HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri speaks at a press briefing on Tuesday. — Online
HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri speaks at a press briefing on Tuesday. — Online

ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has appealed to the government to take into account the statistic which says that Pakistan is spending a meagre amount of Rs50,000 per student per annum.

Addressing a pressing briefing on Tuesday, HEC Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri said the regulatory body, which provides funds to universities, had been facing a shortfall of Rs50 billion, and requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to restore the funds.

The chairman was holding the briefing following the proceedings of the 25th Vice Chancellors Committee meeting held on Monday.

Dr Banuri said at present the universities were facing two crisis - shortage of funds and quality issue.

“We are working on the quality aspect,” he said, adding that the government should provide us the required funds.

Seeks supplementary grant of Rs10 billion

He said the commission had been asking the universities to balance their budget and explore options of increasing their finances. “I can do fund raising and collect Rs1-2 billion, but there is a shortfall of Rs50 billion,” the HEC chairman said, adding that currently Rs50,000 or $300 was being spent on a student annually.

Private universities, on the other hand, are spending Rs150,000 per student per year.

Public-sector universities have been criticising the cut in the higher education budget for 2019-20, with the government earmarking around Rs59 billion against the HEC’s demand of Rs103 billion for non-development expenditure. The government allocated Rs28 billion for development scheme, which too was termed ‘less’.

Heads of public-sector universities have been demanding supplementary grant of at least Rs10 billion.

While talking about the problems being faced by students, the HEC chief said the higher education regulatory body and vice chancellors agreed that students were the primary focus of universities.

“Universities need to ensure that their students get the skills that will enable them to succeed in future. Likewise, universities must protect the safety and privacy rights of their students,” he said.

Dr Banuri also expressed his concerns over the recent incidents in a few universities, stating that every student was the responsibility of the university and the HEC.

“We must ensure that students are protected, nurtured and facilitated,” he added.

Earlier, during the meeting, the VCs expressed their concern over the manhandling of the vice chancellor of Federal Urdu University, Karachi, by students and floated proposals to meet the challenges facing higher education institutions.

They stressed the need to ensure the safety and security of vice chancellors.

Dr Banuri urged the government to ensure the security of educationists and proposed that university heads should formulate an academic code of conduct.

He said the HEC had initiated a number of programmes aimed at enhancing student success.

Furthermore, the HEC has initiated discussions with provincial governments to revamp the system of university sports.

The HEC has also started reviewing policies regarding protection of students’ rights.

The HEC chairman said policies were being developed or revised, adding that the commission’s Anti-Harassment Policy 2011 was being revised with a view to addressing loopholes and strengthening review and appellate mechanisms.

“We have sought reports form universities in this regard,” he said.

Whereas, he said the HEC had adopted a policy for students with disabilities, and had begun the process of operationalising it. Third, the commission had issued interim guidelines on student safety and was developing more detailed guidelines.

The chairman emphasised the need for arranging psychological counselling to enable students to cope with stress, trauma or cyber bullying or other forms of pressure from their peers and seniors.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2019