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ISLAMABAD: Like last year, the major share of the development budget for higher education has been allocated to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and federal universities while 43pc of the development funds have been allocated to 83 provincial public sector universities with 45 campuses in all four provinces.

The federal government has allocated Rs35.662 billion for the HEC for the fiscal year 2017-18 in the Public Sector Development Programme when it was given Rs21.487 billion last year, some parts of which are yet to be released.

The educational development budget is spent on new infrastructure projects, new campuses, strengthening of existing facilities, scholarships and other initiatives for 108 public sector universities with 79 campuses across the country.

A fund of Rs9.188 billion has been set aside for 62 new schemes in the higher education sector. Like previous years, only four of these 62 projects have been approved. According to education experts, in this case it unlikely that all allocated funds will be utilised.

However, HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said the commission’s budget is meant for all public sector universities.

“The HEC does not have its ‘own schemes’. All schemes are meant to cater to the needs of all students and universities. For example, all students across the country will benefit from the HEC’s laptop scheme,’ he explained, adding that the HEC had a small project for the construction of a building which was not approved.

He said the new budget of Rs35 billion for development schemes is a significant development which will bring improvements in the education sector.

Asked about the last budget in which Rs22 billion were allocated but just Rs8 billion released, the chairman said: “We are hoping the budget will be released before the closing of the ongoing financial year”.

Asked about the large number of unapproved schemes, he said: “This is not a big issue. We will get the schemes approved in the coming months”.

According to the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2017-18, new projects worth Rs9.188 billion have been included in the upcoming budget for the HEC and the majority of the approved projects, 26, are the commission’s own schemes.

Of the budget for development schemes, federal universities will get a 12.406pc, Sindh is to get 9.685pc, Punjab 20.733pc, Balochistan 4.353pc and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is to get 8.053pc. Around 44.768pc of the PSDP budget is for HEC supervised projects.

The federal capital and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, which have 30 public sector universities will get seven new projects worth Rs1.14 billion while Punjab, with its 28 universities and 34 sub-campuses will get 13 new projects worth Rs1.9 billion.

Sindh has 21 public universities and six sub-campuses and will get six new projects worth Rs890 million, Balochistan will get three new projects worth Rs400 million compared to eight new projects last year and the HEC will get Rs4.1 billion for its 26 new schemes.

Last year as well, the major portion of the development budget for higher education was also allocated to the HEC and federal universities while 45pc of the uplift funds were allocated to provincial universities and campuses.

Five unapproved development schemes worth Rs750 million were included in the ongoing schemes including the establishment of Bahawalpur Institute of Science and Technology, Agriculture University D.I Khan, Federal University in Hyderabad, University of Baltistan and Women Sub Campus of Swat University in Mingora.

Though there are already four campuses and a medical college in the small district of Narowal, Rs200 million have been included for the establishment of the University of Narowal.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2017