No funds at the HEC

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on March 3, 2013.

Islamabad – ZERO. That is the grand total of the development funds the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has received for the third quarter of the current fiscal year.

The government had pledged Rs15.8 billion to the HEC in the 2012-13 budget for development grants, which are used to provide for student scholarships, infrastructure development and other development projects at public sector universities as well as the salaries of project staff.

So far, Rs7.9 billion have been provided with the last payment of Rs4.73 billion made in December 2012.

Since then, the HEC is looking toward the finance division to the release of around Rs3 billion for the third quarter, HEC chairperson Javaid Laghari told The Express Tribune on Saturday.

The finance ministry had assured the HEC and varsity vice chancellors at a February 21 meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and Trainings that the development funds will be released by March 1.

The date has come and passed. But the development funds, which help finance the studies of around 8,000 scholars in Pakistan and abroad, have not arrived.

The problem does not end here.

The HEC is also waiting on recurring funds to the tune of another Rs3 billion for the third quarter, Leghari said.

The recurring funds cover the salaries of universities’ staff and research grants. The HEC is supposed to receive Rs32.7 billion altogether under the recurring subhead by June. But Laghari said HEC has not received recurring funds for February.

This has affected the provision of salaries to the around 20,000-strong teaching faculty of public universities around the country.

Nasir Jamal Khattak, vice chancellor of the Kohat University, said if the recurring funds are not released for another two months, the Kohat University will face the same fate as Karachi University which does not have funds to pay its staff.

Balochistan University is also in dire straits.

“We have been managing the staff salaries on internal borrowing for the past two to three months, but this month we don’t have any money to pay the teachers,” Raisani said.

He said the university used to receive the annual allocation in quarterly installments of 20 or 30 per cent but since January 2013, HEC has changed to a monthly allocation of 10 per cent due to paucity of funds.

The monthly Rs40 million Balochistan University received in February for its January expenses is only half of the amount required for paying the staff, Raisani said.

He said the university, which has 6000 on-campus students, has 790 teaching positions but more than 200 of the positions are currently vacant. Raisani said he was afraid he would have to lay off some teachers or worse, close the university if the funds are not released soon.

“If the government does not want the universities to shut down, it should release the funds,” Khattak said.

HEC spokesperson Murtaza Noor said the commission has been regularly forwarding requests and complaints it receives from universities to the finance ministry, so the ministry would understand and realize the problems the universities are facing.

The HEC officials are expected to meet with the finance division on Monday, February 6, to find a way to resolve the funding issues.

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