ISLAMABAD - Nearly 4,000 scholars pursuing MS leading to PhDs under overseas scholarship programme of Higher Education Commission (HEC) facing tough times in managing food and other living expenses, as they have not been released their stipend for the last two quarters.

According to officials of the Commission, HEC has not been able to send stipend to the scholars since February this year due to non-release of development budget by the government and they have been receiving emails and complaints daily from the students to release their stipend which the commission releases quarterly.

“The countries understand the delays and hopefully would not cancel the admissions on non-payment of tuition fees but the major issues the students have been facing are to cover food and other living expenses,” informed one of the officials. The countries where most of the students have been studying include UK, Austria, Italy, Germany, France and China.

The officials were of the view that indigenous scholars who study in the country in various universities can manage somehow but living abroad with no money surely put foreign scholars in trouble. 

Currently 10,502 students have been studying under overseas and indigenous scholarship programme and of them 6,508 have been pursuing their studies in the country under indigenous scholarship programme and 3994 under overseas scholarship programme abroad. According to officials the students have not been released Rs.1686 million during the fourth quarter of financial year 2011-12 and to support the scholarship programme in the new fiscal year 2012-13 the Commission needs Rs.7110 million.

The major outstanding liabilities amounting Rs.1.68 billion are under Human Resource Development (HRD) projects. The HRD funds utilization is for payment of stipend and tuition fee to foreign institutions against already studying scholars.

‘If HEC remains unable to pay funds on time to partner agencies and scholars then it is likely that they will not be able to continue their studies and the universities may cancel their enrollment due to non-payment of tuition fee. The billions of rupees invested in human resource development programme will be wasted and academic future of thousands of HEC scholars will be destroyed’ maintained another official wishing not to be named.

The Commission was allocated Rs. 14 billion in the fiscal year 2011-12 for 177 development projects. The shortfall of development grant is Rs. 4.237 billion (30 percent) against the approved allocation of Rs.14 billion for the year.

According to officials Rs.9.76 billion that amount to 70 percent of the allocated development budget was released during the last financial year with last installment of Rs. 0.800 billion in March 2012 and no development grant released during the entire fourth quarter.

And Rs. 2.6 billion of recurring budget was also not released of the last financial year.  About 12 development projects also remained un-funded in the financial year 2011-12 on account of non-releasing fourth quarter development grants which are also not included in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2012-13 and require Rs 388.524 million funding.