Pakistan’s higher education sector is expected to face significant challenges due to the country’s current economic situation. Regrettably, the federal government has not only failed to increase overall funding for higher education, but it has also decreased the individual funds allocated to universities in all four provinces by 1.5 percent.
However, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has proposed plans to raise the individual budget of federal universities by 5.5 percent, based on their performance. These decisions were approved during an emergency meeting of the Federal Higher Education Commission. It was explicitly stated during the meeting that the grant of Rs. 64 million, which has been in effect since 2018, will continue to be provided to universities in the upcoming fiscal year 2023-24.
The federal government is hesitant to increase the grant for universities, but strong opposition to reducing the grant for Sindh universities was expressed during the HEC meeting. It was decided that if the grant for Sindh universities remains unchanged, the grants for the remaining three provinces will be reduced, and the saved funds will be allocated to federal universities.
This is due to a decrease in HEC grants in university expenditures, leading to the suspension of book purchases in certain university libraries and a shift towards online journals. This deteriorating infrastructure directly affects students and the quality of education.
Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman of HEC Islamabad, has written letters to the four provincial governments urging them to share the financial burden of their respective universities and increase their contributions. He specifically mentioned Sindh, noting that the Sindh government has significantly increased its grant for universities.
The approved grant summary for public universities emphasizes that all professional universities should prioritize their existing programs over establishing additional general faculties. A vice chancellor of a government university in Sindh shared his opinion, stating that their problems will continue to escalate until the federal government increases its grant. Development grants from HEC are currently on hold.
The provincial grant for NED University will increase from Rs. 690 million to Rs. 1.14 billion due to an increased grant for government universities totaling approximately Rs. 7 billion provided by the Sindh government. The grant for Mehran University will increase from Rs. 970 million to Rs. 1.45 billion due to an increased grant for government universities totaling approximately Rs. 7 billion provided by the Sindh government.