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Monday December 06, 2021

Kuts raises concerns over HEC policies and funding system

July 21, 2020

Dr Anila Amber Malik, president of the Karachi University Teachers’ Society (Kuts), has called for changing the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan’s funding system for the state-run varsities.

Addressing a presser at Karachi University’s Arts Auditorium on Monday, she said that at present, varsities with low enrollment got more allocations, and the commission had been facing budget cuts for the last two years, resulting in financial mismanagement in varsities.

For example, she said, the Quaid-e-Azam University has 28,900 students and its given grant is Rs2,100 million, while Karachi University has a grant of Rs1,875 million despite having 46,000 students.

Malik, along with other Kuts members, raised questions over the recent budget of the Higher Education of Pakistan, no increment in salaries, the government’s intention to change the service structure of employees and complaints from university teachers.

She said the academic community was deeply concerned about media reports that the federal government intended to change the service structure of the government employees. This year, she noted, the salaries of government employees had not been raised by the federal government, while just a nominal pay rise had been given by the provincial government.

At the same time, she said, cutting down pensions or annual increments had caused great uneasiness among government employees. “It’s government responsibility to provide facilities to the people and employees. It is also beyond understanding that a bunch of aged people who are at the ages of 70, 75 and 85 are suggesting that the government employees should be considered retired at the age of fifty-five.”

The Kuts president said such ideas were dictatorial ideas that would not be accepted under any circumstances. Similarly, the proposal to increase allowances instead of giving annual increments in salaries had also been rejected by the teaching community, as it aimed to restrict the pensions of teachers and employees.

The teachers’ unions and the Federation of All Pakistan Universities’ Academic Staff Association have decided that they will start a protest if the government implements such dictatorial decisions. Also, the teachers’ unions have demanded that the financial constraint being faced by varsities must be addressed.

Malik said that on the one hand the government suggests stopping annual increments in salaries and setting a retirement age limit of 55 years, but on the other, the prime minister and the president of Pakistan had their salaries increased many times.

She also criticised the HEC’s new policies for research journals and said the newly introduced Journal Recognition System had flaws.

The system had not introduced any single Pakistani journal in the W category, and the reason was that the makers of such policies were those who did not understand the affairs of Pakistan’s universities, she remarked.

Interestingly, she said, such policymakers did not meet their own set of criteria that they wanted others to meet. She stressed the need to involve university teachers in policymaking, not consultants, she said.

Similarly, like all other universities, online classes were being conducted at Karachi University, but the role of the HEC in this regard was also unsatisfactory, she said, adding that the difficulty with which both students and teachers were conducting these classes was almost the same in all public and private universities. “Simply providing LMS does not absolve you of responsibility. It seems that online education is only for the elite class in which there is no place for ordinary students. There is no facility for students in remote areas.

“It is a different matter how much the students in the cities have to pay extra for these classes in terms of internet connection. No work was done on providing appropriate packages to the students through any internet company. University hardware and internet facilities have not been upgraded. Universities have not been given any extra money to improve their system.” The teachers’ union urged the governments and the HEC to ensure that the autonomy of universities was not compromised.