ISLAMABAD: Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Friday cried over projected cut on recurring budget for universities, saying it would disrupt provision of higher education and research work.

A special meeting of the supreme decision-making body of the HEC, also called the higher education commission, held under the chairmanship of its Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri to review the implications of ongoing fiscal crisis in the higher education sector, and in particular the budgetary projections for financial year 2019-20.

The meeting was informed that projected recurring budget demand of the higher education institutions for 2019-20 was Rs103.550 billion and development budget demand was Rs55 billion which could be cut by 50pc.

Universities’ vice chancellors meet in Islamabad on Monday to review the situation

“If the [projected budget] cut turns out to be true, it would bring about a massive disruption in the provision of higher education and conduct of research,” read an official statement issued by HEC after the meeting of the commission.

Sources in the HEC said recently the finance division had told the HEC that it would release only R58 billion against the Rs103 billion recurring grant sought by HEC in its projected budget, which created unrest among all 117 public sector universities including nine new universities.

Meanwhile, universities vice chancellors are meeting in Islamabad on Monday to review the situation.

“The 50pc cut is not acceptable for universities, in VCs meeting we will discuss the situation and we will also propose several initiatives to start austerity drive on campuses,” said Prof Dr Masoom Yasinzai, head of VC Committee.

Dr Yasinzai, who is rector of International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI), while talking to Dawn, said that universities have also been paying subsidies under various heads such as transportation and hostel facilities.

“We do agree that economic condition of the country is crippling that’s why we will also impose some necessary cuts to reduce burden on the government, but government will have to increase budgets to a significant extent,” he said.

Earlier, during the course of meeting, HEC commission expressed grave concern over projected budget cuts and called upon the Prime Minister Imran Khan and newly-appointed adviser to PM on Finance Dr Hafeez Sheikh and Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood to ensure that adequate resources are provided to higher education institutions.

The commission directed the HEC chairman to undertake a sensitivity analysis of alternative budgetary scenarios, with a view to ensuring that essential programmes are not slashed, especially those that sustain the quality of undergraduate education in the country.

The commission decided to speed up introduction of the Higher Education Management Information System.

It was also decided that HEC chairman will establish a fund raising programme for higher education including mobilisation of resources from alumni, philanthropists, industry and by attracting a broader array of students including students from foreign countries.

The commission also directed the chairman to arrange meetings of the commission members with the prime minister, adviser on finance and other senior members of the government.

Finally, the commission directed the chairman to request provincial governments to enhance their support for higher education, including supplementary finances for universities.

The commission meeting was attended physically or through video link by members including Shams Kassim Lakha, Dr Faisal Bari, Prof Nisar Siddiqui, Dr Naveed Malik, Engr Ahmed Farooq Bazai, Dr Javeid Iqbal, Dr Bhawani Shankar Chowdhry, federal secretary, Ministry of Science and Technology, and representatives of the education ministry as well as provincial governments.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2019