ISLAMABAD: Though compared to the past, the provincial governments have allocated maximum funds for higher education, it is not sure if they have the capacity to spend the funds.
The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) believes that it will be a test case for the provinces to spend the funds and ensure completion of the educational projects on time.
The Council of Common Interest (CCI) in May 2011 decided that higher education would be the responsibility of the federal government till the fiscal year 2014 and from July 2015 it would be handed over to the provincial governments.
Allocations for higher education have been increased by provinces
The Balochistan government has increased the allocations for higher education (colleges/universities) to Rs7,492.422 million in the 2014-15 budget from Rs4,568.652 million in 2013-14 fiscal year. The allocations for the sector are 26 per cent of the total education budget which stood at Rs28,937.226 million. The education budget for the fiscal year 2014-15 is 16 per cent above last year’s allocation.
For the first time, Rs5 billion have been set aside for the establishment of the Balochistan Education Endowment Company to increase financial support for students of universities. The provincial government has also decided to establish three new universities and 14 colleges.
According to the budget documents, the Sindh government allocated Rs134 billion for non-development expenditure of education which is 31 per cent of the total current expenditure.
The provincial government also proposed an allocation of Rs5 billion for the universities which have been facing severe financial constraints as their grants from the HEC were reduced.
In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Rs80.729 billion have been allocated for education which is 21 per cent more than the allocations in the current fiscal year. The budget for higher education, general colleges and archives and libraries has been estimated at Rs7 billion compared to last year’s Rs5 billion.
In order to strengthen higher education in the province, the Punjab government has allocated Rs24 billion for higher education against Rs22 billion in the current fiscal year.
Besides, Rs7.5 billion have been set aside for the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF), Rs2 billion for the Punjab Education Endowment Fund (PEEF) and Rs500 million for the Knowledge Park and Punjab Technology University projects.
Talking to Dawn, the head of the Centre for Civic Education, Zafarullah Khan, said that as per the NFC Award, from July 2015 the federal government may not give any funds for higher education so it is a good step that the provincial governments have allocated funds in their budgets.
“As far as the utilisation of funds is concerned, it should be through a transparent manner. Provinces have to establish Provincial Higher Education Commission. Sindh has established the commission but it became controversial because the chairman Sindh HEC, Dr Asim Hussain, is the owner of a private university. So there will be a conflict of interests if he continues,” he said.
Punjab has established a task force for the PHEC and it is in the process of forming the commission. Provinces have to ensure transparent and timely use of the funds for education, he said. Secretary general FAPUASA Dr Kaleemullah Berach stated that in the light of the 18th constitutional amendment, the federal government should allocate development funds as per the provincial share prescribed in the NFC award.
He demanded that the provincial governments should also allocate maximum funds for provincial higher education set-ups to strengthen higher education.
“As per international standards, the provincial governments should allocate 25 per cent of the total education budget for higher education. However, it will be a test case for the provincial governments if they can utilise the budgets,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014