Monday July 22, 2024

Universities face financial emergency because of budget cuts

By Myra Imran
March 03, 2019

Islamabad : Vice Chancellors and Rectors of public sector universities say that they face a financial emergency because of budget cuts in the past three years.

The issue was discussed at a two-day meeting held at the Higher Education Commission (HEC) where the university heads met to explore solutions to the financial crisis.

Dr. Masoom Yasinzai, Chairman Vice Chancellors Committee, said that the recurring budget of the higher education sector is facing a shortfall of Rs. 26.9 billion in the current financial year. He expressed the hope that the current government, a known supporter of the education sector, would help universities come out of the crisis. The university heads discussed that since last three years, funding for universities has failed to keep up with growing enrollments. The crisis has been exacerbated because of legislated pay and pension increases and demands from newly established universities. The quality of education has suffered as a result, and universities are finding it impossible to meet pay and pension obligations.

The Vice Chancellors expressed their hope that government will restore university funding for the current fiscal year and ensure that the projected requirement of Rs. 103.55 billion for the coming year (2019-20) is satisfied. They also asked the government to ensure adequate funding for the development budget of universities.

Addressing the university heads, Chairman Higher Education Commission Dr. Tariq Banuri, assured them that he will present their concerns to the highest levels of federal as well as provincial governments. He said that Higher Education Commission has set up a committee to review the budgetary formula for distribution of government funding to each university. The chairman also advised the heads of universities to invest in the efficiency and transparency of university operations as well as in fundraising programs.

He announced that Higher Education Commission was preparing guidelines for a major fundraising drive for universities, which will culminate in an Education Week in December 2019. The chairman asked universities to set a target of mobilizing 20 per cent of their revenue from non-government and non-tuition sources by 2022.

Other issues discussed at the meeting included the Vice Chancellors' vision of harnessing university resources for such national objectives as the promotion of national unity, development of the knowledge economy, and the projection of the soft power of the country.

Specific actions envisaged in this regard include student and faculty exchanges between different parts of the country, admission of students across provincial boundaries, attracting foreign students as well as faculty members to Pakistan, and investing in the capacity of university faculty to undertake research on issues of national and international urgency.

They asked Higher Education Commission and the government to ensure the removal of hurdles in this regard. The Chairman apprised the gathering of the importance of resolving complaints received through the PM's Grievance Portal. “We must ensure that there are zero escalated or super-escalated complaints,” he underlined.

The Vice Chancellors also discussed other ongoing efforts, including plans to establish a National Academy for Higher Education (NAHE), targeting research programs towards concrete deliverables and problem-solving, strengthening college level education, and building upon the success of the Pakistan Education Research Network (PERN) project.

Muhammad Qasim adds: The newly elected College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) council assured the CPSP fellows that it would continue to work hard for improvement of post graduate medical education in Pakistan.

The specialist doctors, CPSP fellows have expressed a great gesture of confidence in Friends Panel in the CPSP elections held last week by electing all its candidates for CPSP council members and faculties, said elected councilor Professor Muhammad Shoaib Shafi who has been elected as Regional Director at CPSP Islamabad/Rawalpindi Chapter.

The Friends group has gained success with heavy mandate in the four yearly elections of CPSP and Professor Khalid Masood Gondal and Professor M. Shoaib Shafi have got maximum votes.

According to results Professor Zafarullah Chaudhry has been elected as President of CPSP. Professor Khalid Masood Gondal has got 3,669 votes and elected as Senior Vice President whereas Professor Shoaib has got 3,607 votes and elected as Regional Director, Rawalpindi/Islamabad.

The newly elected council members and faculties would strive hard to further improve post graduate medical education in Pakistan and to provide best training opportunities to PG trainees not only in Pakistan but also in foreign countries, said Professor Shoaib.

He said the elected members of the Council have already elected unanimously Director General International Relations to work for betterment of CPSP trainees abroad.