KARACHI: For the last five years, the higher education sector in Pakistan is facing severe financial crisis due to continuous allocations of insufficient budget, says Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA).
The current financial crisis, inflation, and COVID-19 triggered economic slump have worsened these financial issues multi-fold. To tackle these financial crises, the association has demanded a substantial increase in higher education sector allocations in the upcoming budget for 2021-22.
An urgent online meeting of the general body of FAPUASA was held on this one-point agenda of higher education allocations in the new budget. Following through deliberations, it was unanimously resolved that Rs. 150 billion should be allocated as the recurring budget for higher education in the 2021-22 budget. During the current financial crisis survival for teaching and research faculty of the higher education sector is difficult.
Therefore, FAPUASA demanded at least a 25% increase in salaries and a tax rebate of 75% for the researcher and the teaching community. A similar relief in pension was also suggested and the idea of freezing pension at a certain level was strongly rejected. FAPUASA endorsed the stakeholder’s recommendations during the recent consultation sessions on the topic of “Budget 2021-22: Needs & Expectations of Higher Education Sector” and urged for a special COVID-19 relief package for the higher education sector, in the country, similar that given in other sectors. It was also demanded that the federal and provincial governments and especially HEC should seriously consider the severity of the ground realities while allocating budget for the higher education sector.
For instance, the inflation rate of 14.5%, increase in access to higher education from 1.76 million in FY 2017-18 to 2.06 million in FY 2020-21, increase in number of PhD faculty from 15,028 in FY 2017-18 to 19,978 in current FY 2020-21 and increase in number of public sector universities from 99 to 138 with 92 regional campuses during last five years should be considered in the budget.
During the meeting, it was pointed out that despite the significant increase in the national budget during the last five years, the HEC ‘s recurring budget remained stagnant i.e., Rs. 63.183 billion in 2017-18, Rs. 65.020 billion in 2018-19, Rs. 64.100 billion in 2019-20, same allocation of Rs. 64.100 billion in 2020-21 and Rs. 65 billion, the proposed allocation for 2021-22. These allocations remained insufficient to meet the requirements of the higher education section in the country. FAPUASA stressed the allocation of at least Rs. 150 billion in the new budget, as the recurring budget for higher education, to overcome the years-long deficit and financial imbalance currently faced by Pakistani universities.
It was also resolved that all the stakeholders especially FAPUASA should be involved in budget and higher education policies formulation processes.
The meeting was presided by Dr. Nek Muhammad Sheikh Central President FAPUASA while a great number of office-bearers of FAPUASA and Academic Staff Associations attended the meeting across Pakistan.