THE Punjab University Academic Staff Association (PUASA) has expressed strong concerns at non-issuance of fourth installment to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) by the federal government.
An emergency meeting of the association’s executive body was held here on Sunday which informed that the government had stopped recurring grant of the HEC because of which universities were borrowing loans from banks to pay salaries to their teachers and employees.
According to PUASA’s executive body, the finance ministry had earlier promised to give Rs6 billion recurring grant to the Higher Education Commission but the government was using the amount to pay to the parliamentarians instead of providing the same to the HEC. The meeting condemned the move, observing that thousands of teachers, students and researchers had been deprived of scholarships and many research and development programmes had stopped which would affect the standard of higher education in the country.
The participants of the meeting said that it clearly depicted that the government was trying to shut down universities and education was not its priority. They said the government was compelling teachers and employees to take to the streets while they were already hit by excessive loadshedding. It is pertinent to mention here that universities meet major share of their expenditures with their own resources but because of non-payment of recurring amount, they were facing difficulties in paying salaries to teachers and employees.
Interestingly, in a letter to the public sector universities of the province, the Punjab Higher Education Department recently asked the universities to take up their development projects with the Higher Education Commission as the department had no funds for the projects. When contacted, Higher Education Department Secretary Dr Ijaz Munir said that funding to the public varsities was primarily the responsibility of the federal government through the HEC. He said the department had asked the universities not to submit new projects to the department but to the HEC, adding that currently, the Punjab government was funding various projects of the province’s public sectoruniversities. It is also important to mention here that the Punjab government, in its recent budget for fiscal year 2012-2013, has earmarked Rs180 million to support the public universities.
In a recent meeting, the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) had also condemned the federal government for slashing funding to the public universities in the budget 2012-2013.
The federal government had earmarked Rs15.8 billion development budget for the Higher Education Commission for the fiscal year 2012-13 against the demand of Rs21.5 billion.
The FAPUASA, a representative body of faculty members from public universities of the country, has been protesting against the recent move of the federal government to put the Higher Education Commission under the Ministry of Professional and Technical Training. The move is being termed as a blatant attack on the autonomy of the HEC.
The stakeholders argue that since the HEC came into being through an act of parliament, its status could not be changed through a notification of any ministry.