40 universities face risk of closure as no funds given
Islamabad, June 05: Financial difficulties and non-approval of development projects have left around 40 new universities, opened across the country during last five years, face the risk of closure.
The previous government had not only cut the budgetary allocation for higher education but also rejected 95 per cent development projects presented by these institutions.
According to official data available with The News, around 72 public sector universities requested allocations for 350 development projects but the PPP-led government turned down 334 such requests, approving only 16 projects.
Most of the projects related to infrastructure development, improving the existing facilities, establishment of labs and new university campuses and purchase of research equipment but the former government only let 4.6 per cent of these projects to see the light of day. According to sources in the higher education, the situation is gloomier on recurrent side of the budget as the universities are also not provided funds for their regular expenses and salaries. Most of the universities are facing huge difficulties in paying their staff, they added.
The situation has badly affected the newly established universities and campuses in some remote areas of the country such Swat, Dir, Mansehra, Gilgit, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar, Shikarpur, Turbat and Lora Lai.
"The risk is serious, if our development projects are not approved we will face closure as we don't have the means to survive on our own," Dr Jehanzeb Khan, vice chancellor of the newly established Swat University said. He said the university is awaiting approval of allocation for its new building as it is currently operating from a rented building since its inception in 2010.
"We are facing a deficit of Rs570 million and we don't even have budget to pay full salaries to our staff," Dr Jehanzeb said adding that the university needs the latest facilities to impart quality education but lack of funds have made it extremely difficult.
Pakistan is already struggling to improve its access to higher education ratio, which currently stands at 8% as compared to 18% in neighbouring India and 12% in Bangladesh not to mention 37% access to higher education rate in Malaysia, 39% in Turkey and 98% in South Korea.
When contacted, Chairman HEC Dr Javaid Leghari also confirmed the financial problems faced by around 40 new universities in various remote areas of Pakistan. He said most of the new universities are in rural areas and their closure would mean that the students of these areas are left with no access to higher education.
He lamented lack of seriousness on part of the previous government in developing higher education in the country.
"Unfortunately, education had been among the lowest priority areas for the previous government," he said adding that the two former prime ministers never sought a briefing from HEC chief despite being the controller of the commission.
He said one ex-PM invited him for dinner at his residence and directed him to reallocate the HEC budget for PPP dominated constituencies. "I refused to do the same," Leghari said.The Supreme Court was told last month that former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had re-allocated billions of rupees meant for HEC for development of road projects in his constituency.
According to official figures available with The News, the previous government also curtailed the release of HEC's allocated PSDP budget by 50 per cent in the financial year 2009-10. Not a single development project was approved by the Planning Commission of Pakistan during the year. The government allocated Rs87.08 billion for higher education during 2007 to 2012 but only released Rs66.94 billion. A shortfall of Rs20.14b was too big for Pakistan's already neglected sector.According to UN standards, the budget for higher education should not be less than one-fourth of the total budget but in Pakistan it is less than one-tenth, said an HEC official. The news
Peshawar University to end BS programme evening shift
Peshawar: The University of Peshawar will discontinue its four-year BS programme (evening shift) from the next academic session as it is going into loss.
Ironically, the evening shift of the four-year bachelor degree BS programme was launched by University of Peshawar (UoP) in 2009 to generate revenue.
UoP Vice-chancellor Dr Rasul Jan said that BS programme (second shift) didn't prove to be financially viable and would be discontinued from September this year.
Talking about the financial problems faced by one of the oldest universities of the province, he said that some decisions taken during the last few years to generate finances for UoP created a 'mess'. "Universities are not supposed to be money-making institutions," he added.
Dr Jan said that he wanted to improve ranking of UoP nationally by taking measures to focus on quality instead of quantity in education. The teachers, who taught in the morning classes, also attended evening classes. They were overburdened and stressed and did not have any time to conduct research and publish articles and papers, he added.
"Papers and publications is what improve the ranking of a university," said the vice-chancellor, who rephrased his vision for UoP saying, "either publish or perish."
"We need to improve the quality of education by producing more PhDs," he said. Currently, out of 680 teachers, only 220 have PhD degrees while about 340 are presently enrolled for PhD programme at the university.
Dr Jan was of the view that evening classes were not beneficial for the students since infrastructure like laboratories were not enough and students did not learn the way they should. There was also no hostel facility for the evening students although they paid high fees, he added.
About 2,200 students are enrolled at 43 departments and institutes of UoP. The BS programme students in the morning pay normal fee of Rs18,000 per annum whereas the students of second shift are charged Rs45,000 for science classes and Rs35,000 for arts.
On the other hand, UoP spends about Rs72,000 per year on one student under this programme in the second shift. The BS programme (second shift) is also different from the initially conceived one as the university is supposed to hire teacher for it but instead those teachers, who teach in the morning shift, are attending classes in the second shift on honoraria per class. The lecturers are paid Rs590 per class, assistant professor Rs700 and professors are paid Rs1000 per class in the evening shift.
However, Dr Jan said that despite financial and management challenges, he would not raise fee for the students. In the past UoP had raised fees of even its constituent colleges and schools to overcome financial losses but Dr Jan has a different approach to the issue.
Without making anyone angry, the vice-chancellor was confident that he would be able to manage the huge human resource at the university that often drag duties for long hours to claim 'over-time' unnecessarily. He said that some of the perks and privileges, which were given unnecessarily to the university employees, would be managed in a manner that it would stop waste of finances.
"I am going to cut expenses in some unimportant areas and divert the same to research and improvement of quality of education," Dr Jan said.
Although 20 universities were providing higher education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in public sector, UoP was still the top priority of the students from all over the province, he claimed. Presently, the number of students enrolled at UoP is around 14,000.
Dr Jan, who has been working at University of Peshawar since 1985 opted to become vice-chancellor of University of Malakand in 2008, claims to be well aware of the ailments that have stunted the growth of UoP in the field of research.
Ranked nationally between 8-13 on Pakistan Council of Science and Technology's list of chemists, he believes that UoP has all the potential to acquire a better position in national and international ranking if the quality of education and research is improved. Dawn