HEC faces grim prospects of financial crunch
The Higher Education Commission (HEC) is likely to face a severe financial crunch during the current fiscal year as the government allocated Rs 10.5 billion less than the amount agreed with the World Bank for HEC in the budget 2012-13.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2012
Documents available with this scribe show that according to the agreement titled Tertiary Education Support Project (TESP) between HEC and the World Bank, the latter had committed 300 million dollars soft loan for three years for the universities in three equal annual instalments. The agreement aimed at improving the conditions of teaching, learning and research for enhanced access, quality and relevance of tertiary education.
Under the agreement, the Bank committed to provide the funds as long as the HEC met 10 disbursement link indicators (DLI). These DLIs include: (i) allocation and timely release of recurrent and development funds to HEC under the agreement; (ii) 445 scholars to be awarded under the indigenous postgraduate scholarship programme in the first year of the programme; (iii) 849 teachers to be recruited on Tenure Track System; (iv) all affiliated colleges need to meet the minimum quality standard set by the HEC; (v) provision of enhanced quality education at Masters level for external students; (vi) enhancing research, innovation and commercialisation performance; vii) improving equitable access through the establishment of an effective student financial aid system; (viii) introducing a scorecard-based system for performance assessment of quality enforcement cells in public technical education institutes; (ix) number of higher education institutes (HEI) assessed (management); and (x) improved strategic management planning and accountability in public HEIs.
According to this agreement, the government had committed to allocate Rs 36.2 billion as recurring budget and Rs 21.6 billion as development budget for the fiscal year 2012-13. The federal government allocated Rs 32.7 billion as recurrent budget and Rs 14.5 billion as development budget for the current fiscal year that is Rs 10.5 billion (18 percent) less than the amount committed by the government under the agreement.
HEC was not released the funds allocated in the budget 2011-12 as well. The Commission received Rs 28.8 billion as recurring grant that was Rs 2.1 billion less than the amount budgeted (Rs 31.5 billion). Similarly, HEC received Rs 9.7 billion instead of Rs 16.5 billion as development grant from the federal government. The overall financial deficit of the Commission was Rs 9.3 billion in the fiscal year 2011-12.
Documents show that 7.8 percent of the total population of Pakistan in the age group of 17-23 years is accessing higher education. The Education Policy 2009 stipulates raising it to 10 percent by 2015 and 15 percent by 2020. Reduced funding will not help in achieving this target which is also a broader indicator for the WB loan to the federal government in the form of budgetary support. Over 10,500 scholars studying inland and abroad are in dire straits. Funding in the form of stipend and tuition fees have not been paid to foreign and local scholars in the last two quarters of 2011-12.
Due to considerable reduction in overall funding to HEC, eight newly established universities have not been awarded even a single development project so far and majority of these universities are located in remote areas of Sindh, KPK and Punjab. Seven newly established sub-campuses in the deprived areas require immediate support to takeoff their academic activities and, unfortunately, no development funding has been made to a majority of these sub campuses so far.