‘More money for Generals but Funding for Universities Faces Cuts’

The federal government has cut its allocation for higher education in the latest budget proposal but there appears to be no desire to pare the defense budget. The federal government “drastically reduced funding for the HEC this year, with overall cuts amounting to Rs18 billion, although Rs13 billion have been allocated for ‘knowledge economy’.” According to a news story “in the ongoing financial year 2018-19, the federal government had allocated Rs45 billion for the HEC’s non-development budget, but later cut that to Rs37 billion.” Investment in people and education are what make or break a society. The recent funding cuts show that what Pakistan’s establishment cares about is solely money for itself – the military – and not for the average Pakistani.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) recently announced that it would stop funding any new public universities. According to HEC Chairman Dr Banuri “no funding will be provided to the new universities. He said that money is tight to fund the operations of existing universities, which makes it even harder to set aside funds for new ones.” According to HEC Chairman Dr Banuri “the federal government did not release the full amount. He said that only Rs18 billion was actually given to the commission, while the remaining budget was not released due to the state of the national economy. In reply to a question, he said the HEC had demanded Rs103 billion from the federal government for recurring grants to public universities, but only Rs59 billion has been marked for the non-development grant. “We have asked the VCs of public universities to increase fees to fill the budget deficit while also banning new hiring,” he said.”

Many Vice chancellors across the country have spoken out against this. “Sufism University VC Dr Perveen Munshi said that although the HEC has issued an NOC for admissions, it gave no grant, while the provincial government has allocated Rs1 billion. Dr Munshi, who is also looking after the affairs of Begum Nusrat Bhutto University, was critical of this move by the HEC, saying that old universities are provided billions of rupees, which leaves no budget for the new universities. Government College University Hyderabad Acting VC Dr Nasiruddin Sheikh also confirmed to The Express Tribune that no funds had been allocated by the HEC or the provincial government for the upcoming fiscal year. He said he had tried to meet the Sindh chief minister to discuss the issue, and had discussed it with the Universities and Boards secretary, but the meetings were fruitless.”

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