The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has protested the cut in the higher education budget.
In the latest budget, HEC’s funding was cut by another Rs. 5.90 billion from the committed Indicative Budget Ceiling of Rs. 70 billion for the fiscal year 2020-21. HEC said that the move will dismantle the country’s higher education systems by forcing the shutdown of universities.
The two-day 36th meeting of the Commission, the governing body of Higher Education Commission, concluded on Saturday, chaired by Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri which was conducted online. The government has earmarked Rs 65 billion for the higher education sector in the budget for 2020-21 against Rs. 59 billion earmarked for the current fiscal year.
The Commission unanimously deplored the sudden cut in the higher education budget by another Rs. 5.90 billion from the committed Indicative Budget Ceiling of Rs. 70.00 billion for 2020-21 and emphasized that the move will dismantle the country’s higher education systems by forcing the shutdown of universities, which are already suffering from historically unprecedented budgetary shortfalls and the impact of the COVID crisis.
The members stressed upon the government to reconsider its decision, and take immediate steps to appropriately fund the universities in order to protect access to and quality of higher education.
The Commission stressed that without adequate investment in higher education, the youth of Pakistan will never acquire the competencies needed to develop and compete internationally.
The Commission thoroughly reviewed HEC funding formula for universities, took into account various proposals, and decided that for 2020-21, the actual total allocation of 2019-20 will be treated as base plus need grants, accounting for 85 percent of the total allocation, while the remaining 15 percent will be treated as a performance grant, allocated on the basis of the number of publications, the number and amount of research grants received, as well as number of PhD faculty and students.
It was also agreed that for FY 2021-22 and beyond, a new funding methodology will be developed on the principles of equity, needs, and credit for performance.
The Commission amended the Tenure Track Statutes by indexing TTS salaries to the comparable BPS scale plus a 35% TTS Premium, thus introducing automatic adjustments of future TTS salaries in line with increases in BPS salary scales.
Consistent with the international practice, the Commission increased the maximum time limit for the tenure decision from the current 6 years to 9 years and endorsed collection of granular data of TTS faculty separately in HEMIS (Higher education Management Information System) to help universities and HEC maintain proper oversight over the progress of TTS faculty, and improve transparency and fairness of recruitment, promotion, and tenure.
The Commission appreciated the comprehensive work done by the HEC in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, to minimize academic disruption, develop and guide universities to acquire online readiness, provide supplementary resources of Rs.1.20 billion, deploy live dashboard to monitor the quality of online delivery, build free online academic content and resources, and motivate students to continue learning.
The Commission impressed upon the Government to support HEC initiatives viz. Taleem Bundle, University Support Package, etc., and advised HEC to resolve connectivity issues faced by students, and use platforms such as virtual think tanks to carve out imaginative solutions.
Policy on Protection Against Sexual Harassment:
The Commission also approved revised HEC Policy on Protection against Sexual Harassment in Higher Education Institutions 2020, which reflects significant improvement from its 2011 anti-sexual harassment guidelines in terms of enforcement, simplicity, scope, the definition of prohibited conduct, consistency with national act for Protection of Women against harassment as a workplace, and appellate process.
The Commission also adopted the “Safe Campus Acceptable Usage Policy 2020” to protect the privacy of students and avoid possibilities of harassment because of the installation, placement, or use of security cameras within the universities and campuses.