The government despite its claims of furthering the cause of higher education in the country has planned a sweeping cut of 40 percent in the funding of the Higher Education Commission in the coming fiscal year.
According to the 2019-20 federal budget’s documents all set to be revealed in the National Assembly today (Tuesday), the funds allocated to HEC, the autonomous and statutory institution funding and regulating the higher education institutes in the country will witness a cutting down to Rs28.65 billion from the current Rs46.68b in the next financial year.
Per the relevant authorities, this cutting down of the funding due to country’s severe financial squeeze will have a negative impact on the HEC’s new initiatives, particularly the opening as well as revamping of public sector universities in the country. Of the budgetary provisions, a major portion (Rs25.78b) will be allocated to the ongoing projects, while a small portion (Rs2.87b) to the new ones.
Major allocations for the ongoing projects include Rs1.7 billion for the human resource development initiative MS leading to PhD programme of faculty development for engineering universities/UESTPs, Rs800 million for the establishment of sub-campuses of public sector universities at district level (umbrella protect), Rs800m for overseas scholarship for MS/MPhil leading to PhD in selected fields (Phase III), Rs700m for post-doctoral fellowship programme (Phase-III), Rs500 indigenous PhD fellowship for 5,000 scholars (Phase-ll), Rs520.8m for Fulbright Scholarship Support Programme (Phase-II), Rs475m for master’s leading to PhD scholarships programme (indigenous and overseas) for the students of Balochistan, Rs451.63m for the School of Dentistry, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University, Ibd, Rs360m for PAK-USAID merit and need-based scholarship programme (Phase-II), Rs350m for research facilities at University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Pattoki, Rs300m for National Center of Artificial Intelligence, Ibd, Rs300m for the strengthening of core network and expansion of PERN footprints through CPEC Optical Fiber (PERN-III), Rs265.24m for strengthening Balochistan University, Quetta, and other campuses, Rs250m for Jalozai campus of UET, Peshawar, Rs350m for Innovation Center and Software Park at UET sub-campus, Lahore, Rs500m for indigenous PhD fellowship for 5,000 scholars (Phase-ll), Rs250m for the establishment of Swat University (Phase-I), Rs250m for the establishment of Turbat University, Rs350m for Technology Development Fund for HEC scholars returning after completing PhD course to introduce new technologies application in Pakistan, Rs250m for the Institute of Space Technology, Ibd, Rs250m for National University of Medical Sciences, Rwp, and Rs230m for Fatima Jinnah Women University’s Campus-II on Chakri Road, Rwp.
As for upcoming initiatives, establishment of new campus of National University of Technology, Ibd and the development and extension of Bolan University of Health Sciences, Quetta will receive Rs500m each to be followed by Rs400m for Pakistan-China National Research Centre on Earth Sciences at Quaid-i-Azam University, Ibd, Rs300m for livestock sector development through capacity building, applied research and technology transfer at University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Lahore, and Rs289m for the uplifting of academic and infrastructure facilities at Hazara University, Mansehra.
Educationists fear that cuts by the government in HEC’s funding will lead to higher fees and will restrict access to higher education, particularly for students hailing from lower socio-economic backgrounds.