Calling a 35 percent cut in the budget as the biggest in the country’s history, Chairman Higher Education Commission (HEC) Dr. Tariq Banuri has appealed to the Prime Minister for restoring the higher education sector’s budget as it is affecting ongoing as well as future programs.
Addressing a presser, Dr. Banuri said that HEC has received around half of the amount it demanded from the government for the fiscal year 2019-20. HEC had asked for Rs. 103.5 billion for the fiscal year 2019-20, but the government has approved Rs. 59 billion, in addition to approving Rs. 28 billion for the development sector compared to the demand of Rs. 55 billion.
He further said that all of the 120 public sector universities are not only facing education quality challenges but also financial crises, which is not a good omen for higher education in the country.
He said that the HEC is in contact with the government to realize the importance of funding for the sector. The commission has presented its case for the allocation of budget on every forum including the Prime Minister Secretariat, Ministry of Finance and cabinet, and the government promised to deliver in this regard.
Prime Minister Imran Khan should do something practical to fulfill his promises, he said, adding that the HEC is in contact with the government to seek a reversal of the shortsighted policy. “Pakistan is providing the lowest level of funding to the higher education sector,” he emphasized.
Sharing the details of the 25th Vice-Chancellors’ Committee meeting, Dr. Banuri said that the HEC and vice-chancellors agreed that students are the primary focus of the universities. They need to ensure that their students get the skills that will enable them to achieve success in their life. Likewise, the universities must protect the rights to safety and privacy of their students.
He said the university heads brought up three agenda items for consideration including safety and security of vice-chancellors, safety, and security of students, and a drastic cut in the higher education sector’s funding. Dr. Banuri expressed his concern over recent tragic incidents in universities, stating that every student is a responsibility of the university and the HEC.
“We must ensure that students are protected, nurtured and facilitated.” He emphasized the need to set up a system to ensure the student’s rights however, that system is not in place because of negligence or inaction.
In the meeting, the vice-chancellors had expressed their anxiety regarding the attack on the vice-chancellor of Federal Urdu University and floated a number of proposals regarding the challenges faced by the higher education institutions. They stressed the need for ensuring the safety and security of vice-chancellors.
Dr. Banuri urged the government to ensure the security of educationists. He also proposed that the university heads should formulate an academic code of conduct.
The HEC has initiated a number of programs aimed at enhancing the prospects of students’ success. These include the revamping of the undergraduate curriculum and incorporation of “practical” competencies into the educational programs, in particular. These have been done in collaboration with the recently launched Kamyab Jawan Program.
Under this collaboration, internships and practical training opportunities will be created in order to facilitate student success in the job market. Secondly, an entrepreneurship program is being launched to support those who may wish to enter into business endeavors on their own. Finally, civic clubs at universities will be supported in order to build competencies in social engagement and interaction.
The chairman emphasized the need for arranging psychological counseling to enable students to cope with stress, trauma, cyberbullying or other forms of pressure from their peers as well as seniors.