GUJRAT: Just at a time when the existing public-sector universities of Punjab have been facing numerous problems such as shortage of financial resources, unavailability of trained faculty, a lack of infrastructure and statutory rules, the provincial government has announced the establishment of two more universities.

The concerns have been shown by senior serving and retired academicians who spoke to Dawn on the issues related to the quality of higher education institutions in the province. They say establishing more universities in the country is no more than a ploy to gain political mileage.

Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has announced establishment of University of Gujranwala and Waris Shah University, Sheikhupura. He said the UET Lahore sub campus, Rachna College of Engineering and Technology and Punjab University sub campus Gujranwala would be merged to make University of Gujranwala.

Most of the existing universities are only focusing on traditional teaching rather than research and development as the academicians advocate the establishment of more and more community colleges to prepare skilled human resource and these colleges should be linked to the existing universities.

According to the Times Higher Education Asian University Ranking 2020 no university from Punjab scored any ranking in top 100 universities.

Prof Dr Nizamuddin, former Punjab Higher Education Commission chairman, said that the new varsities might not function smoothly as the institutions are already facing dearth of faculty and PhD scholars whereas the ratio of admissions would also decrease.

“So we need to establish community colleges to produce skilled human resource by keeping in view the requirements of our industry through two years education programmes in textile designing, accounting and finance, media studies and information technology from where the students can go for further higher studies in four years programme if they need,” he said.

He recalled that during his first of the two terms as vice chancellor of UoG there was a huge shortage of faculty and he had to arrange major incentives to attract the faculty to come Gujrat. He said he had launched community colleges programme as PHEC chairman in five cities.

Another VC said the 14 newly-established universities might need Rs70 billion to acquire the land, establish the infrastructure and transport etc in the next five years whereas the budget of existing varsities had also been cut by the HEC. He said that due to available options of admissions, the ratio of students had been decreasing day by day.

The 25 universities across the Punjab are facing financial and administrative issues due to which the fee structures of varsities have surged compared to other provinces of the country. The KFUEIT Rahim Yar Khan was established in 2014 and is still waiting for approval of service statues. The varsity is driven by contractual and visiting employees for the last seven years.

The revised UoG service statues were approved after two years in 2021 which created a serious faculty shortage resulting in stoppage of admission to various MPhil and PhD programmes.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2021

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