Monday June 24, 2024

FAPUASA demands 4pc of GDP as education budget

By Rasheed Khalid
May 25, 2024
A representational image of students at Karachis Dow University of Health Sciences. — AFP/File
A representational image of students at Karachi's Dow University of Health Sciences. — AFP/File

Islamabad: Federal Chapter of Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations (FAPUASA) has expressed deep concern and dismay over financial situations of public-sector universities in the country. 

In an online meeting, the office-bearers of the teachers’ body reiterated that the government should come forward and announce a bailout plan for universities especially in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan.

The financial instability leads to insecurity and uncertainty which would ultimately result in a severe brain drain of our brilliant minds, pointed out FAPUASA adding that the government should raise the budget of Higher Education Commission to Rs500 billion.

The FAPUASA Federal chapter also demanded to implement a 75 per cent tax rebate for the university faculty. Knowledge is economy and economies of nations are dependent on its knowledgeable individuals, it reiterated.

Meanwhile, a peaceful token protest was observed by Academic Staff Association, Quaid-i-Azam University, where the faculty members called for immediate government intervention and financial support for public sector institutions of higher education throughout Pakistan. ASA representatives said that the financial viability of many higher education institutions is at a critical juncture. Many institutes are unable to pay regular monthly salaries, pensions, and other routine expenses.

The financial disaster universities are facing is due to governments’ yearly increases in salaries and pensions without corresponding increases in their recurring budgets. It forces universities to increase fees to arrange payment of new scales making education a costly affair for the parents. Another method the universities adopt is to increase enrolment thereby compromising on quality of education.

In the fiscal year 2023-2024, the Government of Pakistan allocated a mere 1.6 per cent of GDP to education, the lowest in the region. Within this allocation, higher education received only 0.44 per cent of GDP as a recurring grant. Since the fiscal year 2018-19, the Higher Education Commission's recurring grant has stagnated at Rs65 billion. Concurrently, the prices of gas, electricity, petrol and diesel increased steeply since 2018. These financial pressures placed an unsustainable burden on university expenses across the country the ASA representatives added.

Dr Mazhar Iqbal, President of ASA, QAU, who is also Vice-President of FAPUASA stated that the current ruling political parties in Pakistan acknowledged these challenges in their 2024 manifestos. They should implement manifestoes by increasing education spending to 4 per cent of GDP both at Federal and provincial levels and providing need and performance-based grants to universities.

In a resolution, FAPUASA strongly condemned Israel for its barbarism against the innocent Palestinians. The EC also expressed deep sorrow and grief over the sad demise of the Iranian President and Foreign Minister in a helicopter crash.