ISLAMABAD  -  Association of Private Sector Universities Pakistan (APSUP) on Thursday urged the government for a special relief package in the upcoming budget.

A statement released said that because of COVID-19 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.

Vice Chancellors (VCs) of the private universities while addressing the live webinar on the topic of “Budget 2021-22: Needs & Expectations of Higher Education Sector” recommended increasing allocations for education by federal and provincial governments to 0.5% of GDP annually till it reaches 5.0% of GDP.

The consultative session was organised 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 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., Rs63.183 billion in 2017-18, Rs65.020 in 2018-19, Rs64.100 in 2019-20, same allocation of Rs64.100 in 2020-21 and Rs65 billion was 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 Rs150 billion in the new budget as a recurring budget to overcome the years-long deficit and financial problems being faced by Pakistani universities.

Chairman APSUP Prof. Dr. Chaudhary Abdul Rehman also wrote a letter to Minister for Federal Education & Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood regarding timely commencement of Autumn Semester 2021. 

Like any other sector, the third wave of COVID-19 has severely affected the higher education sector as well. Private sector universities are playing a pivotal role in providing quality education by taking many timely measures like redesigning educational models to avoid disrupting the academic system during a pandemic.

Since a prolonged closure of higher education institutes with uncertainty about reopening time frame, the situation has gotten even more stressful with the government’s latest decision about delaying the commencement of Autumn Semester 2021. This decision will cause an irreparable loss to students in terms of disrupting their academic journey and resulting in further stress and unrest among them. 

Further, at the outset of this development, the already troubled financial system of private sector universities is going to be collapsed which is hardly surviving on their own without any substantial relief from the government during a pandemic. By implementing the decision of delaying the commencement of Autumn Semester 2021, it will be impossible to meet recurring financial cost i.e. faculty and staff salaries and operational expenses because private HEIs depend solely on admissions for their financial sustainability.