In a major bailout package, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Wednesday released Rs15 million to the University of Balochistan, Quetta.
This, according to the HEC, was in addition to a recurring grant of Rs20 million that was released to the university in November owing to its ongoing financial crisis.
The teaching and non-teaching staff of the university had been holding demonstrations in front of the main gate of the campus for three weeks before finally taking to streets on Tuesday with begging bowls in their hands.
The commission also released Rs 10 million to the Lasbela University of Agriculture, Water and Marine Sciences and Rs4 million to Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology, Khuzdar in the previous month.
Teachers at Gomal University had also staged similar protests in September against non-payment of salaries for six consecutive months.
All this is taking place while the government still has yet to release Rs1.91 billion to the HEC from the last fiscal year. During a Vice Chancellors’ Committee Meeting in Islamabad a few days back, HEC Executive Director Dr Mukhtar Ahmed pointed out the financial mismanagement at universities that had led to the funding problems.
The ED also talked about how universities were mishandling financial matters by appointing people unfamiliar with finance as treasurers. He urged the VCs to avoid excessive use of leave encashment facilities, advance increments and house requisition. “This inflates the HEC budget and puts the government in trouble as well,” he added.
Besides, HEC sources said NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi was also facing a financial crisis and is on the HEC watch list of universities needing a bailout. The varsity had taken a bank loan of Rs 2 billion and has yet to pay Rs 1.5 billion back, apart from the hefty sum of Rs 80 million in accrued interest.
Commenting on the issue, Ahmad said he will be visiting Balochistan soon to assess the financial crisis along with the HEC chairperson and added that the problem was made complex by the fact that extra non-teaching staff was hired.
HEC chief Imtiaz Hussain Gillani is also scheduled to meet Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai next week to discuss matters related to higher education and financial problems being faced by universities in the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2013.