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February 23, 2020

In the latest action taken by a public sector university against students, Gomal University in Dera Ismail Khan has expelled 23 students who had staged a small protest walk from the main campus to...

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In the latest action taken by a public sector university against students, Gomal University in Dera Ismail Khan has expelled 23 students who had staged a small protest walk from the main campus to the GPO to protest increases in fees. The students demanded that the university administration reduce admission fees, hire more teachers and address the transport issues faced by students, especially girls. Rather than responding to their grievances, the university is reported to have rusticated 10 students for two years and imposed a fine of Rs50,000 on them. A further 13 students have been rusticated for a year and fined Rs25,000 each. The university has since been shut down, disrupting education, and students including women made to clear hostels. Some have had to return to homes located long distances away.

The actions were carried out under the conduct and discipline regulations of the university. The university said that the provincial government had not provided it with enough funds to run the institution and their only source of revenue was fees collected from students. According to reports, these problems arise from the decision by the federal government to cut funds for the Higher Education Commission by half. Other universities have been facing similar problems with revenue.

These are all extremely serious problems. In the first place, students who attempt to quantum out should not be greeted with disciplinary action. Instead, as some members of parliament have already pointed out, solutions need to be found so that the education of students is not affected. The struggle to maintain standards at the higher education level is already a severe one. It seems now that the battle is being lost. Last year, students across the country had protested increase in fees. A large number had also been arrested at that time. Gomal University has said it offered a Rs4000 discount but this was not acceptable to students who have also pointed out the higher education should be accessible to every individual on the basis of merit. This was one of the promises made by the PTI. The party now needs to find a way to deliver on this. Closing down even the limited room available to students to raise their voices will not help matters but only add to anger and frustration on campuses without any hope of improving teaching standards, research or making it possible for all who seek to do so to acquire a university degree.



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