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KARACHI: Not a single penny has been allocated for research at Karachi University (KU) since 2016, a situation that has seriously compromised the quality of education on campus especially for students pursuing science subjects, it emerged on Friday.

Speaking to Dawn, senior KU teachers criticised the university administration for what they described as “misplaced priorities” and poor financial management.

“The university has no funds to repair costly machines or buy chemicals. It’s nothing but unfortunate that the administration couldn’t foresee this situation and prepare a plan accordingly,” said a senior teacher on condition of anonymity, adding that the last research grant in 2016 was given after a gap of over two years.

Most of the varsity’s funds go into paying staff’s salaries and allowances

Teachers also criticised the cumbersome, long procedures that they needed to follow for routine purchases and said it seriously affected research efforts.

‘Illegal appointments’

Another teacher linked the university’s present financial woes to past “illegal” practices and financial mismanagement and regretted that the present administration also lacked powers to take action against employees enjoying political support.

“The large number of illegal appointments, which were later regularised [due to] political pressures by previous administrations, would always be a burden on university’s limited resources in addition to the promotions made in violation [of] rules and procedures,” he said, explaining that a major chunk of the budget was spent on paying staff salaries and allowances and little was left for other needs including infrastructural repairs and maintenance.

He also disapproved administration’s decision to give away leave encashment to employees as Eid allowance for two consecutive years when it claimed to have no money for research. Teachers and the non-teaching staff received this allowance as per their basic and gross salaries respectively.

Prof Jamil Kazmi, a senior geography teacher heading the Karachi University Teachers’ Society, was equally critical of the administration’s financial management and said it should have avoided “wasteful expenditures” on Independence Day celebrations. “There was no need for that. Why couldn’t that money be saved and used for research?”

According to him, each teacher of science faculty received Rs100,000 as research grant in 2016. The amount for pharmacy teachers was a bit higher while arts teacher didn’t get any research funds.

“We have written multiple times and reminded the administration of the academic needs but to no avail.”

VC’s view

Meanwhile, KU Vice Chancellor Prof Mohammad Ajmal Khan has been holding meetings with teachers over the past two days to address these concerns. On Thursday, he spoke at the Arts Auditorium and briefed teachers about the financial challenges the university faced.

“Most funds are utilised to pay salaries, pensions and make necessary expenditures,” he admitted, adding that the university faced a financial crisis owing to the merger of morning and evening funds decided by the former administration.

Sharing details of expenditures, he said: “An amount of Rs3.5bn is yearly spent on salaries and pensions while Rs250 million on employees’ medicines. Other major expenditures include utility bills and payments to hospitals. It is these expenditures which consume all funds and no money is left for research grants.”

According to him, the university grant and its income were insufficient to meet the growing institutional needs.

“The university receives Rs2bn as grant from the Higher Education Commission while it generates the same amount from its own resources.

The vice chancellor, however, assured the teachers that the administration was reviewing utility bills and devising a mechanism to cut down expenditures.

He appealed to the HEC to double the Rs2bn grant and also asked the Sindh government to increase its grant up to Rs1bn immediately.

“I successfully secured the grant of around R3bn which no other vice chancellor could get. The KU being the largest university in the country needs Rs7bn yearly for its academic and research activities,” he said.

On Friday, the vice chancellor held another meeting where teachers were told that the HEC was willing to allocate research grant but on the condition that this amount would be spent solely on research purposes.

Sources said that the HEC condition pointed to financial irregularities that the KU campus had been witnessing for many years.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2018