ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – To make Pakistani universities safer and more inclusive for students, faculty, and administrative staff, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) launched e-courses on its policies on “Protection against Sexual Harassment in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)” and “Policy for Students with Disabilities in HEIs” on Wednesday. The UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women, and the Australian High Commission in Pakistan collaborated to launch the e-courses. The e-courses will be hosted by the National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE), which will promote policy knowledge and outreach. Dr. Shaista Sohail, Executive Director of HEC, said that the role of HEIs was critical in emphasising and promoting the importance of practising basic values and strong moral grounds during the virtual launching ceremony. She informed the audience that the Prime Minister’s Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Program includes 2% scholarships for students with impairments. She believed that the concerted efforts would boost students’ overall academic achievements as well as make HEIs safer and more inclusive.
“If we want to encourage the youth to stay in higher education and continue to make progress on the SDGs commitments to provide equal access to women to obtain a tertiary education, we must ensure that young people are able to attain education in a safe, culturally appropriate, and equitable environment,” said UNDP Resident Representative Knut Otsby. “This is a crucial step toward promoting inclusivity on campus,” said Deputy High Commissioner Joanne Frederiksen. HEC’s leadership in this area inspires us, and we encourage Vice-Chancellors to ensure that professors and students finish the e-courses.”ountry Representative UN Women Ms. Sharmeela Rasool observed that a vast majority of women were still unaware of the protection available to them through legislation. She stressed the need for creating awareness among women about the legal protection. The Academy, according to NAHE Rector Dr. Shaheen Sardar Ali, is a national institution for the development of academic leaders, faculty, and staff. “Translating laws and regulations into knowledge is one part of capacity building.”
Mr. Awais Ahmad, HEC’s Adviser Coordination, emphasised HEC’s commitment to continue cooperating with national and international entities to raise awareness and capacity for implementing these policies in his closing remarks. He noted that the establishment of a Students Services Division at HEC, as well as the inclusion of a mandatory requirement for students to join clubs, societies, and sports in the HEC Undergraduate Education Policy, will provide leadership opportunities to work with a broader higher education constituency to improve understanding and compliance with the two policies. Plans to create an umbrella PC-I to gradually support universities in remodelling infrastructure, labs, and equipment, as well as policies to control tobacco and drug abuse and the use of security cameras on campuses, are just a few of the many initiatives being implemented to create a free, tolerant, safe, and supportive learning environment in HEIs.