Public sector universities are facing a financial crunch due to budget cuts and the coronavirus pandemic. Despite tall claims, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government didn’t allocate much for the higher education and the budget for the Higher Education Commission (HEC) remains nominal.

Pakistan has at least 135 public-sector higher education institutions that cater to at least 1.8 million students, says a report in The News. But how much the country spends on its education? Not a lot when compared to other expenditures, such as defence and development.



The government had allocated Rs93 billion — Rs29.4bn is development budget — for the HEC for 2020-21 for development and non-development expenditures in the education sector. The HEC, however, had asked the government for a budget of Rs104bn, reported Dawn at the time.

The decision to keep the education budget static amid a pandemic has proved expensive, as a number of universities are struggling to make ends meet. According to The News, the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Lahore, the University of Peshawar, Shah Abdul Latif University Khairpur, Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad and others are facing issues regarding finances.


Pakistan is one of the countries that do not spend a lot on health. In 2019-20, the federal government had budgeted Rs11 billion for the current expenditure on health, reported Express Tribune. However, the government funneled Rs1bn more into the budget to counter the coronavirus threat. In the current financial year, Pakistan more than doubled the health budget to Rs25.5 billion due to COVID-19.

However, the decision was still criticised as the country’s healthcare needed more than that to battle the deadly pandemic.


The government spends a major chunk of its money on defence-related expenditures. In financial year 20-21, the allocations to the defence sector saw an 11 per cent increase from the previous year. Rs1,289 billion was allocated to the military.

According to Ayesha Siddiqa, the author of Military Inc., “major acquisitions by the armed forces, spending on the public sector development programme (PSDP), expenditure on the nuclear programme and para-military forces, payments for military pensions, a newly set-up national security division and a few other military expenditures are not reflected in the budget. If these were to be added to it, Pakistan’s defence spending would be even higher — at around $11bn”.

 Development budget:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a lull in economic activity, the government could increase its public-sector development spending. It had been budgeted at Rs1,324bn, 18pc below than last year’s budget.

Of this, federal PSDP had been allocated Rs650 billion, while Rs676 billion had been allocated to provinces, as per Dawn.