PESHAWAR: The nine government universities established in different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the last five years are struggling to meet salary and other expenditure due to the denial of funds by the Higher Education Commission despite repeated requests, say officials in the higher education department and universities.
According to them, the regulator for higher education insists that it can’t support those universities due to the considerable slashing of its funding by the federal government.
These institutions of higher education include Shuhada-i-Army Public School University of Technology Nowshera, Women University Mardan, University of Buner, University of Chitral, University of Engineering and Technology Mardan, University of Lakki Marwat, Pak-Austria Fachhochschule: Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology Haripur, Agriculture University Dera Ismail Khan and Women University Swabi.
The officials said under the rules, the provincial government was responsible first for allotting land for new universities and then providing funds to them for the first three years to develop infrastructure and meet salary and other expenses. However, the funding responsibility shifts to the HEC afterward.
The provincial government develops a three years plan for the university establishment and appoints a project director for the same year. After the completion of that period, the university’s status changes from the project to a regular university and the project director is replaced by a regular vice-chancellor.
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The officials said of the nine universities in question, three had completed three years of establishment three years ago, two around two years ago, one almost one year ago and three a couple of months ago.
They said currently, those nine universities were strapped for cash and managed its affairs through student fee and limited financial support provided by the provincial government.
A member of the University of Chitral staff told Dawn that the university hadn’t become fully functional due to the denial of due funding by the HEC.
Officials of the higher education department said the unavailability of adequate financial resources had stopped those universities from appointing the required faculty members, including professors, associate professors, assistant professors and top men of the administration.
They said the universities were managing academic affairs in most disciplines through junior teachers.
“A university facing financial crisis cannot afford to appoint a professor for the monthly salary of Rs200,000,” an official said.
He said those universities had failed to set up well-equipped laboratories and libraries due to the shortage of funds with students being the ultimate sufferers.
The official wondered how the universities could do research if they don’t have well-equipped labs.
Another official the higher education department told Dawn that the universities and HED had individually and collectively raised the issue with the HEC time and again, but to no avail.
He said the HEC opined that it faced financial constraints as the federal government had slashed its annual budget considerably.
When contacted, adviser to the chief minister on higher education Kamran Bangash said the government had discussed the issue with the HEC after the vice-chancellors raised it.
“Now, we have decided that the senior officers of the HED will represent the province in the HEC meetings to effectively fight for the rights of our universities,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2021