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May 6, 2021: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and high inflation rate, the higher education sector cannot sustain without a significant increase in funding and announcement of a special relief package in the coming budget; it was stated by vice-chancellors and other representatives while addressing the live webinar on the topic of “Budget 2021-22: Needs & Expectations of Higher Education Sector”. Second, in series, this consultative session was organized by the Association of Private Sector Universities Pakistan (APSUP), Superior University, Inter-University Consortium for Promotion of Social Sciences Pakistan (IUCPSS), University of Lahore, Government College University Lahore, and FPCCI Central CSR Committee on Higher Education, Science, and Technology. Speakers recommended increase allocations for education by federal and provincial governments to 0.5% of GDP annually till it reaches 5.0% of GDP.

They said that the government spending on higher education remained less than $250 per student per year. During the webinar, it was apprised that in the last five years, HEC ‘s recurring budget remained stagnant, i.e., Rs. 63.183 billion in 2017-18, Rs. 65.020 in 2018-19, Rs. 64.100 in 2019-20, same allocation of Rs. 64.100 in 2020-21 and Rs. 65 billion, the proposed allocation for 2021-22. These allocations remained insufficient to meet the requirements of the 138 public sector universities with 92 sub-campuses.

All academic leaders suggested allocating 150 billion rupees in the new budget as a recurring budget to overcome the years-long deficit and financial problems being faced by Pakistani universities. This session was moderated by Mr. Murtaza Noor, Coordinator General of the IUCPSS, and Executive Director APSUP. Panelists included Vice Chancellors from Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University Shaheed, Hazara University Mansehra, University of Turbat, National Skills University Islamabad, Punjab University of Technology Rasul, Government College Women University Sialkot, Iqra University Karachi, Pro-Vice-Chancellor University of Punjab, and General Secretary Central FAPUASA.

All these academic leaders recommended for education emergency, allocation of funds for indigenous COVID-19 vaccination production & up-gradation of labs, announcement of special relief package for higher education amid COVID-19 pandemic, launching of separate TV station for higher education sector, involvement of universities in budget formulation process,  involvement of stakeholders and end-users  across Pakistan in policy formulation process, encouraging public-private partnerships in higher education sector, review and increase in salaries of faculty in view of high inflation rate,  restoring tax rebate to 75% for teaching & research community, establishment of special fund for payment of pensions, provision of internet devices to the students, review of policy for establishing new universities without proper qualified faculty and funding, promoting culture of intelligent classrooms, sufficient funding for continuous faculty development programs and paying special  attention towards social sciences and skill-based learning.

They also vowed to undertake collaborative efforts and adopting an innovative approach to overcome challenges being faced by the higher education sector. In his concluding remarks, Prof. Mukhtar, currently serving as Vice-Chancellor of the National Skills University and Founding Chairperson of the IUCPSS, appreciated the efforts of Mr. Murtaza Noor for bringing public and private sector academic HEIs to work jointly for improving and aligning educational practices and university governance along with modern methods. Released by: Media Section Inter University Consortium for Promotion of Social Science Pakistan.