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June 11, 2019

40% cut in higher education funding on the cards


June 11, 2019

Islamabad: Negating its repeated claims of furthering the cause of university education in the country through better budgetary allocations, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has planned a sweeping cut to the Higher Education Commission’s funding in the next fiscal.

According to the 2019-20 federal budget’s documents to be formally unveiled in the National Assembly today (Tuesday), the funds for HEC, the autonomous and statutory institution funding and regulating higher education institutions in the country, will go down by around 39 per cent in the next financial year to Rs28.65 billion from the current Rs46.68b.

The relevant officials attribute the unprecedented higher education funding cut to the country's severe financial squeeze amid fears that the availability of fewer funds will have a negative bearing on the HEC’s new initiatives, especially the upgrading and opening of public sector universities.

Of the budgetary allocations, the lion’s share (Rs25.78b) will go to the ongoing projects and the little rest (Rs2.87b) to the new ones.

Among major allocations for the ongoing projects are Rs1.7 billion for the human resource development initiative MS leading to PhD programme of faculty development for engineering universities/UESTPs, Rs800 million for the establishment of sub-campuses of public sector universities at district level (umbrella protect), Rs800m for overseas scholarship for MS/MPhil leading to PhD in selected fields (Phase III), Rs700m for post-doctoral fellowship programme (Phase-III), Rs500 indigenous PhD fellowship for 5,000 scholars (Phase-ll), Rs520.8m for Fulbright Scholarship Support Programme (Phase-II), Rs475m for master’s leading to PhD scholarships programme (indigenous and overseas) for the students of Balochistan, Rs451.63m for the School of Dentistry, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University, Ibd, Rs360m for PAK-USAID merit and need-based scholarship programme (Phase-II), Rs350m for research facilities at University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Pattoki, Rs300m for National Center of Artificial Intelligence, Ibd, Rs300m for the strengthening of core network and expansion of PERN footprints through CPEC Optical Fiber (PERN-III), Rs265.24m for strengthening Balochistan University, Quetta, and other campuses, Rs250m for Jalozai campus of UET, Peshawar, Rs350m for Innovation Center and Software Park at UET sub-campus, Lahore, Rs500m for indigenous PhD fellowship for 5,000 scholars (Phase-ll), Rs250m for the establishment of Swat University (Phase-I), Rs250m for the establishment of Turbat University, Rs350m for Technology Development Fund for HEC scholars returning after completing PhD course to introduce new technologies application in Pakistan, Rs250m for the Institute of Space Technology, Ibd, Rs250m for National University of Medical Sciences, Rwp, and Rs230m for Fatima Jinnah Women University's Campus-II on Chakri Road, Rwp.

As for new initiatives, the development and extension of Bolan University of Health Sciences, Quetta, and establishment of new campus of National University of Technology, Ibd, will fetch the most funds i.e. Rs500m each to be followed by Rs400m for Pakistan-China National Research Centre on Earth Sciences at Quaid-i-Azam University, Ibd, Rs300m for livestock sector development through capacity building, applied research and technology transfer at University of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Lahore, and Rs289m for the uplifting of academic and infrastructure facilities at Hazara University, Mansehra.

Educationists fear higher fees due to the provision of fewer funds by the HEC to government universities, which mostly subsidise education, and say if that happens, which is unavoidable, the access of the people, especially those from lower middle and poor segments of society, will be restricted.

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