Islamabad, Jun 17: The Vice Chancellors of public sector universities have urged the Federal and Provincial governments to enhance the recurring budget for universities. They have shown serious concern over almost zero increase in the recurring budget for higher education sector as compared to the last year.
The Vice Chancellors and Rectors of public universities, who joined an online meeting from across the country on Saturday, emphasized that the financial problems of universities will further aggravate owing to increase in student enrolment and swiftly rising inflation. They stressed that it is almost impossible for universities to adjust 30-35 percent raise in salaries and 17 percent raise in pensions, as the higher education institutions are already in dire straits as far as financial needs are concerned.
Dr. Iqrar Ahmed Khan, Vice Chancellor, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF) chaired the meeting. Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman HEC also attended the meeting. Vice chancellors from all regions including Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Punjab described how the financial problems of their institutions have made it difficult for them to not only manage the day-to-day affairs but has also severely damaged the efforts to ensure quality of education and research.
University heads from Balochistan explained how the financial crunch during the last financial year forced them to close the universities as they did not have enough money to pay salaries to their employees. Vice Chancellors from universities in Sindh appreciated the provincial government for raise in budget as compared to the last year, however, they added that much more resources are required to run the universities as the ever-increasing inflation has made it difficult to manage even the basic expenditure.
University heads from all regions agreed that they will reach out to the respective provincial governments as well as the federal government for addressing the serious nature of ongoing and upcoming financial woes of public sector universities. They also agreed on developing a mechanism to address the challenges of financial mismanagement in the higher education sector, which has also contributed to universities’ financial problems.
Dr. Iqrar Ahmed Khan, while appreciating Federal Minister Khawaja Asif for correcting his remarks about the vice chancellors, stressed that a lot needs to be done to improve the governance in majority of our higher education institutions. “Though we strongly believe that such a sweeping statement from a Federal Minister was uncalled for, we ought to identify the problems of mismanagement and poor governance in our sector and fix those issues as soon as possible.”
Addressing the meeting, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed appreciated the Federal Government for a handsome increase in the development budget for higher education, however, he emphasized that both federal and provincial governments should increase the share of recurring grants for the universities. “We understand the current financial situation of the country and the way federal and provincial governments have to deal with this, still we believe that a closer look at the ever-increasing challenges of higher education sector will convince our leadership to increase share of the higher education sector.”
The Chairman also highlighted the critical situation of financial mismanagement and governance issues in majority of the public sector universities. “We have to admit that unless we put our own house in order and bring the much-needed reforms to improve the governance system of universities and strengthen fiscal management, enhancing budget will not properly address our concerns and ultimately quality of our higher education will deteriorate.”
The Chairman said that he has also requested the provincial governments not to open new universities and campuses unless there is a solid plan for their financial sustainability. He also mentioned that issues highlighted regarding accreditation bodies will also be addressed.