The Punjab University Academic Staff Association (PU ASA) has unanimously expressed strong resentment over massive cut in the funding of higher education in the federal budget. In a press statement, PUASA President Prof Dr Mumtaz Anwar Chaudhry has called upon Prime Minister Imran Khan to immediately take notice of the drastic budget cut as it would fall hard on his vision of youth development.
He said that the budget proposal mentioning 44 percent cut in the higher education budget in comparison to the previous fiscal year has caused grave concerns to the academic fraternity in particular, and other segments of the society at large. He said the HEC budget cuts in the recent years were tantamount to stifling the research and academic activities of higher education, particularly at public sector universities.
Chaudhry said the government intends to provide only 43 billion rupees against HEC’s demand of Rs103 which will definitely have an adverse impact on various aspects of university working e.g. TTS program, research incentives etc.
He said public universities serve to all demographics of the society and tend to be the only option available to the students from the lowest income groups to attain higher education. He said public sector universities were funded worldwide by their governments. Pakistan’s population pyramid was bottom heavy and a large portion of the populace fall in the school or college / university age bracket. The number of students vying for admissions and education in public sector universities were increasing as well, he added. Chaudhry said this had put immense stress on public sector universities, since this population demographic structure implies increasing number of students to be handled by these universities respectively.
Prof Dr Mumtaz Anwar Chaudhry said that a cut on expenditure today was something that could not be compensated by a matching increase in the future, strangling the ongoing research processes at the universities. He said that this loss to the society will be unrecoverable, so this policy of budget cuts would have a negative impact on the future of higher education in the country. Chaudhry said governments over the year’s made conscious efforts to accumulate minimum critical mass of high quality researchers by providing scholarships leading to higher education. He said these professionals were hired in large numbers by universities and such cuts will take away the incentives for these professionals to stay in Pakistan, which may result in brain drain towards greener pastures.
He emphasised that the priority should be education in general, and higher education in particular as per the promise of PTI’s election manifesto.