The public sector universities in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) are grappling with a severe financial crisis that threatens the closure of as many as 20 institutions. The financial woes have been so severe that the losses and liabilities of these universities have reportedly exceeded Rs.7 billion.
According to a report by the Higher Education Department (HED), the establishment of 29 universities in the province was carried out without any prior planning, leading to an uneven distribution of resources among them. This lack of foresight has resulted in four universities being set up in Swat alone.
The report also highlighted the administrative issues plaguing these institutions. Since March 2023, twelve universities have been operating without permanent Vice Chancellors (VCs), while eight others are being managed by Pro-VCs. Furthermore, eight more VCs are expected to complete their terms later this year, potentially exacerbating the leadership vacuum.
In addition to these challenges, disputes over resource allocation among universities have also been reported. The financial crunch has led to the suspension of salaries for employees at several universities, further straining their operations. Administrative activities at Women University Swabi, Lucky Marwat, Khushal Khan University, Karak, and Agriculture University DI Khan have been halted due to the financial crisis.
The universities have attempted to mitigate the crisis by introducing Bachelor of Science (BS) programmes after private Bachelor of Arts (B.A) and Master of Arts (M.A) were abolished. However, these efforts have been undermined by the leasing of university properties below market prices and the failure to utilize their agricultural land effectively.
The ongoing financial crisis paints a grim picture for the future of higher education in KPK. Without immediate intervention and effective financial management, the closure of these 20 universities seems imminent, potentially disrupting the academic future of thousands of students.