Friday September 29, 2023

HEC to get 30pc development funding raise

HEC's Public Sector Development Programme allocations will go up from Rs44.179 billion in 2022-23 to Rs59.715 billion in 2023-24 with 90% of them going to ongoing projects

June 10, 2023
HEC to get 30pc development funding raise. The News/File
HEC to get 30pc development funding raise. The News/File

ISLAMABAD: As government universities struggle with cash squeeze amid a national economic crisis, their regulator is likely to receive 30 per cent more development funding in the upcoming fiscal from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s administration than last year. 

The Higher Education Commission’s Public Sector Development Programme allocations will go up from Rs44.179 billion in 2022-23 to Rs59.715 billion in 2023-24 with 90 per cent of them going to ongoing projects, according to the proposed budget unveiled by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the National Assembly on Friday. 

With loan delays by international financial institutions leaving the federal government in dire straits, public sector universities are particularly hit by scarcity of funds, which mostly come from the HEC. 

Though many of them have opted for pay and job cuts to reduce expenditure, staff members often complain of late payments. Documents of the 2023-24 PSDP obtained by The News reveal that of the government’s next year funds for the HEC, Rs53.315 billion, including Rs1.05 billion foreign aid, will go to 140 ongoing projects and Rs6.4 billion to 25 new ones with no foreign assistance. As for the ongoing schemes to be funded next year, the largest amount from Rs53.315 billion budgetary allocations, i.e. Rs3.75 billion are for fully-funded scholarships to take MS/MPhil courses abroad in selected fields leading to PhD programmes (Phase II).

Next on the list are Rs3 billion funds for PhD scholarship programmes under the Pakistan-US Knowledge Corridor (Phase I), Rs1.5 billion each for 3,000 educational scholarships to Afghan students under the Allama Iqbal Scholarship Programme and the Narowal National Sports City that houses cricket, football and hockey stadiums, volleyball, table and lawn tennis, squash and badminton courts, gymnasiums and swimming pools, Rs1 billion each for the HEC-USAID Fulbright Scholarship Support Programme and Innovation Centre and Software Park at the University of Engineering & Technology Lahore’s sub-campus, Rs800 million for strengthening and expanding the University of Gujrat and allied campuses, Rs750 million for Higher Education Development Programme of Pakistan (Revised), Rs740.9 million for improving digital access of universities to resources by “strengthening the core network and expanding PERN footprints through CPEC optical fibre” and Rs600 million for the Post-Doctoral Fellowship Programme (Phase III). Among other major ongoing projects to receive money in 2023-24 are the establishment of National Centre of Industrial Biotechnology at the PMAS-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi (Rs580.9 million), strengthening of University of Sargodha and its campuses in Mianwali and Bhakkar (Rs543.2 million), establishment of Post Graduate Education and Research Centre at the Pir Abdul Qadir Shah Jeelani Institute of Medical Sciences, Gambat, development of Bacha Khan University Charsadda’s main campus, establishment of National University of Medical Sciences in Rawalpindi, development of the University of Buner, establishment of sub-campuses of public sector universities at the district level besides other projects. A look at new HEC projects to be executed next year shows the largest part of the Rs6.4 billion budget, i.e. (Rs1.2 billion) will be spent on strengthening of labs at the University of Engineering and Technology in Taxila, Lahore and Khuzdar, and the NED University of Engineering & Technology in Karachi.