Saturday, December 2, 2023

Future of Students at Stake as Famous Pakistani University on the Verge of Closure

Karakoram International University, the public university of Gilgit-Baltistan, is on the verge of closure due to a severe financial crisis. Faculty members and insiders told Hum News that the university, established in 2002 under the Universities Act, 2002, faced several setbacks that damaged its financial system.

The Higher Education Commission’s decision to end the university’s regular and private degree programs, including B.Ed., BA, and M.A., is one of the primary causes of the problem. B.Sc., and two-year Master’s programs without proper planning. This resulted in an annual loss of around Rs 100 million to the university.

Another blow came from the HEC’s decision to set up three campuses of KIU in Hunza, Ghazar, and Diamer districts and later merge them with the main campus. This increased the cost of running the university, especially at the Diamar campus, which faced security and logistical challenges.

The university also suffered from the Gilgit-Baltistan government’s decision to disaffiliate its colleges and schools with KIU’s examination department and affiliate them with the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE) Islamabad. This created a further annual shortfall of around Rs 100 million for the university.

The university itself has made some mistakes. The university started various unnecessary and unpopular degree programs in various fields like mining engineering and earth sciences and set up unnecessary “learning centers” in Yasin and Gakhta. These measures added to the university’s budgetary pressures.

Experts and KIU staff have recommended a few steps to improve the university’s financial status in order to avoid an early shutdown. Among them is changing the KIU Act of 2008 to add the Gilgit-Baltistan Government as a statutory body for universities, just like other public institutions nationwide.

They also suggested appointing the Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan as the Chancellor to ensure the provision of annual provincial grants and other assistance to the university.

They also proposed phasing out or providing additional funding to KIU’s three campuses, closing unnecessary degree programs, closing high-cost campus offices in Islamabad and Skardu, and renting out university-owned facilities like auditoriums, guest houses, etc. 

Or even recommended for leasing and shopping plaza land, transfer or layoff of staff from the examination department and the three campuses, and demand for more budget allocation and special grants from the HEC.

They also said that it is very important to ensure elected representation in the university’s academic council, syndicate, and senate. Finally, they suggested that HEC allocate a larger budget and provide special awards as compensation for initiatives that are canceled.

KIU Director of Media Mir Tazeem stated to Hum News that he has been persistently pleading with the HEC to take proper action to address the university’s financial issues. “The situation is going from bad to worse and there is an urgent need to solve this problem.”

When contacted for comment, senior HEC official Ayesha Ikram said, “HEC has released funds for the first quarter. More information about this issue has to be provided by the university administration.

HEC Director Media Waseem Khaliq Dad said that HEC is providing funds to all universities as per the prescribed criteria. Universities should use the funds wisely to cover their expenses. But universities also receive funding from provincial governments. If they face financial problems, they can also approach them to solve their problems.

They said that HEC has released the first quarter grant to Karakoram International University. “HEC has a formula-based funding mechanism for disbursement of funds and recurrent grants to all public sector universities in the country are disbursed accordingly.”

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