Universities financial crisis | Let HEC work

University facing financial crisis
Nawabshah, July 28: Quaid-i-Awam University of Engineering, Science and Technology (Quest) is facing financial problems because of a major slash in grants by the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

The HEC has not increased recurring grant of universities and cut its development funds, therefore Quest is facing difficulty in payment of salaries and has stopped development work.

According to sources in the university, recurring grant of Quest was Rs225 million in 2009-10, which was not enhanced in 2010-11 despite a 50 per cent increase in the salaries of employees in the budget of 2010-11.

The recurring grant for 2010-11 allocated by the HEC was Rs225.51 million against the university requirement of Rs420.45 million. Thus the institution is facing a deficit of Rs194.94 million.

The cut in grant would reflect an immediate impact on payment of salaries and allowances amounting to Rs99.40 million from July 1 and the deficit would increase to Rs294.34 million in 2010-11.

The cut in development grants had affected two ongoing projects, including scholarships for PhD, MPhil and others courses.

A project named faculty development and other immediate needs costing Rs440.176 million, which included 45 scholarships, had also suffered, the sources said.

Two projects, one for extension of education and the other for allied facilities, cost Rs476.420 million with 28 scholarships for PhD and master degrees, infrastructure, laboratories and other construction work.

About 45 teachers of the university are getting higher education in various countries of the world whereas 13 more are supposed to go abroad during the current year.

Apparently, no one would be able to go abroad for higher education, but the financial crunch would negatively affect the teachers doing PhDs abroad.

Vice-Chancellor of Quest Prof Dr A.B. Soomro told this correspondent that the university received Rs273 million till June 2010 against the requirement of Rs700 million in the development grant.

He said that total of the recurring grant of Rs427 million in 2009-10 and the grant of 2010-11 was Rs600 million, but they had received only Rs131 million.

In this situation, he said, the institution might obtain loan for the payment of salaries and other allowances to more than 700 employees.

Construction of boys and girls hostels, girls gymnasium, extension of laboratories and boundary walls of the campus and training of administration staff were stopped due to the major cuts in the grant, he added.

A PC-I of 'Strengthening of Quest' amounting to Rs492 million for IT facilities, enhancement of security, teachers hostel, transport garage, street lights, sewerage and drainage works was also withheld because Rs100 million was released for the project in 2009-10 but later the funding was frozen, he said.

He said that President Asif Ali Zardari had taken notice of the issue and directed the Sindh government to come to the rescue of the university and provide Rs300 million.

Originally established as a campus of Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, the institute was upgraded to university during the second tenure of Ms Benazir Bhutto in 1996. However, the university remained in crisis immediately after its establishment because the PPP government was removed and the university never received any development funds till the establishment of the HEC.

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HEC meeting to discuss universities' financial crisis
Islamabad: The financial crisis faced by seats of higher learning seems to be deepening, with over 50 vice-chancellors of public-sector universities dashing to Islamabad to discuss the issue with top officials of Higher Education Commission (HEC), according to sources.

An emergency meeting of the vice-chancellors' committee will be held with only one item on the agenda --- the funding problem that has gone from bad to worse over the last couple of years. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, a concerned HEC official said.

Governors of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in their capacity as chancellors of the public-sector universities have already informed the prime minister of their inability to implement the government's decision of giving a 50 per cent raise in the salary of university teachers until they were provided the required funds.

The official said the raise in salary meant an additional burden of Rs7 billion, and universities had no money to meet the expenditure.

Moreover, he said, the HEC started the current financial year with a yawning deficit of Rs11.5 billion. During last year, the government under the public sector development programme committed Rs22.5 billion for the development of public sector universities.

However, until June 30 last year, it could only release Rs11 billion. This year against the demand of Rs30 billion under the development grant, the government has only allocated Rs15.7 billion to the HEC.

Almost every vice chancellor of 73 public sector universities of the country had written to the HEC for financial help for both meeting their recurring and development expenditures, the official said.

"HEC's hands are tied; therefore, to apprise the heads of universities of ground realities, we have decided to hold this emergency meeting," he added.

Speaking frankly, the official made it clear that the HEC was barely surviving. It has shelved almost all its major scholarship schemes. Over 200 development schemes, including both infrastructural and academic, have been disbanded. The momentum which had been created with years of hard work and investment of billions of rupees in the higher education sector of the country had come to a grinding halt, the official argued.

If the situation did not change, the official said, chances were that the HEC would ask public sector universities to increase their fees and plan more self-finance based admission schemes. "In the past the HEC had discouraged such measures because they led to an overall increase in the cost of university education," the official added.

Answering a question, the official said the issue of degrees' verification was not on the agenda at the meeting. But, he added, there would be no bar on asking about anything. Dawn

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Let the HEC work
Lahore: The Election Commission failed to verify not just the degrees but also the dual nationalities, taxes and assets of parliamentarian. For this grave negligence the chief election commissioner and his key staff should be proceeded against in the courts of Pakistan. It is surprising that suddenly the Election Commission has woken up and is pushing a policy of bureaucratic delays in the degree verification process.

This describes exactly what our system stands for cheating, frauds, corruption and incompetence. Let the HEC verify the degrees and place them on its website, and let none of these incompetent fake-degree protectors come in the way. -By Jaunaid R Qureshi

***Sukkur: In a country where the credibility of our university degrees does not carry much weight anymore, the proverbial last straw is the embarrassing stance of our federal education minister over the fake-degree issue. The HEC is amongst the few state-administered organisations of repute in Pakistan. Yet the education minister wants to place impediments in the working of the HEC. The problem is with the mindset and the myopic vision of our ruling elite, which is unfortunately willing to put at stake the future of our education system in order to gain short-term advantages. The government should punish those who submitted fake degrees as they have committed a crime of forgery, instead of making a scapegoat of the HEC or its upright chairman, who was chosen by Benazir Bhutto to head the SZABIST. -By Aneela Chandio (The news)

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HEC rejects MPA's academic credentials
Islamabad: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has told the Supreme Court, seized with a number of election disputes pertaining to members of the Balochistan Assembly, that the graduation degree of MPA Zahoor Hussain Khan Khosa was not recognised by it.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday that had taken up on Tuesday several petitions relating to election disputes was, however, told that the HEC recognised a qualification obtained from a seminary in Multan by provincial Minister for Labour and Manpower Maulvi Mohammad Sarwar of the JUI-F.

The proceedings were adjourned till Friday because the HEC sought time to establish the veracity of the degree from the institution.

At the last hearing, the court had noted that the copies of the degree and nomination papers of Maulvi Sarwar submitted by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had been tampered with.

It had ordered the Election Commission to depute an officer to conduct an inquiry into the matter and submit a report. Dawn

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ASA rejects HEC proposal
Islamabad: Academic Staff Association, of the Quaid-i-Azam University has rejected the proposal floated by Higher Education Commission (HEC) to only admit the students who have a scholarship to their credit.

The executive committee of ASA in a meeting observed that passing NTS or GRE can be used by HEC for awarding indigenous or foreign scholarships but cannot be made criteria for PhD admissions. It unanimously resolved that all those candidates who pass admission tests prepared by QAU should be admitted whether they have a scholarship or not.

It may be mentioned that HEC is using the tactics to get its own selected students admitted in Pakistani universities. A good number of students passing GRE or NTS tests conducted by Americans or HEC fail in the admission tests prepared by Pakistani universities. The HEC seemingly thought it a good opportunity to thrust its own candidates upon Pakistani universities as no PhD student had been admitted in the past six months at QAU because of this GRE condition.

The case in other universities is not different. Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Associations (FAPUASA) had already rejected the condition of passing GRE or NTS tests as a precondition for PhD admissions.

Dr Mahr Saeed Akhtar, President, FAPUASA, revealed that Dr Suhail Naqvi, Executive Director, HEC, had denied having issued any letter asking public-sector universities to admit those students who had passed NTS tests of HEC.

A member of Advanced Studies and Research Board (AS&RB) of QAU informed the ASA meeting that the HEC letter was discussed in the board meeting. It would be unfair, discriminatory and against human rights that university will give the admission to those students who have a scholarship but denying the same to other students who do not have any type of scholarship. The news

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Islamia College takes lead to open campuses in Fata
Peshawar: The Islamia College Peshawar (Chartered University) has become the first ever university to set up campuses in the tribal region.

"The university will start classes in September at its newly-inaugurated campuses in Parachinar and Sadda areas of Kurram tribal region," said ICU Vice-chancellor Ajmal Khan.

The ICU also wanted to set up a campus in Mirali area of North Waziristan Agency but the idea was dropped for time being owing to security situation in the volatile tribal region.

However, few days ago, Mr Khan visited Kurram Agency along with his team and received an encouraging response from the political administration and tribal elders about setting up campuses of the university at Parachinar and Sadda.

"Some people were of the view that I was crazy to think of opening campuses in the tribal region but the people of Kurram welcomed the idea," he said.

Seeing the welcoming response of the locals, two campuses of the university were inaugurated in Kurram, which according to him, could be called foundation of the first ever university in the tribal region.

"We are going to start from Intermediate level and then build up facilities and faculty to take students up to Masters and PhD level," the vice-chancellor added.

He said that people were so eager to have ICP campuses in their area that they had already prepared a list of all highly qualified persons, hailing from the region, who could leave their jobs elsewhere to join the university if given a chance.

Unlike other projects where millions of dollars are spent in the name of development in tribal areas, Mr Khan has not sought any sort of foreign aid or financial support from any donor agency. He believes that once the campuses become functional in the tribal agency on self-help basis and there is something on the ground, only then it will be reasonable to seek aid or financial assistance to upgrade the campuses.

Initially classes would be started in the government buildings after repairing and renovating the same with the help of political administration, he said.

"The political agent has been very helpful in providing buildings for this purpose. Both girls and boys will be enrolled in the Parachinar and Sadda campuses of the university," Mr Khan said.

Mehnaz Mumtaz, a student of Political Science at Post-graduate College for Boys Parachinar, said that girls of the area wanted to get higher education but there was no university. Interestingly, at present around 14 girls are attending classes of Masters at Post-Graduate College for Boys as there is no university in Kurram Agency while about 3,000 girl students are studying in Benazir Degree College Parachinar.

Mr Khan said that local elders told him that they had no problem with co-education. They said that girls and boys could study in the same building, he added. "What they want is quality education for their children from a prestigious institution like ICP," he said.

Although there have been violent clashes in the region during the recent past, yet elders from Parachinar went with the vice-chancellor and his team to Sadda to inaugurate a campus of the university there. They themselves suggested that Sadda should also have a campus like Parachinar, Mr Khan said. "People of Parachinar and Sadda forgot their differences when it came to education and showed enthusiasm alike," he said. Dawn

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