HEC proposes new service structure for public universities

'Contributory Pension Fund' to be established and regular post of lecturers to be abolished to reduce expenditure

Safdar Rizvi May 23, 2024


Financial issues have been plaguing the public higher education sector since as long as one can remember, with many universities consistently struggling to fulfil the payment of salaries, maintenance of administrative affairs, and upkeep of research and development activities. Now, in light of the recent imposition of an education emergency in the country, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has finally decided to review the failing service structure in place at public institutions in the province, proposing in the meanwhile crucial changes to the older pension and hiring policy.

The advisory committee, under the chairmanship of former Vice Chancellor of Haripur University and Consultant of HEC Islamabad, Dr Anwar Al Hasan Gilani, comprised of officers and vice-chancellors from several government universities, and during its discussion proposed on behalf of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), a new service structure under which the 'Contributory Pension Fund' was to be established and the regular post of lecturers was to be abolished in the hopes of reducing the superfluous expenditures overburdening the academic sector. The above proposals of the committee are being submitted to the HEC for approval in consultation with the Federal Finance Department, after which they will be handed over to the universities.

"We are taking all such proposals to the Finance Division for final consultation, after which they will be sent to the Commission. As per a conservative estimate, public universities are currently spending about 40 per cent of the annual non-developmental grant of Rs65 billion on the payment of pensions. This is because they have not been able to set up their own contributory pension funds," revealed Chairman of the Federal Higher Education Commission, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed.

It is believed that the newly proposed 'Contributory Pension Fund' will operate similar to the provident fund and its allocation will be deducted from the employees' monthly salaries.

It should be noted that most of the country's universities, including those in Sindh, do not have a pension fund and these universities generally pay the pensions of thousands of employees from the non-developmental grant received through HEC. Even though, NED University has a pension fund of its own, which reduces the financial strain on the institution, other universities in Sindh, like the University of Karachi, and FUUAST have no such arrangements in place and are spending massive chunks of their monthly allocations on the payment of pensions, with the former dedicating Rs135 million, out of its Rs400 million grant on pensions and the latter directing Rs34 million out of its Rs200 million monthly non-developmental grant for the same.

Moreover, according to the recommendations of this committee, in order to further reduce the financial burden on public institutions, the regular teaching cadre in the universities will now start from assistant professor instead of lecturer and junior positions will be on a contract basis keeping the market situation in consideration. Moreover, teaching excellence will be judged on research output, teaching load, research grants and supervision of graduate students, and now senior faculty will also have to increase their contribution in terms of teaching load.

On a concluding note, Chairman HEC made it clear that the federal government was not stopping the provision of grants to provincial universities. "We have asked the finance division for Rs125 billion for the 2024/25 annual budget, but there is no word yet on the amount to be sanctioned in the budget. The annual budget of public universities has not increased during the past six years, while the salaries have increased by 135 per cent," claimed Dr Ahmed, while speaking to the Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2024.


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