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Karachi University Academic Council’s meeting approves online classes


June 6, 2020

A meeting of the University of Karachi’s (KU) Academic Council on Friday approved online classes to continue academic activities at the varsity as regular classes cannot be held due to lockdown measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus.

As many as 86 members participated in the online meeting that was held to decide on the future line of action of the varisty. The meeting was chaired by KU Acting Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Khalid Mahmood Iraqi.

The Academic Council decided that as per the recommendation of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, KU would start online classes, for which initially three to five teachers from each faculty would be designated as master trainers whose responsibility would be to train other members of their faculty to hold online classes.

The Academic Council also approved that the deans would be responsible for nominating the master trainers and would also monitor the training of other faculty members by them. The dean offices would be the hub to facilitate the online classes, whereas, Faculty of Education Dean Prof Dr Nasir Salman would guide the teachers through avoiding plagiarism and copyright matters during the online classes.

The online teaching and submission of assignments of various courses as per the approved course outline would be done till July 15. The online classes may also include alternatives to labs/practical sessions.

It was decided that the teachers would conduct online classes from their homes. However, in case of any difficulty, they could use their offices, classrooms or meeting rooms of the dean offices of their faculties. All the departments were told to constitute a departmental evaluation/student assessment committee before July 15.

The Academic Council, however, allowed the teachers to conduct regular classes for students who were unable to attend online classes, on Saturdays and Sundays from July 16 to August 13, 2020.

The finalisation of the online student assessment/examination/evaluation material would be carried out from August 17 to 21, 2020, and the semester examination would be held from August 22 to September 12, 2020.

The second semester teaching would be conducted from September 15 to December 13, 2020. The semester examinations would be held from December 14 to 31, 2020.

Meanwhile, online classes, labs and assessment for the evening programme would be conducted till July 15, 2020, while classes/labs for leftover syllabi could be conducted from July 16 to September 10, 2020, and finalisation of online assessment/examination/evaluation material would be held from September 11 to 13, 2020.

The first-semester examination of the evening programme would be held from September 14 to 30, 2020, while the second semester could be arranged from October 1 to December 31, 2020, and its examinations could be held between January 1 and 20, 2021.

The Academic Council also constituted a sub-committee regarding students’ examination, assessment and evaluation to be supervised by Prof Dr Abdul Wahid Baloch. The sub-committee would submit its recommendations to the VC.

Concerns raised

In the meantime, senior faculty members have raised concerns over the legal status of the online meeting of the Academic Council. In two separate letters they wrote to the university, they mentioned that without amending the rules, no online Academic Council meeting could be held. They were of the view that the recent meeting of the Academic Council was illegal.

According to them, when the meeting started on Friday, around 86 members initially joined the online session, but later many of them left it, walking out in protest.

Prof Dr SM Taha, former chairperson of the history department, wrote that neither had the decision of online teaching any legal worth nor could it cater to 43,000 students and manage 1,100 teachers in more than 50 disciplines when the varsity was designed for imparting classroom education.

He maintained that any lawmaking statutory body meeting needed physical counting of members for confirming the quorum requirement and the recent meeting did not fulfil the legal requirement.

Dr Riaz Ahmed, the chairperson of the KU applied chemistry department, in his letter stated that as per the KU Act, physical presence of members at a place was required whenever they constituted rules.

He termed the recent meeting of the KU Academic Council a violation of the university law and illegal. “Online Academic Council, if it means the one to take place over the internet, can only happen if the Act is amended to remove 'place' so as to allow the statutory bodies to conduct such a meeting. Just to remind you, about an incident of 2019, members of Syndicate objected to the Chair on inviting two members to attend a meeting via the internet”.

“The syndicate meeting was subsequently called off. If a supreme university statutory body cannot be held while members are absent, it is shocking to see the Academic Council is being called while members [are] physically absent. We, therefore, demand that the notice for the meeting [be] withdrawn and a proper meeting be held at a specified place with a notification received in signatures by the members.”