Save QAU

The plight of QAU is reflective of a broader issue affecting higher education institutions throughout Pakistan.

Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), Islamabad, Pakistan’s top-ranked federal higher institution is facing an unprecedented financial crisis. This premier institution, which has long been a beacon of academic excellence and research, is now grappling with severe budgetary constraints that threaten its very existence. As the new budget announcement approaches next month, there is an urgent call for increased funding for higher education to safeguard not only QAU but also other universities facing similar crises across Pakistan.

The financial turmoil at QAU has reached a critical juncture with more than 800 million rupees annual deficit. The university’s operational costs have skyrocketed while government funding has stagnated or declined, leading to a substantial budget deficit. Essential services are under threat, academic programs are at risk of suspension, and the institution’s ability to maintain its high standards is in jeopardy. This fiscal distress not only hampers daily operations but also endangers ongoing research and the university’s capacity to attract and retain distinguished faculty and researchers.

The plight of QAU is reflective of a broader issue affecting higher education institutions throughout Pakistan. Universities such as the University of Peshawar, Karachi University, Balochistan University, and Punjab University are similarly afflicted by financial shortfalls. These institutions face severe cuts in funding, leading to deteriorating infrastructure, reduced academic offerings, and compromised research capabilities. The cumulative effect of these crises threatens the overall quality and international standing of Pakistan’s higher education system.

During the last month over the question of budget allocation for the public sector universities, it was informed to the members of the National Assembly of Pakistan that the recurring funding remained stagnant at Rs. 65 billion since 2018 despite the increase in financial needs of the universities against the allocated money from 21% in 2018-19 to 45% in 2023-24. The Quaid-i-Azam University Academic Staff Association (QAUASA) has been vocal about the gravity of the situation. A representative from QAUASA recently stated, “ Without immediate intervention, we risk losing our status as a top university in the region.”

In solidarity, the QAU Alumni Association Founders Group has also raised their voices. One founding member emphasized, “QAU has been instrumental in shaping leaders and professionals who have made significant contributions both nationally and internationally. It is crucial for alumni and well-wishers to rally and support the institution in its time of need.”

As the federal government prepares to announce the new budget next month, there is an urgent need to address the funding shortfall for higher education. The current budget allocations are insufficient to meet the growing demands of universities. There is a strong call for a substantial increase in the higher education budget to ensure that institutions like QAU can continue to provide high-quality education and produce world-class research.

To address the financial crisis facing QAU and other universities, a multifaceted approach is required. The government must prioritize higher education in the upcoming budget, significantly increasing financial allocations to universities. Universities need to adopt better financial management practices to ensure efficient use of resources and long-term sustainability. engaging the private sector through partnerships and sponsorships can provide alternative revenue streams. Mobilizing alumni and the broader community for endowments, scholarships, and donations can offer crucial financial support. Universities should explore innovative fundraising strategies to generate additional income.

The financial crisis at Quaid-i-Azam University is a clarion call for urgent action through announcing a bailout package. Preserving the future of QAU and other higher education institutions in Pakistan is not just about safeguarding academic standards; it is about investing in the future of the nation. As the federal government has recently declared an Education Emergency, the upcoming budget presents a pivotal opportunity for the government to reaffirm its commitment to higher education by significantly increasing funding.

Muhammad Murtaza Noor
The writer is analyst, writer and higher education expert.

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