Distressing revelations

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It is with deep concern that we observe the dire state of affairs in the higher education sector of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), particularly the inadequate allocation of funds for research activities in public sector universities. The recent revelation that not a single student has been enrolled in PhD programs in at least ten out of 34 public sector universities in KP over the last three years is a distressing reflection of the larger problem at hand. According to a news report published on these pages, these seats of higher education and research have been unable to fulfill their primary duty – conducting research. The meager allocation of only Rs 1 billion for research out of a total expenditure of Rs 41 billion in fiscal year 2023-24 is akin to cumin in the camel’s mouth, rendering the research efforts almost inconsequential.
Public sector universities in KP are also burdened with unnecessary expenses, such as spending approximately Rs 3.2 billion per year on hiring visiting faculty, compensating thesis supervisors, engaging contingent staff, and addressing miscellaneous contingencies. This significant amount could have been redirected towards research endeavors by implementing better human resource management and financial discipline within these universities. Furthermore, the underutilization of university assets, such as shops and lands, adds to the financial mismanagement plaguing the higher education system in the region. The governance issues and flaws in the appointment of vice chancellors must also be addressed promptly to ensure efficient operation of these institutions.
In addition to financial woes, 18 universities in KP have faced a decrease in federal funding during 2022-23 and 2023-24, and some institutions like the University of Agriculture Peshawar, University of Buner, and UET Peshawar received no provincial grants during the current fiscal year. This chronic underfunding hampers the universities’ ability to provide quality education and conduct meaningful research. It is crucial to recognize that the development of a nation’s social and economic fabric is intricately tied to its universities and the outcomes they produce. A robust higher education system leads to exemplary academic performances and equips graduates to become future leaders, contributing to the country’s progress.
In this era where knowledge and innovation are paramount, the neglect of research and higher education is detrimental to the social and economic development of KP. Developed nations understand the crucial role of universities in fostering high-quality labor, increasing productivity, and promoting innovation. KP must prioritize its higher education sector, allocate adequate funds for research, and address the systemic issues plaguing its universities to harness the full potential of its students and drive progress.