ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has sought proposals from universities, institutes, and individual researchers on ideas to address the “novel coronavirus crisis”.
This was decided on Tuesday in a special video meeting of HEC’s senior management.
The bulk of the HEC staff has been directed to work from home – following the directives of the health ministry – so all the work of the commission is conducted electronically.
The research initiative, with the support of the World Bank, is entitled as the RAPID
Research and Innovation Fund (RRIF) programme. It aims to mobilise the research capacities of universities in support of the national effort to address the COVID-19 crisis.
Under the initiative, a rapid assessment and review mechanism has been established to analyse research and innovation proposals urgently.
Each applicant seeking funding through the programme can propose an idea based on one of the priority themes.
The proposals are due by April 3, and funding decisions will be made within the month of April. Funding will be provided to selected research-intensive institutions for analysis of data, testing of specimens, access to facilities or equipment, or development of essential products or services.
Besides the research initiative, HEC has also been working with universities to minimize the impact of the lockdown of universities on academic activities. To this end, three specialised committees have been established to help arrange IT facilities, software, tech support, and curate substantive online content.
The objective is to enable faculty members to (virtually) continue teaching their courses from where they left off at the time of closure of universities.
Individual faculty members will share their course outline/s and required reading material with their students through online learning management systems.
Universities will develop repositories of online courses. HEC will facilitate access to an extensive digital library of lectures and courses.
HEC’s COVID-19 Technology Support Committee has prepared a working paper to assist the senior leadership of universities in easing the transition to virtual instruction. The paper provides the minimum technology requirements and recommendations on the choice of digital platforms for the university.
HEC Chairman Tariq Banuri reiterated that all stakeholders should be sensitised to keep abreast of the latest information about the coronavirus and share it with other people in their communities. Necessary guidelines and safety instructions have already been circulated among universities and are available at the HEC website.