The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has formally conveyed that it cannot provide funds to Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University (SZABMU) at least for next three years because according to existing rules only relevant federal or provincial government bears total expenditures of any new university for a specific time period, sources said here on Sunday.
Sources said HEC Executive Director Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad recently held a detailed meeting with SZABMU Vice Chancellor Professor Javed Akram and informed him that any new university gets total financial support for first three years from relevant federal and provincial government after which the HEC starts providing funds to it in line with the formula based on number of students and teachers.
An HEC’s official confided to this correspondent that the HEC has asked the SZABMU administration to approach the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development (CAD) for financial support and insistence of provision of funds by the HEC would yield no results.
Sources said the HEC has pointed out four facts that currently stop it from providing funds to the SZABMU including three years compulsory period for any new university, non-separation of SZABU from PIMS, flaws in its administrative set-up and financial constraints of the commission.
They said many clauses of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University Act are in conflict with the Higher Education Commission Ordinance 2002 that was the guiding force behind establishment of any new university.
It is pertinent to mention here the National Assembly passed the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University (PIMS), Islamabad, Bill, in February 2013 and as a result, PIMS was upgraded to a medical university and empowered to confer degrees, diploma certificates and other academic distinctions. On February 11, 2013 the Quaid-i-Azam University formally handed over the affiliation of health institutions to PIMS.
The 3,000-strong workforce of PIMS has also long been agitating against the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto University Act, saying that they like to remain the employees of the federal government instead of being part of the university because it would have to generate money to meet its expenditures besides looking towards the cash-starved HEC for funds.
Talking to this scribe, HEC Executive Director Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad said they have conveyed to the SZABMU administration about their inability to extend financial support because any such act would be violation of the existing rules and procedures.
“The SZABMU should first complete three years compulsory period after which HEC would start providing funds to it in line with the formula based on total number of students and teachers,” he said.
Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad said when SZABMU Vice Chancellor Professor Javed Akram met him and demanded Rs3 billion to meet expenditures of the university and PIMS hospital after which it was officially conveyed that even teaching hospitals attached with the medical universities are funded by relevant provincial departments.
“So HEC would not bear expenditures of the PIMS hospital that run in billions but it can provide funds to SZABMU according to the formula approved by the Commission,” he said.
PIMS Spokesperson Dr. Ayesha Isani told this correspondent that they have forwarded their demand to the Finance Division for allocation of funds in the upcoming budget and they are hopeful that the federal government would ensure that PIMS never faces any shortage of funds due to its pivotal role in providing health facilities to the people in the capital city.
“We need Rs3.5 billion annually and it is apparently not possible for HEC to provide this huge amount so we are looking towards the federal government that can only be able to meet our financial requirements,” she said.
SZABMU Vice Chancellor Professor Javed Akram said they are in contact with the HEC officials and hopefully a mechanism would be developed according to which HEC would provide funds for the university and the federal government would extend financial support for the hospital.
To a question, he said new universities are provided funds for first three years only in the provinces and there is no such mechanism at the federal level so they have asked HEC to review this policy and start funding from next fiscal year. (The News)