Balochistan’s Universities Are Deteriorating – OpEd

Universities play a fundamental role in a nation’s development. Universities produce competent human resources, encourage research and development, support economic growth, and promote social development, all of which have a significant positive impact on the development of a nation. In general, universities function as centers of education, research, and innovation, developing knowledge and society, and enhancing cultural and intellectual life.

Balochistan is the largest province in terms of area in Pakistan. With its natural resources and strategic location, the province has enormous potential for development. However, it faces enormous socioeconomic, political, cultural, and educational challenges that have not been addressed for the last 75 years.

After Pakistan’s independence, Balochistan had only nine secondary schools and no colleges. Up until 1970, Balochistan had a HEI and a connection to the University of Punjab. The University of Balochistan was the first HEI, founded in 1970 by an ordinance. As a result of the province’s slow HEI growth, there are now eleven public universities operating there.

Balochistan’s higher education system is evolving slowly. In comparison to other provinces. After the 18th Amendment was passed in 2010, the province acquired greater responsibility for the promotion of HE. But unfortunately, the province’s universities have failed to maintain and produce, human resources, scholars, writers, policymakers, researchers, etc.—and have started deteriorating; just copying and duplicating culture is being repeated.

The situation of Balochistan’s universities is a serious problem that requires immediate consideration. The universities are in a precarious situation because of nepotism, bad governance, inappropriate policies, union politics, the immature and dirty politics of student organizations, and a lack of interest among stakeholders. But political interference and a lack of budget are the major causes that are deteriorating the universities in Balochistan.

The first and foremost problem is political interference, which is considered the mother of all problems and is deteriorating the universities in Balochistan. We define political interference as the involvement of political actors, such as government officials, employee unions, student organizations, and political parties, in university affairs, such as the selection of university officials and staff, as well as the formulation of academic policies and decisions.

Because of political interference, universities in the province have appointed vice chancellors, pro-vice chancellors, treasurers, and registrars without using proper recruitment processes like advertisements and search committees. Despite the fact that they don’t meet the requirements, they get hired without interviews based on personal and political interests. The government recently announced and going to appoint five vice chancellors for universities in accordance with current legislation. This is a good sign.

Unfortunately, in the province, eight out of eleven university registrars are working without any proper and legal procedure. They are carrying out their responsibilities in the personal and political interests of politicians and VCs despite not having been appointed in accordance with the legal procedure. Due to political interference, nepotism and favoritism undermined merit-based recruitment and promotion. As a result, underqualified people have been appointed to key positions, which has resulted in poor leadership and governance.

Second, universities in Balochistan suffer a serious problem with funding, which affects their capacity to offer students high-quality education and research. The government of Balochistan and HEC provide funding to the province’s universities, but the amount is often insufficient to meet their needs. Provincial government released only 2.5 billion rupees to 11 universities in 2022-23.

Lack of funding is preventing many universities from continuing their daily routines, expanding their facilities, paying salaries, hiring qualified teachers, and providing high-quality education because universities are not adequately funded by the government of Balochistan. Consequently, research, study, and educational standards have declined. Two prestigious universities have failed to pay their employees’ salaries for the last two months, leading to a strike. For us, it is alarming that our educated class is often on strike.

To stop political interference in universities, a multifaceted strategy is required that includes following the law, strengthening the role of university governance bodies, promoting political neutrality, creating independent bodies, discouraging unions and student organizations from making illegal demands, and involving civil society.

Universities can get out of this difficult financial situation by supporting and implementing multiple strategies, including increasing government funding, encouraging public-private partnerships, and effectively managing costs. Secondly, the government of Balochistan and other stakeholders can look at a number of options to resolve this problem. Universities may also explore alternative sources of funding.

Like other provinces, the Balochistan government should create its own HEC and our problems can be solved only by our own efforts and not by blaming other provinces. Now we should formulate such policies that make the development of the province possible, and it needs good planning and vision regularly.

The nations that recognized the value of education and fought to reap its benefits are those that are today regarded with value and respect around the world, while the nations that ignored its significance are now in decline. We should leave our traditional ways behind and move to a develop society. We won’t be able to build a developed society if we do not focus on education and contemporary society.

In conclusion, the problems Balochistan’s universities face are serious, they are also solvable. The issues with universities must be resolved immediately if the province is to develop and stay peaceful.