The decision of Higher Education Commission of conferring Research Travel Grant Programme (TGF) to varsities has been opposed by scholars, deeming the act would lead to further victimization of scholars and faculty members at the hands of university administration while reimburisng and issuing funds.
The HEC recently updated the information available for faculty members and PhD scholars, adding that the TGP programme had been terminated and was under revision. Shifting of grants to universities was under process and hence no applications would be accepted until the final decision was made, the information stated.
However, later, the plan was revised and the stance on the research travel grant programme was clarified by the HEC, stating that the programme had not been stopped. Instead, the terms and conditions of the programme were now being revised and in order to transfer the decision making authority to the varsities directly . New guidelines were under preparation that would be shared with respective universities after finalization, the notice stated.
Scholars opposed this new directive deeming the act will devolve more power to varsities, leading to further victimisation of applicants at the hands of the varsity authorities. “Nepotism culture is strongly rooted in universities and a lot of scholars miss opportunities as they are not in good books of the administration,” said Dr Faheem Khan, professor at the Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University (PMAS-AAU). The decision would empower universities on one hand but on the other, it will have a completely different impact on applicants applying for the grants.
Dr Faheem said implementation of the decision will make applicant dependent on the verdict of authorities. Earlier, the time frame for the expenses reimbursement was an issue for the applicant, but now even availing the travel grant would be a difficult task, he added.
Another faculty member Dr Ashfaq Khan said “There is victimisation in universities and non-awarding of No Objection Certificates (NOC) is a common practice there,” he said. Candidates had the relief that their funds would be reimbursed by the HEC which will now fade away as the varsities will hold the authority to award the claims.
The HEC Travel Grant Programme (TGP) aims to facilitate faculty members and PhD scholars from HEC recognised universities for continuing their higher education overseas, attending international research conferences and symposiums, studying post-doctoral degree programmes and participating in cultural exchange programmes. TGP covers the accommodation and airfare expenses of the applicant which are later reimbursed by the HEC. The expenses are reimbursed two months after the official claim by the applicant.
According to the HEC standard operating procedures applicants who intend to partake in international conferences must submit the application six week’s priors to the scheduled date, while applicants wishing to pursue education oversees have to apply three months beforehand. These applications must be endorsed by the applicant’s respective heads.
HEC Spokesperson Ayesha Ikram said HEC has not terminated the TGP programme but is planning to transfer the authority to varsities, however, the terms and conditions of the programme were being reviewed by the HEC.