Universities are facing a financial crisis due to the budget cuts by the federal government in the last three years, vice chancellors and rectors of public sector universities observed during a meeting held at the Higher Education Commission on Sunday. In the two-day huddle at the HEC office, university heads gathered to explore solutions to the financial crisis brewing from university budgetary cuts and gave recommendations to resolve the financial discrepancies.

Vice Chancellors Committee Chairman Dr Masoom Yasinzai said the recurring budget of the higher education sector was facing a shortfall of Rs 26.9 billion in the current financial year and hoped that the current government, a known supporter of the education sector, would help universities come out of the crisis.

The meeting participants opined that for the last three years, funding for universities had failed to keep up with growing enrollments. “The crisis has been exacerbated because of legislated pay and pension increases and demands from newly established universities. The quality of education has suffered as a result, and universities are finding it impossible to meet pay and pension obligations,” they observed.

The vice chancellors expressed hope that government would restore university funding for the current fiscal year and ensure that the projected requirement of Rs 103.55 billion for the coming year (2019-20) would be provided. They also asked the government to ensure adequate funding for the development budget of universities.

Addressing the university heads, HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri assured them of presenting their concerns to the highest levels of federal as well as provincial governments. He said HEC had set up a committee to review the budgetary formula for distribution of government funding to each university. The chairman also advised the heads of universities to invest in the efficiency and transparency of university operations as well as in fundraising programmes. He announced that HEC was preparing guidelines for a major fundraising drive for universities, which would culminate in an Education Week in December 2019. He asked universities to set a target of mobilizing 20 percent of their revenue from non-government and non-tuition sources by 2022.

Other issues discussed at the meeting included the vice chancellors’ vision of harnessing university resources for such national objectives as the promotion of national unity, development of the knowledge economy, and the projection of the soft power of the country. Specific actions envisaged in this regard include student and faculty exchanges between different parts of the country, admission of students across provincial boundaries, attracting foreign students as well as faculty members to Pakistan, and investing in the capacity of university faculty to undertake research on issues of national and international urgency.

 

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