Sindh’s struggling varsities yearn for funding

VCs write to CM, federal finance minister, seeking budget increase


Safdar Rizvi May 19, 2021

KARACHI:

For the first time, vice chancellors of Sindh's public varsities have joined forces to pinpoint the massive financial crisis faced by their institutions.

In separate letters to Federal Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, they outline budget deductions over the last two fiscal years. The VCs highlight rising expenditures and demand an immediate increase to maintain/run the varsities.

Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood is addressed in the letter sent to Tareen. A copy has also been dispatched to the Higher Education Commission in Islamabad, the federal finance secretary and the federal HEC secretary. In addition, a copy has also been sent to Sindh Higher Education Commission Chairperson Dr Asim Hussain, additional chief secretary, universities, their boards, and the provincial finance secretary.

Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam Vice Chancellor Dr Fateh Marri has called an online meeting of the vice chancellors and has prepared the content of letters on behalf of the VCs

In the letter, attention has been drawn to the financial crisis faced by public sector varsities countrywide, and, more specifically, those in Sindh. The VCs say that the financial constraints are impacting the quality of education and creating chaos among academia, students and researchers.

The federal government had earmarked a Rs64 billion budget for higher education in the ongoing fiscal year-Rs1 billion less than the previous year.

Read: Sindh HEC yet to get control of public varsities

The HEC and finance division had estimated Rs103 billion as fiscal needs for varsities in the financial year 2019-20. The situation is preventing some of Sindh's varsities from paying salaries and pensions to their employees.

The federal government plans to increase salaries and pensions by 15 to 20 per cent in the new budget, the letters read. On the other hand, they added, news related to the stagnant HEC budget are also doing the rounds. As a result, varsities are facing up to a 30 per cent financial deficit which will increase to 50 per cent in future.

Highlighting the fiscal position of Sindh's varsities, the letter maintained that the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan had assessed that 17 public varsities of Sindh spend an annual Rs31 billion. However, they have been provided a meager Rs7.83 billion by the HEC. |

At the same time, the varsities generate Rs12 billion through their income, while the Sindh government provides Rs5 billion.

Moreover, the government had increased pensions and salaries by 10 per cent in the past two fiscal years. This has caused severe financial losses to the 17 varsities in question.

The letter mentions that the newly-built Begum Nusrat Bhutto (BNB) Women University, Sukkur, Sheikh Ayaz University, Shikarpur, Shaheed Allah Soomro Bux University of Arts and Design, Jamshoro, University of Sufism and Modern Sciences, Bhit Shah, Government College University, Hyderabad, are not among the 17 institutions.

The letter stresses that the Rs7.83 billion budget earmarked for Sindh's varsities should be increased to Rs15 billion. Moreover, considering the National Finance Commission Award pattern, the grant for the varsities should be Rs16 billion in the province, it reads. The VCs also requested the CM Sindh to arrange a meeting in this regard.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2021.

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