Fears of more than half of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s public universities going bankrupt in the future have increased. According to the data, out of 34 government universities in the province, 7 universities have started their budget this year with a deficit.
Among these universities, the University of Engineering & Technology Peshawar is on top with a deficit of Rs 977 million. Gomal University is in second place with a loss of Rs 434 million, while Peshawar University of Agriculture is in third place with a loss of Rs 187 million. The loss of the University of Science and Technology Bannu is up to 17 million rupees. The total deficit of all the universities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is currently up to 4 billion rupees.
If the financial problems of the universities continue like this, there is a fear that 20 universities out of 34 universities in the province will suffer losses by the end of this financial year.
It should be noted that the federal government has to give about 10 billion rupees annually to the public universities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which has been negligible for the past several years. The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa announced to give 2 billion rupees in 2021, but to date, the entire money has not been given.
Similarly, despite the announcements of 4 billion rupees in 2022 and 3.2 billion rupees this year by the provincial government, the said amounts have not been provided so far, due to which the difficulties of the universities have increased.
Currently, 21 universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are co-educational, while 3 are exclusively for women. There are 4 universities of engineering, 3 universities of agriculture, and one each of medical and management sciences. A total of more than 1 lakh 77 thousand male and female students are studying in universities.
Regarding the financial difficulties of the universities of the province, the provincial president of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPWASA) Professor Dr. Feroze Shah told TNN that in the past a big mistake was made by the officials of the universities themselves that they used pension funds. No proper procedure has been adopted for this. Now, when thousands of employees have retired, the entire burden of their pension has fallen on the universities, so the universities are paying pensions to the employees by barely adjusting the funds sometimes from here and there.
Governments in the province have created universities for scoring political points, out of which no homework has been done on the feasibility reports for many of the universities, and the population there has not been looked at. Then the recruitment was also done on a political basis.
What was the need to build such a large number of universities in the province? In 2016, when financial difficulties worsened, 1,300 supporting staff, including teachers on contract for 10 to 15 years, were laid off on government directives. Instead of hiring, people were laid off and the entire burden was placed on the existing supporting staff.
Dr. Feroz Shah says that the universities of the province generate 45 to 60 percent of their own funds and 30 percent of the budget comes from the Higher Education Commission. However, HEC itself used to get an annual grant of 120 billion, but the federal government cut it and now they are getting half of it. This support of universities was also severely affected by the cut in HEC’s budget.
After the 18th Amendment, supporting universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also became the responsibility of the Higher Education Department. In such a situation, when the officials of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are spoken to, the answer is that universities are autonomous bodies, so support is not being provided by both the provincial and federal governments.
On the one hand, HEC kept asking to open university campuses in the province, on the other hand, due to financial difficulties, the engineering university campus in Kohat had to be closed. Now what is the need to build a university without any consultation in Swat where there are no rules and regulations for it?
Feroze Shah said that due to the government restrictions in various departments of universities, they cannot increase the seats of students. It is not a solution to increase the fees and put the entire burden on the public. It is strange logic that the government has given free rein to private universities where huge fees are charged, and tuition and results are a joke. Private universities have become just a business. On the other hand, many restrictions are imposed on government universities.
No mega project has been launched by the government to bring financial benefits to the universities. Universities are always ready to give suggestions, consult, and implement. On the one hand, the supporting staff were laid off on the government directives, on the other hand, there has been a ban on the recruitment and promotion of teachers in universities for many years. The number of students has increased manifold during the last 10 years. New courses will be started. Similarly, MPhil and Ph. D.s were also started. On the one hand, more studies, on the other hand, the existing supporting staff is also being supported. In spite of limited resources, they are looking after the research as well as the lab matters themselves.
Dr. Feroze Shah says that as far as government universities cannot generate funds, it is not the job of teachers to generate funds, they should ask them for the results of their children’s studies. Students graduating from the universities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are making the name of the country bright in the world today. It is not a solution to privatize public universities. In this way, the middle class will be deprived of education. Similarly, the quality of education will also fall and become a mere business. Instead of building new universities, if the number of teachers had been increased along with increasing the number of students in the old universities, the problems would not have been faced today.
Dr. Feroz Shah further said that there are many other reasons due to which the universities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are moving towards a deficit. In countries like China, education is given for investment, while we have now become a business. The education budget of many countries of the world is more than our annual GDP. The allocated budget is also not provided here. In such a situation, there is also a solution that the number of universities should not be increased at all. The restrictions imposed on the universities of the province should be removed, the number of student seats should be increased and the fees should be reduced. Increasing the number will generate more funds and also reduce the difficulties of universities. Similarly, the rate of education will also increase further.
It should be remembered that the Provincial Supervising Minister for Higher Education, Dr. Qasim Jan, in a detailed meeting with the officials of Fapawasa Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, had assured that he would inform the federal government about the financial problems and other important issues of all the public universities of the province. Will have a detailed discussion soon.