Following the enforcement of Coronavirus-induced lockdown and subsequent disruption of academic activities countrywide, Higher Education Commission (HEC) has made several attempts to start online education without considering the absence of a proper Learning Management System (LMS) in universities across Pakistan.
In its latest attempt, HEC has sent letters to universities all over the country in a bid to force them into starting online classes from campuses as soon as possible. HEC has allegedly employed this approach so it can prove to the federal government that it has compensated the disruption of physical academic activities through online classes.
HEC has directed both private and public universities to establish extra-statutory bodies, ignoring their current constitutional bodies, for starting online classes.
Dr. Nadia Tahir, Managing Director at HEC’s Quality Assurance Agency, has reportedly written to all universities to set up online academic councils to manage the process of online education, thus undermining the autonomy of universities.
When contacted by media outlets, HEC Chairman, Dr. Tariq Banuri, claimed that the guidelines issued previously to the universities clearly state that universities must delegate the task of executing online classes to the decision-making body.
We made it clear in the letter that a university, at its discretion, could either assign the task to an existing body or form a special one for the purpose.
In the letter, HEC has further ordered universities to implement HEC’s policies and adopt the SOPs regarding online classes. In this regard, HEC has sent a draft model policy to all universities and directed them to submit the model policy to their decision-making bodies as soon as possible.
As per the draft model policy, each university must establish a decision-making body that will approve the launch of existing courses for online classes. In case of disagreement, universities must submit an online education policy document to HEC’s online accreditation council.
According to the guidelines of the draft model policy, universities have three options to execute the policy. The first option states that universities can form ad hoc committees comprising of faculty deans and headed by the vice-chancellors. The second option states that universities can establish part-time or interim committees of the academic councils. Whereas, the last option states that universities can designate their existing academic councils as online academic councils.
The letter further states that universities must formulate transparent SOPs for transforming existing courses into online education. In case of failure to create SOPs, HEC will take action against teachers. HEC has also tasked HODs to ensure faculty members meet all the HEC requirements for online classes.
In addition to this, HEC has asked faculty deans to obtain assurances from the HODs and send them to HEC’s online accreditation council for approval. The accreditation council will then seek feedback from students regarding the performance.
In case of any issue, HODs and faculty members will be responsible for resolving it. HEC will also take action against HODs and faculty members if they provide fake information regarding students.
President of Karachi University Teachers’ Society, Dr. Anila Amber Malik, has said that the society does not believe in any extra-constitutional bodies proposed by the HEC.
Our members will not follow the suggestions of the HEC in this regard. The universities will only consult their existing constitutional bodies for the execution of online classes if need be. The HEC has exceeded its limits by issuing such letters.
Karachi University’s Director of Quality Enhancement Cell (QEC), Jamil Kazmi, has said HEC’s directives aim to tarnish the autonomy of institutions.
The university does not intend to create any interim committees for the implementation of its Learning Management System. The autonomy of the Karachi University will only be respected when its decisions are taken within the jurisdiction of its statuary bodies.