A special meeting of the Higher Education Commission was held on Friday under the Chairmanship of HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri, to review implications of the ongoing fiscal crisis faced by the higher education sector, in particular budget-cuts for FY 2019-20.
It was attended by Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Dr Faisal Bari, Prof Nisar Siddiqui, Dr Naveed Malik, Engr Ahmed Farooq Bazai, Dr Javeid Iqbal, Dr Bhawani Shankar Chowdhry, Federal Secretary, Ministry of S&T, and representatives of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training as well as the Provincial Governments.
The commission was informed that the projected recurring budget demand of the higher education institutions for 2019-20 was Rs.103.550 billion, while development demand was Rs. 55 billion; however, the sector could face unprecedented budget cuts of up to 50 per cent. If this turns out to be true, it would bring about a massive disruption in the provision of higher education and conduct of research.
The commission expressed grave concerns about these indications and called upon the prime minister, the finance minister and the education minister to ensure that adequate resources were provided to higher education institutions.
Second, the commission directed the Chairman to undertake a sensitivity analysis of alternative budgetary scenarios, with a view to ensuring that essential programmes were not slashed, especially those that sustain the quality of undergraduate education in the country.
Third, the commission requested the VC’s to invest in greater efficiency and transparency, along with identifying the possible austerity measures to ensure that resources were used effectively.
Fourth, the commission decided to accelerate the deployment of the Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) in order to enhance transparency, enabling increased efficiency.
Fifth, the commission directed the chairman to establish a fundraising programme for Higher Education including mobilization of resources from alumni, philanthropists, industry and by attracting a broader array of students including students from foreign countries.
Sixth, the commission requested the chairman to arrange meetings of commission members with the prime minister, the finance minister and other senior members of the government. Finally, the Commission directed the chairman to request Provincial Governments to enhance their support for higher education, including supplementary finances for universities.