Police placed a Nanaimo university on lockdown as they investigated reports of a gunman on campus Thursday.

The situation has since been cleared, according to Vancouver Island University officials.

A student reported spotting a man in his 50s with what appeared to be a handgun on campus just before 10:30 a.m., Nanaimo RCMP said.

A canine unit was deployed and a shelter in place order issued to students, but police did not find any sign of a man with a gun, they said.

Witnesses said Mounties with assault rifles could be seen on campus during the tense search.

The university’s student union tweeted a message asking those on campus to “listen to instructions and stay safe. If you’re not on campus, don’t come here.”

"We were in class and then an alarm went off and it just said stay in your building, and to not do anything until we're told otherwise," a female student said moments after the lockdown was lifted. "Everyone was kind of freaking out."

Some students said they hid under desks in classrooms while police searched the school for the possible suspect.

“RCMP rolling in hot with assault rifles at VIU. Apparently someone has a gun in their waistband and they're searching for the person,” a graphic design student posted on Facebook. “Down by hairdressing. All seems handled though.”

Other students posted messages on social media when the emergency situation appeared to be over.

Police say their next step in the investigation is to review surveillance footage and canvass witnesses .

Anyone with information is asked to call RCMP at 250-754-2345 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.