Vice Chancellors and Rectors of public sector universities say that they’re facing a financial emergency because of budget cuts in the past three years.
In a two-day meeting at the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the university heads met to explore solutions to the financial crisis.
Dr. Masoom Yasinzai, Chairman Vice-Chancellors Committee said that the recurring budget of the higher education sector is facing a shortfall of Rs. 26.9 billion in the current financial year. He expressed hope that the current Government, a known supporter of the education sector, would help universities come out of this crisis.
Over the last three years, funding for universities has failed to keep up with growing enrollments. The crisis has been exacerbated because of legislated pay and pension increases and demands from newly established universities. The quality of education has suffered as a result, and universities are finding it impossible to meet pay and pension obligations.
The Vice Chancellors hope that the government will restore university funding for the current fiscal year and ensure that the projected requirement of Rs. 103.55 billion for the coming year (2019-20) is satisfied. They also asked the government to ensure adequate funding for the development budget of universities.
Addressing the university heads, Dr. Tariq Banuri, Chairman HEC, assured them that he will present their concerns to the highest levels of federal as well as provincial governments. He said that HEC has set up a committee to review the budgetary formula for distribution of government funding to each university.
The Chairman also advised the heads of universities to invest in the efficiency and transparency of university operations as well as in fundraising programs. He announced that HEC was preparing guidelines for a major fundraising drive for universities, which will culminate in an Education Week in December 2019. He asked universities to set a target of mobilizing 20 percent of their revenue from non-government and non-tuition sources by 2022.
Other issues discussed at the meeting included the Vice Chancellors’ vision of harnessing university resources for national objectives, such as the promotion of national unity, development of the knowledge economy, and the projection of the soft power of the country.
Specific actions envisaged in this regard include student and faculty exchanges between different parts of the country, admission of students across provincial boundaries, attracting foreign students as well as faculty members to Pakistan, and investing in the capacity of university faculty to undertake research on issues of national and international urgency. They asked HEC and the government to ensure the removal of hurdles in this regard.
The Chairman apprised the gathering of the importance of resolving complaints received through the PM’s Grievance Portal. “We must ensure that there are zero escalated or super-escalated complaints,” he underlined.
The Vice Chancellors also discussed other ongoing efforts, including plans to establish a National Academy for Higher Education (NAHE), targeting research programs towards concrete deliverables and problem-solving, strengthening college-level education, and building upon the success of the Pakistan Education Research Network (PERN) project.