The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has failed to make a single policy to set benchmark regarding steep soaring fee by the universities. On the other hand, the commission actively uses Vice Chancellors of all public sector universities to build pressure on the government to “refrain” from reducing HEC’s annual budget 2022-23. Daily Times has learnt that while keeping in view the difficult economic situation in the country, the incumbent government last week approved Rs30 billion to be allocated to HEC as recurring grant (for salaries and pension) for public sector universities against HEC’s demand of Rs104 billion. The decision, however, withdrew on special directives of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The government decision to decry the HEC administration which still seemed to be constantly issuing statements and it used the claim “the budgetary cut will cause financial burden of the varsities as they ought to increase fee having no other choice to meet finances.” However, as per information collected by this scribe though well informed sources in the HEC and some public sector universities, since its inception the HEC had formulated no uniformed mechanism or strategy under which universities could be asked to raise fees accordingly. Currently, there are around 141 government-run universities in the country and HEC monitors them other than private sector varsities. Out of these 144 universities, each has their own criteria to increase fee and in the last few years almost each public sector university significantly increased their fee which ultimately overburdened students who already have average economic background as compared to those who opted Private Sector University to be enrolled for higher studies. Soon after the government announcement for budgetary cuts last week, the HEC issued a statement in which the commission claimed “the country’s higher education sector is all set to face a financial crisis as the federal government has, in principle, decided to impose a major cut on the salaries budget of universities in the upcoming budget”. The HEC stated that the VCs, at a virtual meeting expressed serious concerns and said the cut would lead towards a severe crisis in universities which will be unable to pay salaries and pension to their employees. Education experts of the view that to demand for a better budget is good but to make comprehensive policies for the institutional betterment was also among most fundamental duties of the HEC that, according to him, not been fulfilled especially in the last few years. He said that the plight of worse governance can be judged as the HEC has no proper head from the past few years. Moreover, restored by the high court on the post of chairman, Dr Tariq Banuri remained busy decrying his own institution instead of making some plan to upgrade it. The Executive Director Dr Shaista Sohail mostly looked after the affairs of the commission, herself having below average academic credentials. The ED is principal accounting officer of the and second most important official after chairman as per HEC act. Soon before his superannuation of his tenure last week, Chairman Dr Banuri again targeted HEC saying that the commission did nothing for higher education. “In last 20 years we (government) spent Rs 75 billion for research and in return the purpose could not be accomplished for equal to Rs 7.5 million even,” he regretted. On Friday HEC’s media wing released another press release by stating that “Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal and Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Rana Tanvir Hussain have held out assurance to the heads of public sector universities that the Government will not cut the higher education sector’s budget for the fiscal year (FY) 2022-23.” The Ministers, as per statement, were addressing the VCs Committee meeting.in which the VCs conveyed their concerns about the Indicative Budget Ceilings (IBC) of only Rs 30 billion for higher education’s recurring grant for the FY 2022-23. However, the HEC added, they welcomed the assurances of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif with regard to protection of the higher education sector’s budget. They emphasized that HEC had presented a rationalized demand of Rs. 104.983 billion for the next financial year worked out together with the Ministry of Finance which needs to be protected. Ahsan Iqbal affirmed that the government is cognizant of the importance of higher education and universities in the development of a nation. Minister for Federal Education Rana Tanveer stated that he stands by the universities in their valid demand for allocation of Rs 104.983 billion. He stressed the need for promoting quality of education, innovation, and research activities in the universities to equip the country’s youth with education and skills. He said that the Government will take steps to improve the financial management of universities. He expressed his approval of a recommendation by Vice Chancellors that the budgetary allocation to higher education should be linked to the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).