ISLAMABAD-The Vice Chancellors (VC) committee on Friday directed all public and private sector universities to form harassment committees in a week and upload the details on websites.

The meeting concluded with mixed response on restoration of student unions and decided to involve faculty and students for awareness and prevention against novel coronavirus.

The VC committee held a meeting here to discuss the increasing number of harassment incidents in the universities, future of student unions, to discuss the novel coronavirus situation and research and development issues in the higher education institutions of the country.

There are above 170 public and private sector universities in the country and VC committee is a forum to connect vice chancellors of all universities to discuss issues of HEIs. Committee Chairman Quaid-i-Azam University VC Prof. Dr. Mohammad Ali Shah informed The Nation that the committee unanimously condemned the harassment issues. However, there was a mixed response on restoration of student unions in HEIs. The committee chairman said that it was unanimously agreed by all HEIs representatives who participated in majority that sexual harassment incidents are not acceptable in education institutions.

He disagreed that only 50 universities have notified harassment committees following the guidelines of Higher Education Institution (HEC) adding that the incidents could not be generalised. Dr. Mohammad Ali Shah said that the committees will be formed in a week and their details will be uploaded on HEIs website [for public information and access].

He said that HEC has only the role of regulator and universities are autonomous bodies who have to implement the guidelines provided by the HEC.

“HEC is a partner in it but universities will implement the decisions,” he said. Informing about the issue of restoration of student unions in HEIs, he said that it was a ‘mixed response’ from institution heads so the committee decided to further discuss the matter in detail and send its recommendations to the government.

Chairman VCs committee said that “it was recommended to initiate a debate involving all stake holders including university administration, civil society, political parties and students also.”

He said that nobody was against the student unions but it is important to set the ‘modality’ for restoration. He said that unions’ role should be like they are in Oxford and other universities where it serves the grooming of the students.

“Unions role should not be in administrative affairs,” he said.

International Islamic University Islamabad Rector Prof. Dr. Masoom Yasinzai said that Federal Minister For Education informed the VCs in meeting that the developing grant of HEC has been increased from Rs16 billion to Rs29 billion while the recurring has been also promised to be increased by upto Rs20 billion. He said that increase in recurring grant was promised by the Prime Minister and Rs5 billion have been released so far.

He also said that in the current situation on novel coronavirus in the country it was decided by all universities to educate the faculty and students about the virus so they can play their role in the society.

He said that a presentation has been shared with all HEIs in this regard to implement it in all institutions.

He said that the matter of restoration of student unions will be discussed in length and deliberations will be sent to HEC on it.