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Universities countrywide closure against HEC cuts

Universities observing countrywide closure
Islamabad, Sept 23: At least 72 universities remained shut down on Wednesday, suspending academic activities countrywide, against government's refusal to provide funds to the Higher Education Commission (HEC), report said. Vice Chancellors of public sector universities had threatened to shut down campus after their meeting with government officials ended without any conclusion on Tuesday. Teachers, students and the non-academic staff are holding protest rally in the campuses, demanding of the government to immediately release funds for higher education. In this regard, Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association has announced protest demonstration outside the Parliament House on Sept 25. The news

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"I am sure that the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of Pakistan, Dr Nadeem ul Haq, a PhD in economics, would ensure that adequate funds are provided to the state-owned universities and institutes of higher learning. No country in the world can survive without specialists in science, technology, economics and liberal arts. Even if we have to cut the budget allocations for unnecessary expenditures in the administration, the presidency, housing for top civil and uniformed bureaucracy and useless foreign trips, we must do so, for these funds are diverted for running our universities and fulfil the needs of the HEC.

It must be borne in mind that countries without abundant natural resources like Japan etc., which invested in human-resource development, have made more rapid economic progress than nations which have abundant natural resources but made no investment in education and health. As a nation we have no other choice but to invest in education."
Name: Malik Tariq Ali
Email: --
City, Country: Lahore, Pakistan

"The enormous cuts in the Higher Education Commission's budget further indicate the priorities of the present government. It is heartrending to know that the future of around 4000 students who are studying in foreign universities is at stake. Why not cut down the unproductive expenditure of the government, the foreign tours, the lavish lifestyle of our rulers and perks and privileges enjoyed by their cronies instead?"
Name: Shahab Alam
Email: --
City, Country: Rawalpindi, Pakistan


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Teachers' protest closes varsities across country
Lahore: Public sector universities across the country suspended on Wednesday all academic activities in protest against the government's decision to slash recurring grants and its refusal to release funds for meeting a raise in salary of employees.

All academic associations under the banner of Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations (FAPUASA) held demonstrations in almost all universities in the country, including Azad Kashmir. They urged the federal government to release funds to allow universities to continue their academic, research and expansion activities. It has been learnt that over 90 per cent of the universities are unable to pay the raise in salary and have been urging the government to provide additional grants. A massive cut of Rs6.8 billion in the budget has led to stoppage of almost all development projects in universities.

Officials said that the government had diverted resources from all sectors to rehabilitation of flood-affected people, but the FAPUASA officials contended the decisions to reduce grants and not to pay additional funds for the increased salary had been made much before the flood. The discontinuation of funds will also affect the National Education Policy's goal of developing infrastructure and human resources to triple the enrolment in universities.

The FAPUASA had started protesting against the financial cut soon after the announcement of federal budget in June, but toned it down after floods. The FAPUASA president, Prof Dr Mahr Saeed Akhtar, announced that universities across the country would observe a one-hour academic boycott on Thursday. He said the federation's executive body would hold a meeting in Islamabad on Friday and stage a demonstration in front of National Assembly on Saturday.

Prof Akhtar said that for the first time all vice-chancellors had supported the stance taken by the federation. He alleged that the government was not committed to promoting education because it was funding 'self-projection' initiatives and depriving the universities of their share. He said the universities needed Rs10 billion to continue academic activities and carry out development projects.

In reply a question about the constitution of a committee by the prime minister to look into the matter, Prof Akhtar said it was an exercise in futility. "It is a very simple issue and can be resolved if the federal government releases the already pledged funds to the Higher Education Commission and give additional funds to meet 50pc pay raise and 15pc medical allowance." He said the shortage of funds would force universities to suspend faculty and human resources development projects and affect investment made in the higher education sector over the past 10 years.

The protest gained momentum after statements by the ministers of finance and education. Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh had told vice-chancellors that the funds pledged to universities and for the higher education sector would not be released. He asked the universities to raise fees to generate resources.

Education Minister Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali had accused the teachers' community of using students to get their salary raised.

The Punjab University Academic Staff Association and Engineering University Teaching Staff Association jointly staged a demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club. Faculty members of all public sector universities in Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Karachi, Bahawalpur, Multan, Faisalabad and Gujrat also boycotted academic activities and brought out processions.

Faculty members of the Karachi University passed a resolution demanding immediate release of funds, abolition of the Higher Education Commission and an unconditional apology from the finance minister and former HEC chairperson for making offensive remarks against public sector universities.

Teachers of Islamia University in Bahawalpur boycotted classes and observed a black day by wearing black armbands.

Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran, Punjab University's Vice-Chancellor, said that big universities with massive infrastructure and resources might survive, but the small and new universities had no resources to generate funds.

A nine-member committee, led by the Planning Commission's Nadeem-ul-Haq will hold a meeting on Thursday. The outcome of the meeting will determine the future course of action by the FAPUASA. Dawn

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DUHS faculty, students stage rally against HEC budget cut
Karachi: Faculty members and students of Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) on Wednesday staged a rally to demand immediate restoration of budgetary allocations for higher education in the country. DUHS Vice Chancellor Prof Masood Hameed Khan on the occasion said no less than 72 universities in the country, actively and extensively engaged in promoting post graduate programs and research have been severely affected due to paucity of funds.

He said DUHS sent its outstanding students and junior faculty members, after due scrutiny and on the basis of absolute merit, for PhDs. "On completion of their education many resumed their responsibility at the university, which is to our benefit," he said. Khan also referred to a series of hi-tech labs established and updated research-cum-education and training programmes initiated at the DUHS since the inception of HEC. He acknowledged that there was a need to focus on primary and basic education in the country. "This, however, does not mean that need for post-graduate education and research culture should be compromised," Khan concluded. app

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Academic activities suspended in varsities
Hyderabad: Academic activities remained suspended in three universities of Hyderabad and Jamshoro districts on Wednesday as teachers boycotted classes on the call of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association in protest against cuts in funds for higher education.

However, academic activities in Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences remained unaffected as its teachers did not respond to strike call.

Teaching staff wore black armbands and held general body meetings in Sindh University, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology and Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam.

Teaching staff held rallies in the premises of campuses as well, demanding immediate release of funds for higher education.

According to VC of LUMHS, Prof Dr.Noshad Sheikh, such actions should not be taken to demand raise in funds. "I oppose such approach strongly", he said over phone.

He said this is not the way universities should be closed to demand funds from the government. He said that the government must have been facing some resource constraints and issues of raise in funds should be taken accordingly with government.

In Khairpur, academic activities remained suspended at Shah Abdul Latif University.

A meeting of SALU Teachers' Society, presided over by its president Prof. Dr. Noor Shah Bukhari, demanded of the government to reallocate funds of Rs7 billion to universities so that the development projects and faculty development programme could be completed and enhanced salaries of the employees could be paid.

The demanded removal of Federal minister for Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on account of his arrogant attitude towards the higher education.

In Nawabshah, teachers of the Quaid-i-Awam University of Engineering and Technology boycotted classes and held a demonstration. Dawn

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HEC-funded students abroad to continue education
Islamabad: Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Wednesday assured the Senate that all the students studying abroad on Higher Education Commission's (HEC) scholarships will not be affected by the current financial constraints caused by the recent flood devastations.

Replying to questions during Question Hour, the minister said that the government was committed to promoting higher education in the country and, therefore, the HEC budget had been increased up to eight percent in the current budget.

He said that funds would also be provided for the on-going projects of the students studying aboard. He said that there was a challenging economic situation and the government was mobilising necessary resources to cope with the situation.

Shaikh said the current expenditures of the government had been frozen at the level of last year and efforts were being made to reduce domestic borrowing. "We are talking about self-reliance and opposing foreign loans, but at the same time we are not willing to pay more taxes," he added.

He said successive governments had failed to tax the elite and now efforts were being made to make them pay. He indicated the possibility of one-time tax to raise money for reconstruction of the flood-affected areas.

To a question, Privatisation Minister Waqar Ahmad informed the House in a written reply that Rs 367.553 billion had been realised through privatisation of 60 public sector entities since 2001-2010.

Population Welfare Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told the House that a 10-year vision had been prepared to address the challenges arising out of population explosion. She said a training programme for clerics and imams would be initiated on the pattern of Bangladesh to involve them in advocacy for population issues. Daily times

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Students suffer as varsity staffers boycott work
Peshawar: The teachers and administrative staff of all public sector universities and their affiliated colleges boycotted classes and work in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to press for their demands of 50 per cent raise in their salaries as announced by the federal government.

The students and candidates, intending to get admission in the university, faced hardships as staff of the University of Peshawar assembled in the Convocation Hall on Wednesday and suspended all the work in protest.

Dr Mohammad Tayyab, general secretary of Peshawar University Teachers Association, said that Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) had a single point agenda to demand 50 per cent increase in salaries as announced by the federal government in the start of this financial year.

He said that before announcing the general body meeting and its protest they had issued a notification directing the staff that admission process and examinations should not be suffered and offices should be opened. He said that students were also faced with problems like exorbitant raise in their tuition fees and closure of university due to different incidents but the Wednesday boycott had not affected the students.

The students, who were sitting idle on the lawns of various departments, said that boycott of teachers just ahead of their examination was going to affect them.

"Our time is being wasted. The university remains closed due to one reason or another and then just after summer vacations boycott of teachers is just a waste of our time and money (fees) we have paid for the semester," complained a student of Institute of Management Studies.

Another student said that if the teachers were not getting raise why should they waste their time. He questioned why they should suffer as they paid full semester fee.

Shamim, who had come all the way from Mohmand Agency, said that she was there to get information about admission in MSc but there was no one at the office.

Mateen , a student of Islamic center, said that she wanted to get information about the examination, suspended due to floods, but there was no one to guide her.

A student of Pharmacy department said that he was trying to get clearance, a requirement of the university before appearing in examination, and was running around for the last three days but could not get papers signed due to strike.

Two students from Karak, waiting outside the administration block, said that they paid Rs600 fare to reach Peshawar but now they would have to come again tomorrow.

"We have nowhere to stay for the night and cannot go back to village as the entire trip would be expensive," one of them said. He wondered why the staff didn't facilitate students, who had to cross so many hurdles to come and get admission in the university.

The teachers ended their meeting with a walk on the campus and chanted slogans for their rights.

Our Correspondent from Mansehra adds: The staff of Hazara University on Wednesday held rally against cut in financial assistance by Higher Education Commission to public sector universities.

The heads and members of faculties and other teachers, holding banners and placards, held a rally on the university premises.

Speaking on occasion, Professor Habib and Professor Muqarrab Shah said that government was not taking seriously the higher education and that was why the financial assistance of universities was cut.

They said that salaries of other government employees were increased but employees of universities were ignored. They said that they would continue their agitation until their demands were met.

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KU teachers warn of mass protests over non-release of funds
Karachi: The government received a lot of flak at a large gathering of Karachi University (KU) teachers who warned of a massive countrywide movement along with their colleagues in other provinces if the allocated funds were not released to the public-sector universities soon.

During the Karachi University Teachers' Society (Kuts) general body meeting a unanimous resolution was also passed to abolish the Higher Education Commission which was described by the participants of the meeting as a "white elephant". They held the commission responsible for all the ills being faced by public-sector universities in the country.

No academic activity was held on the campus on Wednesday in protest which had been planned in accordance with a decision of the All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations (FAPUASA).

The forum of Kuts also supported a unanimous call for an unconditional apology from federal finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, also a former KU student and teacher, and former HEC chairperson Shahnaz Wazir Ali - both of whom reportedly had made some uncalled-for comments about the seats of higher learning.

They said that the government was working on the World Bank agenda to privatise educational institutions and deprive the poor and middle class of opportunities of higher education which was the only source of this section of society to improve their living standards.

The teachers, they said, had always sacrificed for the country and would continue to do so, but their hard-earned money was not meant for the luxuries of the government officials who, they said, were bent upon taking foreign tours when the country was facing its worst-ever crisis.

Instead of penalising teachers, the government should tax the rich and the corrupt people and recover billions of rupees that had been written off, they said.

"It's a black day in the history of Karachi University when teachers have been forced to suspend classes and have gathered in protest. The most unfortunate part of the whole episode is that an elected government which claims to be a proponent of people's cause has done the gravest harm to the cause of education," remarked Dr Abid Husnain, president of Kuts.

Dr Husnain linked the government's refusal to release funds to the issue of verification of degrees and said: "The financial crisis has been going on for almost two years. But, what's the reason that the universities which attracted a lot of media attention in recent weeks have suddenly been thrown into a deep crisis" he asked.

A number of fiery speeches were made during the meeting amid the calls that the struggle must not be confined to teachers alone and the non-teaching staffs and students should be made part of the movement.

"The government is asking us to raise fees in order to run universities. But, it's a misconception that the generated amount would be adequate to run a university. If the KU even increases its fees 100 per cent, it would only contribute four per cent to the total university budget," Dr Shakeel Farooqui, a member of the KU syndicate said.

KU administration faces criticism
The present KU administration also came under fire at the meeting and the teachers held the government, the HEC and the administration equally responsible for the situation.

"Everyone on the campus knows how much the vice chancellor loves education? The university, under him, has been ruined due to large-scale corruption. There are many department chairpersons sitting in this hall who have been trying for over a year to meet the VC. But, he has no time," claimed Dr Riaz Ahmed of the Applied Chemistry department.

The teachers also criticised the administration's policy of hiding the earnings of the Evening Programme and said that it was one of the reasons that the government had stopped the funding because they had assumed that universities were making a lot of money on their own.

There was no transparency and no accountability at any level, they said and demanded that a strict financial regime must be introduced on the campus.

Over 400 appointments had been made at the KU over two years while large amounts of money had been spent on useless infrastructures and on the offices of two pro vice chancellors, the participants of the meeting said.

While censuring the HEC, teachers referred to the huge expenditures of the commission. Currently, there were 35 director generals working at the HEC, each of them drawing a salary of over Rs500,000, one of them said.

At the end of the meeting, a walk was held from the arts lobby to the Silver Jubilee gate.

Classes would remain suspended on Thursday at KU from 11am to 1pm, Kuts announced late on Wednesday.

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Increased budget urged for higher education
Hyderabad: The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association, Sindh chapter, has demanded raise in budget for higher education and said that funds of Rs7 billion for public sector universities should be released immediately to enable them to pay increased salary to their staff.

It demanded resignation of Chairman Higher Education Commission Dr Javed Leghari on the ground that that he had failed to put up a strong case of universities to the government

At a press conference here on Wednesday association leader Professor Badar Soomro also came hard on the Governor of Sindh's role in taking up university matters. He also recorded his disapproval to appointments of retired employees on administrative positions.

He said that around eight out of 10 VCs of public sector universities in Sindh were retired government servants and awarded contract, adding that VCs should be serving PhDs.

He alleged that discrimination was being meted out by federal government to Sindh's universities and demanded parity on the part of government.

He said that university teachers would protest in Islamabad on September 25 to raise their demands and hope that the government might come up with a positive response prior to it.

He demanded issuance of scholarship orders for those who had qualified Graduate Assessment Test (GRE) in 2007 and vesting vice chancellors of universities in Sindh with authority to issue No Objection Certificate (NOC).

He said that 50 per cent raise in salaries and a 15 per cent raise in medical allowance announced by the present government should be given to faculty members of Sindh's universities without delay.

He said that in view of resolutions adopted by syndicates of universities of Sindh orders regarding all cases of hardship should be issued and rejected Sindh governor's notification in this regard on the ground that like other provinces hardships in Sindh should be resolved and there should be an end to interference of governor's house.

He said scholarship orders for those teachers who passed GRE since 2007 in Sindh's universities had not been issued, therefore, they should immediately be issued. Especially, he said, funds for scholars which were released to universities should be utilised.

Professor Soomro said that they considered re-employment policy and appointment of retired officials on administrative position a burden on university's resources.

These retired officials should be removed immediately, he added. He demanded that like universities of the provinces authority for issuance of NOC should be delegated to vice chancellor. Dawn

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