The Centre has called upon the apex body of higher education, the University Grants Commission (UGC), to frame guidelines to ensure safety of students in and off campuses across the country. These include special measures for women students, to fix accountability.
At least 24 students from an engineering college in Hyderabad were drowned in the waters of the Beas in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district in June this year. The incident raised pertinent issues, the foremost being that of students’ safety, something which HT Education, too, analysed in its story titled ‘Safety first for students’ (June 18, 2014).
“The need of the hour is to have the HRD ministry frame an overarching policy framework on students’ safety on campus and during excursions. Enforcing the rules should be an education regulator’s responsibility, when it is set up,” the article had said.
An expert committee will be set up to frame guidelines for which the UGC has invited suggestions from the public and stakeholders. “It will take about a month to come up with the guidelines,” sources said on conditions of anonymity.
A public notice was recently published by the University Grants Commission following directions by the HRD ministry. It said, “The safety of students in and outside the campuses of higher educational institutions (HEIs) is a matter of paramount importance. Some incidents of the past have necessitated the review of the measures already in place in HEIs for the safety of students. The UGC has decided to frame comprehensive guidelines for all to ensure the safety of students with the help of an expert committee for study tours, field visits, excursions, industrial visits or engaged in adventure sports and other activities in particular,” the notice says.
The UGC notice seeks the views of the general public as well as vice-chancellors of all universities in this regard. It invites suggestions from the public and stakeholders, including parents, students and teachers, on measures to ensure safety of students both on and off campus – for day scholars while on campus, for students residing in hostels, for those commuting to and fro from campus, those on educational tours, study tours, field visits, adventure sports and any other activities involving travel within and abroad, special safety measures for women students and those with special needs.
Currently, most schools, colleges and educational institutions take an undertaking from students countersigned by parents that absolves them of any responsibility in case of an untoward incident during a tour or event.