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Saturday June 22, 2024

VCs of 21 Sindh universities seek Rs16bn bailout package from PM

By Syed Muhammad Askari
May 30, 2024
In this image Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses a National Assembly session. — APP/File
In this image Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses a National Assembly session. — APP/File

To prevent the province’s universities from going bankrupt, the vice chancellors of public sector universities in Sindh have requested a bailout package of Rs16 billion from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

On Wednesday, the vice chancellors of 21 universities said in a letter written with their signatures to the prime minister after the emergency meeting that they expressed their strong concern over the suspension of the federal government’s grant to the provincial universities of Pakistan, including 29 public sector universities of Sindh. They said the federal government through the HEC provides over Rs13 billion as a recurring grant to the universities of Sindh, which has been almost frozen since 2018. “We, after you become the Prime Minister of Pakistan of this great country, were hoping that the government under your leadership will take necessary measures to strengthen and support the universities and higher education along with the improvements which your government has started bringing in other sectors,” the VCs said.

They further said that returns to investment in education are higher than the investments in any other sector. “Nations who have progressed or whose progress is on faster rate have invested in education and higher education. China, Korea, Malaysia, India and many other countries of the region are examples of it. Besides, looking in the current scenario of financial crises in Pakistan, a wise decision would be to enhance investment in education especially in higher and technical education. This would quickly bear the fruit.

“The public sector universities in Pakistan are providing access to higher education to the bright minds from poor and lower income families. These students cannot self-finance their cost of education, thus, raising fees to that level is not an option. The multifold increase in student fees will create a risk of youth unrest and agitation which the country cannot afford at this stage.”

Furthermore, the Council of Common Interest (CCI) has also already decided that the federal government would fund the recurring as well as development expenditures of the universities till the next NFC. The Council of Common Interest considered the summary on “funding for the devolved Organizations/Institutions/Departments and Projects of Defunct Ministries /Divisions beyond 30th June 2011” vide Case No. CCI: 7/2/2011, dated 28-04-2011, and decided as under: “The Council approved the financing for current expenditure of Universities hitherto would be picked by the Federal Government till the period of current NFC Award. Federal Government would during this period also pick up the development expenditure of the Universities depending upon the resources available with the Federal Government.”

Besides, The Presidential Ordinance No. LI of 2002 (HEC Ordinance 2002) also clearly mentions the funding as the responsibility of the federal government, which is further Page 2 of 4 substantiated by the CCI and 7th NFC event after the 18th Constitutional Amendment (mentioned above).

“In this situation and given the severity of the situation, it is humbly requested that urgent instructions may kindly be passed to the Finance Division to restore and enhance the federal grants to the universities of Pakistan including the public sector universities of Sindh province, and provide the funds based on the need determined by HEC Islamabad and Finance Division jointly or at least Rs16 billion to the universities of Sindh so that they don’t default.”