The Higher Education Commission (HEC) is planning to make some changes in their policy to dispense permissions for the establishment of new universities in the country due to financial vulnerabilities.

HEC Executive Director (ED) General (r) Muhammad Asghar, while giving briefing to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Federal Education and Professional Training, chaired by Najeeb Ud Din Awaisi, said that the commission would not allow the establishment of more universities until the required budgetary provisions were made, adding that the higher education sector was passing through financial crunches.

“There has been cut down Rs5 billion budget of the HEC which put the entire higher education sector into a difficult stage”, he claimed. In reply to the future goals and objectives of the higher education commission, he said it was impossible to set any certain target with timeframe without having adequate resources and finances.

During his one hour speech, he pinpointed the adverse implications of budgetary cuts. However, the legislators and the chairperson of the committee failed in giving any proper response to the issues raised by him. Ministry of education secretary Arshad Mirza in response to the speech said the higher education was one of the top priorities of the incumbent government. He tried justifying the budgetary cuts by linking them with the overall economic crisis in the country.

According to the details, the number of universities has increased in the last six years, with over 180 higher education institutes in different parts of the country. However, educationists claim that this increase in varsities had badly affected the quality of education, adding that the ineffective policies of the HEC had further deteriorated the situation.

While discussing another agenda, MNA Ali Awan expressed his annoyance concerning the ambiguous policies and poor management of the Private Educational Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) regarding the private schools working in the federal capital.

Awan, who also belongs to ICT, said that there were over 400 private schools in the capital, while PEIRA had only three senior-level officers in its team. “How is it possible for only three officials to look into the affairs of such a huge strength,” demanding an external audit of the PEIRA.

He said the courts had to intervene due to frail policies of PEIRA. “Why the authority leaves such loopholes while taking any sort of decisions by which the courts compelled to take action”, he lamented. Awan criticised PEIRA for not streamlining the system in private schools due to which they were drawing benefits from their money making policies. He said a balanced policy must be introduced which can satisfy the concerns of both parents and private school owners.

The committee recommended the formulation of a four-member sub-committee to review all matters of PEIRA. The fee being charged by the private schools and Supreme Court orders were called out as special tasks for the committee to be reviewed.

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