VCs lament financial plight of varsities

UAF observes ‘black day’, protest walk with faculty members

Khawar Randhawa May 30, 2024
Varsity teachers protest. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE


A vice chancellors' committee has warned that the government’s plan to cut the HEC budget to Rs25 billion for the year 2024-24 Rs65 billion allocated in the previous financial year will jeopardise the future of students, as the universities are already suffering a shortfall of Rs60 billion.

Chairing an online meeting, Dr Iqrar Ahmed Khan expressed apprehension that the already financially strapped universities will not be able to survive if the federal government ceases to extend required funds.

The VCs of different universities said the provincial governments should contribute to the universities’ finances, but the federal authorities must also continue extending support to them. They said adequate budgetary allocation to higher education is a matter of national interest.

HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed and Executive Director Dr Ziaul Qayyum said the commission would take up the issue with the finance ministry.

In response to severe budget cuts by the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF), and several other universities are observing a "Black Day" today, following a call from the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA).

The move comes after reports surfaced of a significant reduction in funding for higher education institutions in the Fiscal Year 2024-25 budget. The Vice Chancellors' Committee, led by Dr. Iqrar Ahmed Khan, Chairman of the Committee and Vice Chancellor of UAF, convened an emergency online meeting to address the alarming situation.

During the meeting, attended by Vice Chancellors and Rectors from all public sector universities, concerns were raised about the adverse effects of the proposed budget cuts on the future of higher education in Pakistan.

Dr Iqrar Ahmed Khan stressed that slashing the HEC's recurring budget to Rs25 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, down from Rs65 billion in the previous year, would severely impact the functioning of universities already grappling with a Rs60 billion shortfall.

Dr Khan warned that such drastic measures could potentially lead to the closure of public sector universities, putting the educational aspirations of Pakistani youth in jeopardy. He urged the government to prioritise higher education as part of its "Education Emergency" initiative, emphasising the crucial role universities play in national development and integration.

Echoing Dr Khan's sentiments, vice chancellors from various universities emphasized the need for continued financial support from both federal and provincial governments.

They underscored that adequate budgetary allocation to higher education is essential for safeguarding the future of students and ensuring the smooth operation of universities.

Recognising the pivotal role played by the HEC in advancing higher education nationwide, university leaders condemned any attempt to undermine its effectiveness through budget cuts.

They emphasised that sustained financial assistance is imperative for the survival and growth of universities, as they strive to provide quality education and infrastructure to students across the country.

In response to the crisis, Chairman HEC Dr Mukhtar Ahmed and Executive Director HEC Dr Ziaul Qayyum assured the university community that HEC would actively engage with the Finance Ministry to advocate for a reconsideration of the budgetary allocations.

Meanwhile, UAF administration has called for a protest walk, with faculty members from various departments rallying from the Department of Animal Husbandry to the Iqbal Auditorium, symbolizing solidarity against the proposed cuts. Additionally, all academic staff association members have been instructed to wear black ribbons on their arms as a mark of protest.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2024.


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