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Fee increase option for public universities

Fee increase will deprive poor students of access to higher education
Islamabad, Sept 21: The revision of fee structure to increase income is not an option because it would deprive poor students of access to higher education, which would be an open injustice, said Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) Vice Chancellor (VC) Professor Dr. Masoom Yasinzai.

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Yasinzai said that the recommendation of Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shiekh to increase fee was unrealistic as he was not aware of ground realities. "A public sector university is supposed to be accessible for poor students and the QAU is one of those which are offering quality education in a meagre amount," he said.

He said that there were a number of students in the university who even could not afford to have two-time meal. "Once during a round of the university, I came across two students who were sharing a single plate of 'daal'. I was told that these students are too poor to have a plate of 'daal' for Rs15. Every day they place the same order to save money, while 'rotis' are provided free of cost by the canteen," he said and added that the honourable finance minister is unaware of such bitter realities.

He, however, said that it was not that universities could not generate money as there were many ways through which it could be generated. "It is said that every challenge creates opportunities and it is true in our case too. The universities are thinking about different ways to generate income that they never did before," he said.

Dr. Yasinzai believes that all public sector universities have capacity to be independent as far as their expenditures are concerned, but it could not be done overnight as the government was expecting. "Our university is already on it but we can't become self-sufficient within weeks or months. It's a long way which would at least take three to five years," he said.

He said that under current circumstances, a big chunk has to come from the government not only to smoothly run academic affairs of universities but also to help them stand on their feet.

"Currently, our scientists are working on various projects so we can offer their consultancy to different organizations. We can have collaboration with industries where our researchers can offer their services for money. We can sell our research products. In short, we can make use of our scientific standings," he said.

He said that they were also looking into the option of public-private partnership in which they could ask a private firm to invest, i.e. establish a medical college etc. "Our university has already signed an MoU in which land measuring 100 acres would be utilised for horticulture purposes. We are also planning to grow medicinal plants and then sell them in market," he said.

Dr. Masoom Yasinzai lamented that the idea of generating money by universities had never occurred before but he maintained that it was a process that requires time otherwise all universities would go bankrupt. "We would be facing a deficit of Rs300 million by the end of this year even if we are provided with the promised money but the government is not ready to provide us even that much money," he said.

He said that all VCs of public sector universities were in hot soup as they have already slashed their development projects and have no money to pay the salary raise to their employees as announced by the government. "We are demanding of the government to raise our recurring grant by 60 per cent so that we can pay 50 per cent salary increase to our employees besides 15 per cent increase in medical allowance and pension," he said.

He hoped that the committee constituted by the prime minister would reach some conclusion soon and funds would be released to the HEC. "It is time to reap the fruit. Our education system, especially higher education, cannot be revived in 50 years if it collapses now. The government should think it as an investment to shape the future of the country," he said.

Dr. Masoom Yasinzai wants the QAU to be ranked among top universities of the world in a few years for which he is trying to take some bold initiatives. "We will soon start a joint degree programme with recognised western universities. This step will definitely help in improving ranking of the university," he added.

Dr. Masoom Yasinzai, a meritorious professor of biochemistry, is one of the leading scientists and educationists of Pakistan. He is the author of close to 100 research publications in top international science journals and has also contributed chapters in international publications, including encyclopaedias. Based on ranking of the Council for Science and Technology, Ministry of S & T, he is graded over the past few years as the productive scientist in Pakistan.

He spent 30 years at the University of Balochistan as a professor, dean and vice chancellor and played a key role in the establishment of science & scientific activities in that province. His research work over years has resulted in a number of scientific discoveries, the recent one being the development of a new chemotherapeutic agent against Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease highly endemic in Pakistan. These days, he is striving hard for establishing a research & development centre for Leishmania research in the country.

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HEC scholarship holders not to suffer, says PM
Islamabad: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has assured that Pakistani students studying abroad on Higher Education (HEC) scholarships would not suffer on any count despite the austerity steps taken by the government due to devastating floods.

They will complete their education without facing any fiscal problem. The finance minister has constituted a six-member committee, comprising deputy chief of the Planning Commission, federal education secretary, HEC chairman and three vice-chancellors of the universities, to sort out matters pertaining to the budgets of the universities.

In a chat here at the Parliament House's chamber-212 Monday, Prime Minster Gilani said that he has advised the committee to submit its recommendations at the earliest and the issue of the HEC would be resolved in the light of its recommendations. To a question, the prime minister said that the government has given special focus and priority to the Education Sector, and it is being done in line with the aspirations of the people of the country. The present issue of the HEC basically pertains to the demand of then public sector universities to provide adequate funds to meet the requirement of recurring and development expenditures, including financial assistance to the students studying abroad, he said.

"Considering the financial crunch, the development and recurring budget of the HEC was reduced and allocations of rupees 15.762 billion and rupees 23.220 billion respectively were made during the fiscal year 2010-2011.

This allocation is higher than the actual release of the last fiscal year i.e. 2009-2010 that was Rs11.250 billion in the development budget and Rs21.500 billion in the recurring budget," The Prime Minister said.

Gilani reminded that it is important to understand that the HEC is not the only department whose budget has been reduced in the current financial year. The overall allocation of the entire government department has been as fiscal space available. "As we all witnessed that Pakistan and its people have been hit by the worst natural calamity of its history. The devastation of the flood has implications for our budget and we are taking a re-look at our requirements," he added. To a query, Prime Minister Gilani assured that as and when space would be available, the government would not hesitate to enhance the funding for the education purpose, including the universities, since the government fully comprehend the importance of the education.

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IIU convocation
Islamabad: The International Islamic University (IIU) would hold 8th convocation of the varsity on October 7. The degrees would be conferred on to 2300 graduates of the university who were passed out from the varsity during September 2008 to August 2009. As many as 37 gold medallist and three PhD degrees would also be part of the convocation. Federal Minister for Education Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali, would honour the moot as chief guest. The news

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Govt shelves plans for 2 universities in Balochistan
Quetta: The federal government has finally shelved plans to establish two universities in remote areas of Balochistan. According to credible sources, the Planning Commission of Pakistan had dropped both the projects from the Public Sector Development Programme (2010-2011). The authorities claimed financial crunch, while the decision to drop the project was taken at a meeting of the National Economic Council.

President Asif Ali Zardari had announced the establishment of a university in Turbat, when he met with Baloch notables as beginning of the reconciliation process in Balochistan in 2009. The varsity had also set up two university campuses in Kech and Loralai districts two years ago and the MPAs and senators concerned had also provided financial assistance to build full-fledged universities with the help of the federal government, and in due course of time. Both were set up in order to provide higher education facilities to students of remote areas reducing the overwhelming burden at the University of Balochistan, A UoB spokesman said the Balochistan government had assured that both the campuses would be given the status of varsities. But now it is too difficult to keep the campuses functioning because the UoB was already facing financial crises and was not able to pay its employees salaries, and the proposal of the new varsities were dropped.

"The current budgetary shortfall is Rs 430 million and after October the varsity will not be able to pay its employees," the spokesman said. Repair, rehabilitation and renovation of UoB buildings, and establishment of an FM radio station and a television production house in the Department of Mass Communication had also been dropped from the current PSDP, he added. He said 58 UoB PhD students who were studying in foreign countries would have to abandon their education if immediate grant was not provided. Ironically, there was no visible political support to the highest seats of learning in Balochistan as most political leaders, both in power and opposition, were apparently unconcerned on imminent closure of universities for want of funds. Students demand that the Balochistan government should divert all the funds for MPA and ministers for proper functioning of the universities. Daily times

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IIUI response in a petition sought
Rawalpindi: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday directed the administration of International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) to submit their written response in the petition of Dr Mohammad Irfan Khan, a professor of environmental sciences, within two days.

Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh directed the authorities of the university to submit their response till September 22 after the petitioner's lawyer objected to the comments filed by the respondents.

Earlier, the court stopped the university from taking any adverse action against the teacher in its interim order.

Making president IIUI and chairman board of governors as respondents the petitioner through his lawyer Haider Hussain contended before the court that he was being victimised after Supreme Court took suo motu notice of certain appointments in the university allegedly in violation of rules and regulations.

The petitioner said he had earlier filed a petition urging the court to stop the IIUI administration from taking any adverse action against him after negative remarks were inserted in his annual confidential report (ACR) for 2009.

The petition was taken up by Justice Qadri on August 30 asking the university management to respond to the petition but the IUI President on the same day issued his termination orders citing the negative marks mentioned in his ACR.

Dr Khan who was appointed as professor in the university on October 29 2008 in his petition said the president of the university was not authorised to terminate him under the IIUI ordinance 1985 as only BoG of the university could take such decision. Dawn

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IIUI distributes relief goods
Islamabad: An IIUI delegation comprising of Mrs Parveen Qadir Agha, Vice President IIUI, with representatives of the Academic Staff Association (ASA), Officers Welfare Association (OWA) and University Staff Welfare Association (USWA) distributed relief goods at Condry, Charsadda.

A group of Pakistan Youth Hostels Association (PYHA) led by its honorary secretary Agha Afzal also joined IIUI relief camp of Condry and jointly distributed relief in cash among flood affectees and conducted a door-to-door survey in Condry, the most damaged village of charsadda.

Another IIUI task Force team for flood affectees visited Bala Makri, Muzaffarbad and Distributed cash relief to 65 families of the village that was badly damaged by the flood in River Neelam. Daily times

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