ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has announced new ‘policy guidance’ for the institutions following the government’s decision to close universities from Nov 26 to Jan 10 and continue teaching through online or hybrid means.
A statement issued by HEC on Thursday said in the light of the government directions, the vice chancellors have been authorised to allow small groups of “essential” individuals on campus subject to implementation of mechanisms or safeguards.
Only certain categories of students may be allowed on campus, it added. These categories may comprise low income students who may have connectivity problems at home because of lack of access to the internet, or the availability of proper devices, foreign students, PhD or MPhil or final-year students who need to use laboratories to complete their thesis work or third-year or higher medical students who need to obtain clinical training.
The HEC said the number of students permitted to come to campus should not exceed 30pc of the total enrollment, or a lower number if dictated by the campus conditions.
Similarly, vice chancellors may require the faculty members to come to campus for delivering or preparing their online lectures.
All large examinations planned for Dec 2020 have been postponed with the exception of assessment examinations such as MDCAT, other entrance exams, recruitment exams or pre-scheduled small examinations.
VCs authorised to allow small groups of individuals on campus subject to implementation of SOPs
These may be conducted if absolutely necessary with strict observance of all health and safety protocols.
As for hostels, the new policy guidance says that the vice chancellors have the authority to allow limited occupancy of hostels subject to the instructed restrictions. It said only students in the essential categories will be allowed. The number of students shall not exceed 30pc of the design capacity of the hotels (or a small number if so dictated by health considerations).
All standard operating procedures shall be implemented strictly. The universities will put in place appropriate measures, including isolating hostel residents, to protect them from external infection. Besides, the universities shall draw up rules regarding the presence of faculty members or staff on campus.
All the vice chancellors and heads of institutions shall ensure that the flexibility granted by the government is exercised in a judicious manner, authorised at the highest level, and monitored and managed effectively and efficiently.
The statement said HEC has also released Rs10 million each to all public sector universities to help them establish any supportive arrangements needed to improve the quality of the online education process.
Besides, the universities may recruit senior, tech-savvy students to assist faculty members in technology-related problems involved in online education.
Furthermore, HEC has constituted a Covid Response Oversight Committee to collaborate with the vice chancellors in their respective regions, clarify questions or concerns, share best practices and oversee implementation.
The committee is headed by Punjab University Vice Chancellor Dr Niaz Akhtar. It will also interact with respective provincial governments to ensure synchronised and cooperative action.
Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2020