The government remained noncommittal about meeting public universities’ demand of an additional Rs8 billion and urged universities to generate their own funds.
Vice-chancellors of 10 public sector universities met Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Friday to push their demand for an extra Rs8 billion. This is over and above the allocated budget of Rs26.8 billion for recurring expenses for the current financial year.
The additional grant has been sought to cater for the 50% increase in salaries announced last year and 15 per cent rise announced this year by the government, said the Higher Education Commission.
“The government has asked heads of universities to justify their demand,” said a finance ministry official who attended the meeting.
The federal government is facing fiscal problems due to declining revenues and increasing expenses. Although it has allocated Rs290 billion for public sector development programmes, so far only Rs71 billion have been released. The latest HEC demand is for current expenditure and the government is already under pressure to reduce non-development expenses.
HEC’s Executive Director Sohail Naqvi said the commission justified their demand at a meeting on Thursday. He added that soon another meeting will be held between representatives of the finance ministry and the HEC to sort out the issue.
Last year, public universities had protested when the government refused to meet a similar demand. The federal government has been asking the universities to search alternative avenues for financing.
Under the 18th amendment to the constitution, the subject of education has been devolved to the provinces. However, faced by immense criticism and pressure, the government had decided
to retain the HEC at the federal level.
Naqvi said the finance minister assured the delegation that the federal government is responsible for higher education, adding that universities have started exploring alternative means for funds.
Universities have been suggested to increase tuition fee and initiate research programmes to raise funds.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2011.