ISLAMABAD:The Higher Education Commission (HEC) under Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) project conducted three-day extensive capacity-building sessions for public sector universities on financial autonomy. Around 18 Registrars, Treasurers and allied staff of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) from Punjab, Sindh, AJ and K and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa attended the training held at the Kohsar University (KU), Murree.
The thematic areas of the training included the features of the framework for financial autonomy, better financial management, improvement in the governance of public sector universities, and implementation of the framework. HEDP has already conducted six such capacity-building sessions across the country in which more than 150 participants have been trained.
In his opening remarks, Vice Chancellor Abbottabad University of Science and Technology Dr. Malik Mujaddad Ur Rehman, the chief guest of the event, emphasized the need for improvement in the financial resource generation of public sector universities in the wake of dwindling federal government grants and mounting expenditures due to inflation. Emphasizing the autonomy of universities, he added that HEIs which can make their own decisions can better empathize with their employees and students addressing their regional needs.
In the collective brainstorming, programme members explored the practical applicability of the idea being the primary concern for HEIs and related questions were raised in this regard. The pre- and post-assessment showed a marked improvement in the understanding and skills of the participants on financial autonomy. The activity is led by the Financial Management Specialist, HEDP, Mr. Khawaja Zahid in collaboration with the financial experts who were engaged to conduct different sessions during the training.
Deputy Provost, Kohsar University, Murree Mr. Shehroz Khan appreciated HEDP’s efforts to conduct this training all across Pakistan including hosting this valuable training session at their campus.
The allocation of public funds for the higher education sector in Pakistan remains low compared to international standards. The situation is vulnerable owing to competing demands from other sectors on Pakistan’s national budget. Realizing this, HEC is encouraging public sector HEIs to enhance revenues from non-traditional sources beyond government grants and student fees.
This is also one of the key development objectives of the HEDP project, where the governance of the higher education sector is to be strengthened by supporting the financial autonomy of universities.
Accordingly, after consultations with around 100 HEIs across Pakistan, two frameworks - one for revenue enhancement and fund generation and another for improving the financial autonomy of public sector universities were developed. All relevant stakeholders comprising the senior management of public sector HEIs from across Pakistan were engaged in the development of this draft framework.
Around 50 universities have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with HEC for participation in this new framework, whereas 25 more universities are in the process. HEC has also released substantial funds as seed money to 51 HEIs for the creation of endowment funds with the objective of utilizing the proceeds for cost-cutting, revenue enhancement and implementation of these frameworks. It is hoped that these activities will prepare Pakistan HEIs for financial independence.
HEDP is a five-year project (2019/20 – 2023/24) implemented by HEC to expand its key higher education priorities. It aims to support research excellence in strategic sectors of the economy, improve teaching and learning, and strengthen governance in higher education.