ISLAMABAD-Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Tuesday directed all universities to finalise and announce the examination and admission policy within a week.

This was decided in a meeting of all vice chancellors (VCs) held here at HEC presided by the Chairman HEC Dr. Tariq Banuri. This was the fourth meeting between HEC and the vice chancellors since the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. It was convened to reach consensus on examinations policy, admissions policy, academic quality, and the academic calendar during the pandemic.

The meeting decided that all universities will announce their policies on examinations and admissions within one week. All attempts shall be made to protect the academic calendar. The special problems faced by graduating students will be addressed. HEC will set up an appellate system to follow up on student complaints. Sharing their views on the occasion, the vice chancellors appreciated HEC for its proactive approach towards the impending academic hardships in the wake of lockdown and closure of universities. They agreed to come up with their examination policies, based on nature of examinations, aligned with their respective feasibility scenarios and needs of students. Participants agreed that HEC and universities have shared objectives, as they want to save the semester, avoid disruption in academic calendar, motivate students to keep learning, and address the issues of graduating students.  The common sentiment among the academic leadership is that semester should not be allowed to go waste. 

HEC directed universities to formulate and publicly announce transparent policies on how they will conduct examinations at the end of the corona-affected semester. HEC had canvassed the approaches being taken by universities all over the world, and had shared the most successful options with universities. 

However, each option involved significant pros and cons. Universities could use any combination of the options as long as they met the minimum standards of readiness and shared the policy publicly.  A clear policy is also needed on admissions in the light of the recent decisions by examination boards to announce results on the basis of past exams. Universities were asked to decide how they will evaluate these results in order to make admissions decisions. HEC will circulate prudential guidelines on exams as well as admissions in order to ensure that the students’ concerns are not ignored and every attempt is made to ensure quality of education.

The chairman stated that students had raised a number of concerns, including those about the quality of online instruction, the issues of connectivity faced by some of them, and uncertainty with regard to examinations. Universities had initiated action on quality issues and their reports were being evaluated at HEC. Also, efforts were afoot to address some of the connectivity issues faced by students. Finally, universities need to adopt transparent assessment policies to eliminate the uncertainty and confusion plaguing students. The participants also discussed how to exploit the prevailing crisis as an opportunity to enhance the quality and effectiveness of teaching. The future scenario is uncertain and the closure of universities till July 15, 2020 may be extended. This has necessitated decisions and steps on part of both HEC and universities with regard to online teaching, examinations, and admissions. These decisions could also help enhance the educational experience even later on. The Chairman also asked the vice chancellors to take steps to resolve the problems facing the graduating students on an urgent basis, in addition to making decisions about new admissions, thesis research and use of laboratories. He said HEC has shared its guidelines with the universities about thesis defence, allowing it to be online.