The quality and access to higher education in Pakistan is expected to gravely suffer after the federal government cut down the budget for higher education by almost 45 percent.
For the fiscal year 2019-20, the total demand by Higher Education Commission (HEC) was Rs158.5 billion and the federal government only allocated Rs88.1 billion, which is 45 percent less than what’s required by HEC to finance higher education in Pakistan.
Delving further into the details the recurring expenditure demand of HEC was Rs103.5 billion whereas the government only allocated Rs59.1 billion. Rs29 billion were allocated for development as compared to the HEC’s demand of Rs55 billion.
Analysts have raised doubts on whether the federal government will fully release the development funds of Rs29 billion. Last year the government only released development funds of Rs21 billion as opposed to approved development budget of Rs35 billion.
The negative effects of budget cuts in higher education are further compounded by the depreciation of Pakistani rupee by almost 30 percent in the last 12 months. This currency deprecation severely hampers the ability of HEC to adequately run its foreign scholarships, where it has to pay for the expenses of its scholars in foreign currency.
Due to the budget cuts, HEC has refused to fund the operations of newly established universities in the country. While HEC will still provide funding to the already established universities, the newer ones have to arrange their funds on their own.
Case of Balochistan
Universities in Balochistan will also be severely affected by the cut in HEC funding. Last year HEC provided Rs2.81 billion to universities in Balochistan as compared to the demand of Rs4.59 billion. The remaining amount was borrowed by the universities from financial institutions.
This funding cut will hamper the ability of universities in Balochistan to start new programs, send its faculty members on foreign scholarships and develop the infrastructure of universities.
Balochistan government has set aside Rs1.5 billion to finance the operations of the provincial universities. These funds, which will be disbursed through a University Finance Commission, will not be sufficient to meet the financial requirements of universities of Balochistan.
In addition to that, the federal government has also reduced the allocations for scholarship programs of Balochistan. For Master Leading to Ph.D. Scholarships Program, the government has only allocated Rs475 million out of the total cost of Rs2.44 billion. For the third phase of Provision of Higher Education opportunities for students of Balochistan and FATA, only Rs200 million has been earmarked as opposed to the total approved budget of Rs2.5 billion.
In the month of May, students in Quetta protested against the proposed cut in funding of higher education but the federal government did not take notice of their protest.
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