Vice chancellors (VCs) of public sector universities have expressed concern over the non-availability of funds for the fourth quarter the current fiscal, meant to be released to the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
The HEC was brought under the control of the Ministry of Professional and Technical Training last week, sparking concern among HEC officials as well as the VCs of public sector universities.
A special meeting of the VCs, presided by Vice Chancellors’ Committee Chairperson Engr Imtiaz Hussain Gilani, was held in Islamabad late Tuesday to discuss the challenges being faced by the higher education sector in the country.
The federal government has allocated Rs15.8 billion for the development of higher education in the proposed Public Service Development Programme for fiscal 2012-13, against Rs14 billion allocated last year. However, throughout the past year, the HEC suffered since funds were not released on time.
A vice chancellor who attended the meeting said on the condition of anonymity that the heads of the institutions expressed their dismay over the government’s move to cease the autonomous status of the HEC by bringing it under a ministry. They feared that the move would seriously affect the performance of the HEC due to bureaucratic hurdles.
The VCs also expressed concern over the pending funds of financial year 2011-12. The remaining recurring budget of Rs4.6 billion would cater to the 50% increase in salaries that was announced by Prime Minster Yousaf Raza Gilani for this financial year. In this regard, the Finance division has issued a letter to the HEC saying that the federal government would provide the additional funds to universities during the fourth quarter.
The VCs noted that due to the unavailability of the allocated funds, the universities have incurred huge liabilities; have borrowed from banks and diverted funds from other budget heads to pay salaries at the enhanced rate. Furthermore, it was also discussed during the meeting that thousands of scholars pursuing PhDs abroad would be adversely affected as a result of the non-release of development funds amounting to Rs6.8 billion for the last quarter of this financial year.
The VCs noted that non-release of development funds will also adversely affect the ongoing development projects especially in the newly set up and rural-based universities established in far-flung areas of Pakistan.
The vice chancellors also said that the provincial governments have refused to extend financial support to the universities as they consider it a responsibility of the federal government.
Allocation for HEC under PSDP 2012-13
The Planning Commission proposed Rs1.4 billion for the Overseas Scholarship Scheme (OSS), for Master of Science (MS) and MPhil students to pursue PhD degrees in selected fields (Phase II), while the estimated cost was Rs14.5 billion.
Another Rs625 million has been earmarked for the PhD fellowship programme for 5,000 scholarship-based students.
According to new allocations, the OSS will also be granted Rs155 million for students who wish to study abroad, while Rs28.7 million will be allocated for MS and MPhil students to pursue PhDs at local universities.
However, only Rs5 million was generated for the Fulbright Scholarship Programme, co-funded by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the United States Agency for International Development, while the total estimated cost of HEC’s share in the project was Rs2.72 billion for the last fiscal.
For 2012-13, the Planning Commission has proposed Rs70 million for 1,000 Cuban Scholarships for Studies in General Comprehensive Medicine. The total estimated cost of the project was Rs978 million, whereas Rs659 million have been spent up to June 2012.
The commission also proposed Rs9 million in financial support for merit-based and poor students to study at top public and private institutions at undergraduate and graduate levels.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2012.