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Cuts in HEC grants hottest issue in '08

HEC grant cuts Lahore, Dec: The cuts in grants of Higher Education Commission (HEC) and public sector universities by the government in the wake of global financial crisis remained the hottest academic debate in 2008.
The shortage of funds compelled vice chancellors (VCs) of various universities to publicly demand the government support the institutions of higher learning on the plea that academic and research projects were being adversely affected.

Nevertheless owing to cuts in funding, the commission had to withhold various scholarships of students who were all set to proceed abroad to pursue academic endeavours at international universities.

At present, the HEC has withheld all new scholarships while new projects of universities are not being considered.

According to sources in the HEC, the government has released only 20 per cent of the development grants during this year. They further said a cut of Rs 3.2 billion was made which added to the problems of the universities.

It is generally believed that resignation of Dr Atta-ur-Rehman from chairmanship of the HEC is also linked to poor funding of universities from the government.

The June 2008 was considered quite decisive in connection with private universities and higher education institutions (HEIs) which did not meet the minimum criteria as it was announced that all such institutes would be closed down.

Surprisingly, not a single university or HEIs was closed down, as almost all institutes strived hard to meet the minimum criteria laid down by the federal cabinet.

It is pertinent to mention here that a couple of years ago the HEC had launched a campaign against substandard universities and HEIs and, in this connection, it had even published "Parents Alert" advertisement in national newspapers.

In Punjab, however, the government took a number of initiatives to streamline the education sector. Besides increase in budget and recruitment of teachers, the government expressed its will to address maximum issues related to the uplift of education sector.

An amount of Rs five billion has been allocated for establishment of computer labs in over 4,000 schools while another initiative to turn selected schools at tehsil level into centres of excellence is also in progress in the province. Another unique initiative about provision of bus service to students of the government schools is being discussed these days.

The Punjab government has also decided to do away with the external monitoring of government schools which is evident from the fact that the district tier of the school administration has been asked to be more active than previous years. The Executive District Officers (EDOs) Education have been asked to engage the officials of their offices in the monitoring process.

The year 2008 also witnessed government's firm commitment to the provision of quality education for which the Punjab School Education Department took disciplinary actions against heads of schools who produced poor results in matriculation examinations. A number of teachers were dismissed from services in this regard. Another good initiative was taken by the government during the current year in speech and declamation contests among students, both from public and private sector schools. An amount of Rs 140 million has been allocated for the programme in which students from primary to higher education level are participating from across the province.

Like many other departments, the government in 2008 kicked out dozens of reemployed officials from School Education and Higher Education Departments and its attached wings and autonomous bodies. However, the government failed to take notice of officials who had been sticking to lucrative posts in different wings and autonomous bodies of these departments despite availing extension in deputation tenure twice.

The stakeholders have been criticising the government for its inability to take action against such officials since the prolonged stays do affect promotions of other officials.

Another important side ignored by the Punjab government is related to private sector's educational institutions. The previous government had made tall claims of evolving a regulatory body for private schools besides amending the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) Ordinance, 1984 but to no avail. No significant progress by the incumbent government was witnessed in this connection during the year 2008.

Like previous years, a number of cases like collection of three months' advance fee ahead of annual summer vacation and collection of other unnecessary charges were reported because of absence of any regularity authority.

A little improvement was witnessed in the provision of free textbooks to the students of public sector schools this year too. A number of cases were reported from different areas of the province according to which books were received quite late by the students which hampered the academic activities.

The entry test system for admission to medical colleges and engineering universities also drew criticism and huge attention of the public. The government earlier expressed its will to revert to open merit policy however later it was decided admissions to such institutes would be made on the basis of entry test system.

On the other hand, entry test based admissions to institutions of higher learning offering general education witnessed a considerable change. Most of the universities, including the Punjab University, Government College University and Lahore College for Women University (LCWU), did not adopt the National Testing Service (NTS) aptitude test for admission and preferred open merit policy.

Among institutes of higher learning, the Punjab University (PU) remained centre of attention where administration under the leadership of a teacher-Vice Chancellor was firm to flush out a particular student group which had been running a "parallel" administration over the years.

A number of incidents of violence was reported from PU during the year 2008 in which a number of students were injured.

Committee formed to review HEC projects
Islamabad, Dec 24: Government has set up a four-member Cabinet Committee to review all Higher Education Commission (HEC) projects including the establishment of Pak-China University.

The Committee includes Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Finance, Economic Affairs & Revenue Hina Rabbani Khar, Special Assistant to PM on Social Sector Shehnaz Wazir Ali, former deputy chairman Planning Commission M Salman Farooqi and Education Secretary Jehangir Bashir, an HEC official told this agency here Tuesday.

The projects have not been shelved but would be executed after the availability of funds, he added.

He said priority would be given to those 7,000 students who are already availing scholarships. "Half of these students are studying in different universities of the country, while the remaining are pursuing their educational careers abroad," he added.

The government has decided to set up engineering and science & technology universities in the country whose rectors and all faculty members would be foreigners. Agreements have been signed with Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Japan, China and South Korea in this regard. The News

Your Comments
"i am one of 303 students, our scholarship for OSS Phase II Batch II (90% programs) is on hold due to budget cut. Government must take quick decision, because we student have invested 2 year time and lot of money in process to fulfill requirement of HEC, foreign universities and embassies."
City, Country: Islamabad, Pakistan

"India is progressing rapidly in the field of science and technology by setting up hundreds of universities and expanding a huge network of IIT in the country while exporting humane resource to Europe and America in the form of scientists and engineers which are now influencing the policies of these countries. Whereas, Pakistan is still exporting illiterate humane resource to these countries. Pakistanis are unable to defend country abroad simply because it is a matter of competition between educated indians and illetrate pakistani labour force. Unfortunately, A few months ago, landlords like "ishaq khakwani", "Faryal Talpur", "Azra Fazal Pechohu" were barking over a person who worked marvellously for higher education and provided basic R&D facilities in universities in order to develop a technological base of country. Mr. Atta will be remembered for long time in the history of this unfortunate nation for his tangible achievements in the field of higher education. He was one who served HEC for 8 years without getting any salary (Reference: See Q&As of 7th and 8th session 2008 of National Assembly). Shame on you, Mr Khakwani and other accompanying landlords. You have an evil mentality. It is unfortunate for the nation that illiterate landlords are now going to decide the future of higher education in Pakistan. Personally, I am not astonished over this decision as it is a direct outcome of the propaganda staged against HEC a few months ago. Off-course, politics of these landlords will flourish only if the people remain illiterate."
Name: Ahmad
City, Country: D. G. Khan, Pakistan

"Government should also have sympathetic look at awardees hanged in middle. There are lot of students those have resigned from their jobs or left existing offshore studies and are waiting for visa and commencement of classes. Specially awardees of Phase II, batch III."
Name: Muhammad Akram
City, Country: Lahore, Pakistan

"PPP Govt should revise its policy on HEC & cuts on Running funding."
Name: Rashid
City, Country: karachi, Pakistan

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