Vice-Chancellors’ Committee Urges Govt to Revisit the budgetary Cuts for Higher Education Sector

The Vice-Chancellors’ Committee has urged the Government to revisit its decision regarding budgetary cut, especially the recurring budget of the higher education sector and announce a supplementary grant for universities. A meeting of the Committee was held at the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Islamabad to discuss the challenges arising out of the budgetary cuts for the higher education sector.

The Vice-Chancellors expressed solidarity with the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir in the wake of Indian Government’s presidential order stripping disputed Kashmir of its special status. “This is a blatant violation of the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination and entirely against the United Nations resolutions. This is a serious breach of Kashmiris rights, and the Indian Government is highly condemned for its brutal and unjust assimilation of the valley.”

Govt Should Revisit the budgetary Cuts for Higher Education Sector: HEC

The Vice-Chancellors said that the allocation for higher education is not an expense, but an investment in the future of our youth, and that it has become impossible for universities to sustain their operations and quality of education after 10 percent cut in higher education sector’s funding.

The meeting stressed that in the light of HEC’s vision, the universities are working to increase their own resources through different measures including fund generation, entrepreneurial activities, and launch of new programs as well as addressing issues leading to financial mismanagement. However, there was a consensus that it has practically become hard for universities to cope with the financial crisis caused by a recent cut in the recurring grant.

It was emphasized that universities are even facing hardship in payment of salaries to faculty and staff. Financial resources are the blood needed for a sustainable and quality higher education system. The budgetary cut has exposed the universities to severe quality issues, due to which students will suffer.

In his remarks, Dr. Tariq Banuri, Chairman HEC said that the Commission fully supports the stance of Vice-Chancellors regarding budgetary cuts. He said that the Government is well aware of the importance of investment in higher education. “There is no lack of sympathy in the Government with regards to financial hardships facing the sector,” he said, adding that HEC’s position on funding is very clear and it has been conveyed to the authorities concerned.

He elaborated that the higher education sector spends only Rs. 15,000 to 20,000 on a student per year and, on average, the Government provides only Rs. 50,000. “This is a very low figure as compared to the spending of all other countries of the world on a student per year. No other country is providing education of this quality at such a low cost.”

He said that the financial crisis has created a gap of Rs. 70 billion for the sector, as the dollar rate has risen and the salaries of Government employees have been raised up to 10 percent.

The Chairman stressed the need for measures to improve efficiency in utilization of funds, cut unnecessary expenditures, and raise universities’ own funds. He advised the universities to devise a plan to ensure efficiency and control unnecessary expenses.

Dr. Muhammad Ali, Chair of VCs Committee, urged the Government to revisit cut in the recurring grant of the higher education sector and announce a supplementary grant for universities to overcome the crisis. “We have a genuine demand and we want a small chunk of the entire volume of the budget to meet our requirement.”

Unanimously adopting a resolution, the Vice-Chancellors’ Committee urged the Government to revisit cut in the recurring budget of the higher education sector. It underscored that the higher education sector funding was growing reasonably over the last five years, but the recent reduction has caused a great setback to the sector amidst high inflation and devaluation of the currency. This has created a situation where universities may sharply slide down to bankruptcy, in addition to the degradation of the quality of education and research.

The Committee strongly emphasized that without additional financial support, universities would not be able to finance the salary, operational and research expenditures. Furthermore, universities do not support fee raise unless the Government chooses it over the restoration of the higher education sector’s recurring grant.

The Committee also announced its plan to invite Mr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance, Mr. Shafqat Mahmood, Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training and Mr. Khusro Bakhtiar, Minister for Planning, Development and Reform to the Vince Chancellors’ Committee meeting to be held in Islamabad soon to directly deliberate on the financial situation.

The Vice-Chancellors urged the Government to take steps for consolidating the existing universities, stopping the establishment of new universities and sub-campuses, and diverting funds earmarked for knowledge economy for utilization by higher education institutions. They also advocated mobilizing the support of Provincial Governments to share the recurring cost of the provincially chartered universities.

Considering the unprecedented financial squeeze, the Committee agreed to focus on improving efficiency, cost-cutting and reducing unnecessary expenses, including but not limited to a reduction in electricity and fuel expenses, conservation of water, paper and consumables, improving the faculty-to-non-faculty ratio, business process re-engineering, and better use of technology.

It also agreed to equally focus on broadening the university resource base and better management of university funds, organizing fundraising activities across the country in December 2019 and holding convocations, alumni events and donor meetings, and generating funds through the use of laboratories, contracted research, and consultancies.

The meeting was chaired by Dr. Muhammad Ali, Chair of VCs Committee and attended by Chairman, Executive Director and other staff of HEC as well as 84 Vice-Chancellors and Rectors of public sector universities across the country.

Recommended Reading: Future Of The Digital Education In Pakistan

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