Higher Education Cuts

A black day is being observed by academics today because the federal government, in complete constitutional disregard, decided to cut the budget of the Higher Education Commission, unilaterally. We are already in a deep pit when it comes to education and higher education, no dreamland of a rich heritage of centers of learning. If we still give some credit to a few universities making a mark and pulling it through, the government now seems hell-bent on even taking that away. Already a shortage of 60 billion in the higher education sector, what did the government think when it issued the notification? As expected, the very first sit-in is planned for the coming week as budget announcements start to pour in.

Another shock for the provincial academics is that the HEC has now been directed to withdraw its patronage of provincial universities, which is more shocking when we consider that we do not have provincial-level replicas of the HEC. Who will govern and who will decide matters and ensure quality research and education in the universities based in provinces? Unfortunately for all of us, the notification did not care to elaborate. The protest of academics is justified and they, along with students who will be directly impacted by this, must raise their voices for this decision that does not make much sense and put at risk the very future of higher learning in the country. Higher education is already plagued by a plethora of issues. On one end, we have VCs that are yet to be appointed, and on the other, the ever-persistent issue of sub-standard academic research. If the government has a problem with the output and efficacy of higher education institutes, it should perhaps try a different way of enforcing checks and ensuring innovative outcomes.

Wherever the academics are complicit in a lack of innovative learning and research, quality controls can take them into account. Budget cuts, in an already starved sector, only adds another layer to the problem - the one that carries ugly repercussions. Our serious disregard for education is already an open secret. The government must not seek to worsen that.

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