The Vice Chancellors of public sector universities on Thursday showed serious concerns and strong dismay over drastic cut in the higher education budget for the fiscal year 2022-23, expressing apprehension that the cut would make it impossible for universities to pay salaries and pensions let alone meeting the overall expenses needed to run a university.
The Ministry of Finance has communicated IBC (Indicative Budget Ceilings) of only 30 billion rupees for higher education’s recurring grant against the rationalized demand of Rs. 104.983 billion. The allocation is 45 per cent less even than the current year’s allocation (FY 2021-22) that was Rs. 66.25 billion.
Over 120 heads of public sector universities, who attended a virtual meeting from across the country, were unanimous in lamenting the Government’s decision for the unprecedented cut in the universities’ budget and urged the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and the Minister for Education to urgently look into the matter and enhance the budget as per rationalized demand, to avoid subversion of long-term socio-economic goals of the country, and save the higher education sector from total chaos and collapse.
They said that the rationalized demand was submitted following a rigorous review and assessment process of the requirement of 100 existing universities, 49 Research Centres/Institutes and 18 new Universities (eligible for funding) by a joint Assessment Committee of HEC and Ministry of Finance.
Addressing the meeting, Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri emphasized, “it must be realized that education is as much important as the country’s defense and security.” He expressed his apprehension that the budget cut, if materialized, would land the higher education sector in a severe crisis.
He stressed the need for collectively and clearly making out a case to the government about the loss and consequences of unprecedented reduction in higher education funding.
Executive Director HEC Dr. Shaista Sohail underlined the challenges of the higher education sector, especially in the face of the proposed budgetary cut.
She regretted that the recurring grant allocated to HEC since FY 2017-18 has almost been stagnant and its share as percentage of GDP kept on declining to the level of 0.14% in the current fiscal year.
She highlighted that the higher education sector has witnessed a tremendous growth during last five years through establishment of number of new universities/HEIs by the federal/provincial governments, while the students’ enrolment has also remarkably increased.