Austerity Against Education | Editorial

The government’s decision to cut the development budget of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for the 2018-19 fiscal year by 14 % is shocking and grotesque. How can the government decide on implementing and adopting austerity measure against HEC that will directly impact projects like construction of new hostels and academic research institutes in several universities?
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Imran’s government was hailed for it decided to take austerity measures and considered the ever-increasing budget deficit; however, no one could have predicted that the government would go after education as well. The cut to education goes against the explicit promises that Imran had made throughout his political career regarding improving public sector higher education. The cut is illogical. The decrease in funding to HEC cannot support the dwindling state of our economy. However, the reduction will for sure further worsen the situation in the higher education sector.
The state of higher education in the country is already poor. We are one of the most backward nations in the world when it comes to investing in higher education, research and providing such facilities to the students. The decrease in funding means that the universities will lack facilities to cater to a large number of students; thus intake will be less. Considering the enormous youth bulge that is two third of the country’s population – which can either be a resource for the nation or is a time bomb – Mr Khan needs some retrospection on his government’s decision.
Every party that governs a country aims to never compromise on its core issues. Education was Imran’s essential electoral point all these years. Now that he has come to power, it seems that the issue has been shunted to the backburner. The proposal has exposed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) priorities and is a contradiction of many claims made after coming into power. For example, how can the government claim that it will convert buildings like the Prime Minister House into a reputed university from scratch if it cannot sustain the already existing higher education institutions?
The people were expecting greater spending on education. With the cut people’s hopes have been shattered. Other areas need no mention where cuts should be made. However, Mr Khan will not take the risk of proposing cuts there. It is to remind Mr Khan and his government that higher education plays a crucial role in blending the human resource development with the country’s socio-economic growth.
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The cut will severely hamper HEC’s aims and objectives. For instance, increasing equitable access, research and innovation, an increase in faculty with the highest academic qualifications will be negatively impacted. Above all, some of the unapproved projects that should have been implemented long ago will undergo a further delay.
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