The budget grant of country's 44 universities is being increased



June 16  - 22, 2003 




The commission for higher education set up by the Federal Government last year with wide financial and administrative powers has initiated a series of measures to improve the quality of education at higher level both in public and private sector. While it has arranged increase in allocation of funds for public sector universities. It has also initiated a proposal for constituting regulatory bodies, both at national and provincial level to regulate and monitor the funding of private educational institutions in the country.

The budget grant of country's 44 universities is being increased from the coming (2003-04) financial year. The money would be used to develop advanced research, provide better laboratory facilities and to recruit better qualified teachers. Generous stipends would be given to encourage students to pursue Ph.D. and M.Phil courses.

The proposal to set up the regulatory bodies is under active consideration of the government and is likely to be approved soon. The proposal had been forwarded in the wake of a significant surge in unlawful educational institutional throughout the country during the last few years. The proposed regulatory bodies will regulate activities and smooth functioning of privately managed schools and institutions of higher education through proper rules and regulations will be formed later.

The federal government, the sources said, wanted to have and agreed regulatory mechanism in place throughout the country whereby educational institutions would be controlled. With the constitution of a regulatory system, the government will also be able to check the exorbitant fee structures of private educational institutions.

It may be added here that the Higher Education Commission (HEC), which had replaced the University Grants Commission, has the right to give degree awarding status to a certain university in the private sector, but has no mandate to check the growth of dubious universities.

The HEC had issued a directive asking provincial governments to take stern action against such educational institutions, sources in the commission told this correspondent. However, to the disappointment of the HEC, provincial governments have not taken any aciton to stop the phenomenal growth of private universities, which at present, has become a flourishing business among the corporate sector.

These so-called schools, colleges and universities are available at every nook and corner of the country and are virtually fleecing people in the name of education, they said. There are some privately-run universities operating in the metropolitan cities of the country that claim to have been registered with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) as degree awarding institutions, but in reality they have no such standing.



It has also been observed that students, graduating from such institutions, had time and again protested against the non-acceptance of their degrees by the public sector organizations as these institutions did not have degree awarding status under the HEC rules.

Higher education has long been neglected as far as the priorities of successive governments are concerned. Over the years, this sphere of paramount importance has never received the funds or the attention it has badly needed. As a result, standards have fallen dramatically and the quality of the teaching and research has rapidly deteriorated. Given this depressing scenario, it is reassuring to know that the government is about to take a new initiative and make an effort to stem the rot in higher education.

The government's decision to pump more money into the public sector universities will also help narrow the widening gap between public and private sector universities. In Pakistan, a two-tier system has gradually emerged in which those who can afford to pay are receiving quality education at high price. Meanwhile, those not fortunate enough to be able to pay an exorbitant fee are being denied the benefit of higher education. The policy of putting up an increasing number of university seacts for 'sale' has also helped increase the gap between the haves and have-nots. The government should continue to subsidize higher education to a certain extent and offer quality education strictly on merit. It should do all it can to make higher education affordable for the common people and available as widely as possible.

The Higher Education Commission was set up on recommendation of the task force on education set up by President Musharraf in 2001. The report of the task force has rightly pointed the deplorable fall in the quality and standard of education in the institutions of higher learning in the public sector and identified some of its causes as well. Surprisingly, however, it has not touched upon one of the most important problem of the education sector—the rising cost of education and its commercialism by the private sector institutions. The cost of education in any standard institute of higher learning has gone almost beyond the reach of lower middle and even the middle class families living in their honest income. These are the segment of the society from where the talent normally emerge. This precious potential for future national requirement is being wasted by our sheer neglect.