The Punjab University has decided to increase the registration and examination fees for external candidates by 10 per cent to overcome a financial crisis caused by a cut in the Higher Education Commission's (HEC) funding by the government in the annual budget.
According to university sources, the large public sector higher education institutions in the province are contemplating a fee hike to run the academic affairs after the reduction in HEC funding.
On the other hand, the students who mostly opt for appearing in exams as private candidates because of financial constraints complained that the decision would increase their hardship during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Punjab University recently announced fee relaxation for its regular students, but the likely reduction in funds from the HEC has forced it to increase the charges for external candidates.
The PU is the biggest university of the province and thousands of candidates appear in its bachelors and masters examinations every year.
Thousands of youth in the province who cannot afford to get admission in the university due to financial and other constraints register as private candidates to continue their education.
A large number of girls from poor families in villages and remote areas of Punjab are among the private students of the university.
A university official told The Express Tribune that the decision to increase the fees for external candidates was likely to be implemented this year.
"The university is in a financial crisis as it announced relaxation for its regular students and now we have to maintain our academic services, so the private candidates have to give sacrifice. Beside the increase in the fee, overtime, lunch and other allowances for teachers during exams from the university funds may be stopped.”
The official said the university was struggling to cope with the financial crisis and for this purpose the sports festival fee and agricultural land rent would also be increased and scholarship hostel could be affected. “The HEC's grant is not enough for the university so it has decided to generate money through various steps,” said the official.
The university’s PRO Khurram Shahzad said, “Punjab University provided relaxation in fee to its regular students and here is a suggestion to increase by 10% the fee for private candidates. The PU is providing the best arrangements and facilities to the private students during exams. Beside this the cost of paper has also increased, while payment to examiners and checkers was also increased in the past. This is the reason for an increase in fee for external candidates.”
On the other hand, PU teachers and students are terming the move as anti-education.
"We are the biggest university and if we are taking the decision then surely other smaller institutions will also follow us and this is a disappointing situation. Soon other universities will also increase the fee and will become beyond the reach of students poor background,” said a senior administrative official of the PU.
The HEC had sought Rs104 billion in the budget and the government had promised Rs79 billions but it allocated Rs64 billion.
University teachers unions have also expressed concern over the reduction in funds.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2020.