims to get a good feedback. Students believe that the institution is a mere place for getting a certificate.

In many cases, they believe that the certificate is a passport for getting employed and is obtainable as soon as the fees are paid.

All the information that is required is available on the Internet and can be easily digested by reading casually before the exams. They also believe conveniently what they hear from the industry personnel that the syllabus is outdated and the gap between what is taught and what is actually practised is huge.

Quality of learning

One of the tools available to measure the adequacy of this academic input is ‘Academic Audit’.

The academic audit provides an opportunity for a regular strategic overview of a college’s teaching-learning process.

It is the process by which the authorities assure themselves of the quality of the learning process. The academic audit is normally carried out once in five years.

It has four distinct features: It is college-based and is normally reviewed independently, it is based on a process of self-evaluation carried out by the college itself, the use of an external evaluator helps in objectivity, and the audit evaluates the full range of college activities so as to ensure a balanced recommendation by the audit panel.

An audit takes into account the following:

Whether the activities and programmes being implemented have been authorised by the concerned authorities (in the case of a university set-up — have the programmes been approved by the university, academic council, the board of management, an so on).

Whether the activities and programmes are being conducted in a manner geared to accomplish the objectives intended by the authorities.

Whether the activities and programmes are efficiently and effectively serving the purpose intended by the authorities.

Whether the activities and programmes being conducted and funds expended in compliance with the applicable laws.

Are adequate operating, administrative procedures and practices, systems, etc. in place?

Are the needs of the various stakeholders such as students, parents, employers, statutory authorities, society and the top management or the trustees satisfied?

The advantages of an academic audit are manifold. Some of these are given below:

For students: It helps in eliminating unnecessary workload and dwells mainly on those essentially required for the success of a student’s career.

For teachers: It helps in clarifying their roles and responsibilities and thus avoids conflicts.

For the society: It ensures effective use of public money.

For employers: It ensures availability of well-rounded students who can contribute from day one itself.

The process of academic audit involves three stages: self-study involving understanding the teaching-learning process, peer review and evaluating the self-study and the peer review.

Challenges

Discussions with persons in higher educational institutions reveal that it is a herculean task to get the students to listen to a guest lecture. These discussions also revealed that students prefer to sit in the canteen and discuss some social problems rather than listening to lectures. The students need to be coaxed or sometimes even incentivised with means such as additional marks to attend to the guest lectures.

In many cases, the parents of the students strongly believe that the failure of the student implies that the faculty does not understand the subject or does not communicate well. Students demand a good placement, both in terms of companies as well as packages.

Yet, basic etiquettes are not followed. Dressing casually and being late for interviews is the norm.

This dissatisfaction can perhaps be reduced by controlling the input side of the institution by reducing the intake of students, limiting the number of higher education institutions and by continuously monitoring the academic progress of the student.

Helping students develop holistically will ensure development of soft skills through involvement in social service projects. Additionally, it would also be better if the industry takes an active part in the educational system.

The writer is the director, dean and head of the department, School of Management, D.Y. Patil University

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 4:13:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/careers/academic-audit-the-need-of-the-hour/article6969479.ece

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