Lack of funds: Public sector universities face crunch

Institutions forced into austerity after HEC’s reduction in the release of funding.

Shamsul Islam August 08, 2011

FAISALABAD: Universities and colleges across the public sector have been facing a serious financial crisis in the wake of reduced funding releases from the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

Many institutions are covering up the previous year’s deficit in addition to meeting increments in salaries, pensions, utility bills of the current year.

“None of the public sector universities possesses the additional funds to support the rise in salaries,” University of Agriculture Vice Chancellor Dr Professor Iqrar Ahmad, told The Express Tribune.

According to the HEC sources, at present in public sector, there are 35 universities besides 14 institutes and six degree-awarding centres which are mainly funded by the HEC. And currently, there is not a single university or institution which is financially stable to run its affairs independently, they said.

Sources pointed out that the public sector universities and institutes were charging far lower tuition fees from students than their private sector counterparts.

Public sector universities and institutions have huge campuses which require significant resources and none of them are financially capable to meet their expenses, sources added.

Despite the recent devolution of financial resources and powers to provinces from the federal level, in accordance with the 18th Amendment, public sector universities as well as their attached institutes and study centres still financially depended heavily on the grants released by the federal government to the HEC.

Sources further revealed that the expenditure of universities and institutes beginning in fiscal year 2011, are facing severe financial austerity because of HEC’s failure to recoup the impact of increase in salaries. The financial situation in these universities was further aggravated when the HEC further reduced its grants during the current financial year which can be judged from the fact that as opposed to last year, grants for general universities has been reduced by 10.43%, agriculture universities by 8.48%, engineering universities 8.63%, medical universities 29.74%, degree-awarding institutes by 13.77% and others by 5.72% while the overall decrease in the release of funds is stated to be at 10.56%.

The HEC, however, defended its reduction in the release of funds, adding that the overall budget allocations by the federal government had gone down by more than 20% – a reduction far more than the one passed on to the universities.

The HEC had demanded Rs31 billion for meeting its operational expenses, sources revealed. But the government approved only Rs24 billion — one of the main reasons for the financial crisis.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.

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