Curtailing Sub-Campuses in Balochistan

Sub-campuses have been established without considering per capita expenses or cost-effective-ness, often driven more by political motives than genuine necessity.

The two major universities in Balochistan are once again in turmoil as the academic and non-academic staff are on the streets protesting not being paid salaries for the last few months. Their grievances are clear as the government is unable to address their plight. Looking at the province’s financial situation in general and universities in particular, the provincial government is in a hurry to create sub-campuses in almost every district without considering the province’s economic woes. Looking at a university; it is not just a project worth millions, but billions. It requires more than clerks to run; it needs a significant number of faculty, population, resources, and means of production. Three universities are in one division and two divisions are deprived of a university. One may question this flawed policy for opening so many sub-campuses. The expansion of universities into districts lacking basic education infrastructure, low literacy rates, and high multidimensional poverty, raises significant policy concerns and has implications for the strategic development of the provincial education system.

Articles 25A and 37B of the Constitution of Pakistan give citizens the right to access primary education. The Constitution of Pakistan does not provide higher education to every citizen as a basic right. Even in developed countries, higher education is not considered a universal right of every citizen. Students are required to pay fees, which helps universities sustain themselves. Higher education is not automatically accessible to every young person; typically, only those with strong academic records gain entry. However, in Balochistan, higher education is provided to all students regardless of their academic performance, with the majority of costs covered by the province. Students often choose courses that may not have strong job prospects. Additionally, some students pursue multiple degrees at the province’s expense, often for political purposes. The HEC Act of 2002 allows universities to open sub-campuses in remote areas of the country, keeping in view the population, literacy rate, colleges, and enrollment on those campuses. Regarding the opening of sub-campuses in Balochistan, political considerations and local vested interests drive the legislators to open sub-campuses in their constituencies. It leads to a tug-of-war between the northern and the southern parts of Balochistan. If a politician from the southern part wants to open a sub-campus in his constituency, a demand from the Northern side comes simultaneously without knowing the cost. For instance, Pishin is just 55 km from Quetta and has two sub-campuses. Two sub-campuses operate in Qilla Saifullah district, just 70 km from Loralai. Sinjavi is only 28 km away, and yet the legislator from that area was demanding a sub-campus for Sinjavi, despite having a fully operational university in Loralai.

Baloch nationalist writers and social media activists have been mournful recently that the Balochi department is being closed at Makran University in Panjgur. But no one has questioned whether there was a real need for a university in Panjgur with Turbat University on one side and Gwadar University on the other. Meanwhile, the Degree College in Panjgur is offering all those subjects at a significantly lower cost. In Kharaan, the Balochistan University campus has been admitting students into LLB for many years. One wonders how many lawyers it will produce.

Sub-campuses have been established without considering per capita expenses or cost-effectiveness, often driven more by political motives than genuine necessity. For instance, the enrollment ratio in various sub-campuses is very low and is not cost-effective. The existence of these sub-campuses needs to be critically assessed. In cases where student numbers are minimal, closure should be considered, with students and faculty integrated into the main university. At the very least, departments lacking market demand should be phased out soon to minimize costs. These sub-campuses will take almost twenty to thirty years to take the seat in the education sector. Until then, they are nothing but a burden on the provincial resources.

The government of Balochistan has initiated BS and BA (Hons) programs in the province’s postgraduate colleges. Given the launch of these programs, establishing sub-campuses in areas with low higher education enrollment is considered unnecessary. Instead of investing in these sub-campuses, strengthening the local colleges would be more beneficial. These colleges offer the same courses at significantly lower fees. For example, if a semester at a university costs fifteen to twenty thousand, colleges charge only two to three thousand. The universities are already facing financial constraints and are unable to pay salaries, reflecting the financial deficit, so investing substantial funds in sub-campuses is not justifiable. Balochistan does not need more universities and their sub-campuses. Rather, there is a need to merge some sub-campuses into technical and vocational centers.

The current pace of establishing sub-campuses has led to significant financial strain, inadequate infrastructure, and undermining the quality of education in universities. By curtailing the creation of new sub-campuses and instead focusing on strengthening existing institutions, we can ensure a more efficient allocation of resources and a higher standard of education. Considering the social and national interests, we must have the courage to discuss and listen to such tough matters. These discussions may be bitter and tough, but one needs to consider them compassionately because they are concerned with our social interests. One needs to remind oneself that the downfall of nations occurs when individuals and temporary interests prevail upon social and long-term interests.

Ajmal Khan
The writer is a Research Officer at BTTN.

Ajmal Khan
The writer is a Research Officer at BTTN.

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