No fund crunch in South Asian University, will open new campuses in SAARC countries, says president

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 21-02-2024 10:43 IST | Created: 21-02-2024 10:43 IST
No fund crunch in South Asian University, will open new campuses in SAARC countries, says president
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The South Asian University has started receiving funds from the member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), a step that will help the varsity to bounce back from its financial crisis, SAU president KK Aggarwal said.

In an interview with PTI, Aggarwal said that the university, under his tenure, will focus on controlling the expenditure by attracting more students without scholarships and designing a rational salary structure for teachers.

''The university is supposed to be funded by all the member countries. Others were not paying their share for quite some time. I have spoken to all of them and by and large, their response is that now that things have started improving we are ready to pay,'' Aggarwal said.

The SAU had been functioning without a regular president for nearly four years and the post was filled in December last year.

In the absence of a regular management and lack of funding by the seven SAARC countries other than India, the university was facing extreme financial constraints, Aggarwal said.

''If an institute remains headless for that much time it's obvious that it will suffer,'' Aggarwal said while stating that the governments of all the representative countries are now determined to run the university in a proper manner.

''We will work on limiting the number of fellowships and scholarships instead of everybody getting it. So a combination of some such things will help us to come to realistic budgets. We will also probably design a more rational salary structure to ensure that the members are not burdened,'' he added.

Excluding India, together the seven SAAR countries -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka -- contribute 43 per cent of the total funding to the international institute.

India provides 57 per cent of the funding to the institute for running its operations.

The university plans to utilise the funding to develop infrastructure in its existing campus located in South Delhi's Maidan Garhi area and focus on expansion to set up branches of SAU across India and in the other SAARC countries.

''We have recently moved to a new permanent campus. Previously, we were functioning from a rented space. So our first focus is to build the required infrastructure such as hostels for students and academic blocks for the new programmes that are in the pipeline to be rolled out starting this academic year,'' Aggarwal said.

''We will also look into opening offshore campuses of SAU in each of the SAARC countries using the funds and setting up its branches across India,'' he added.

Earlier in 2022, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had said that some of the SAARC countries had not paid their share of the financial aid to the university due to which the varsity was facing severe financial constraints.

''Beyond that, there are issues of management and academic freedom,'' Jaishanker had said while responding to a question in the parliament.

The top three posts of the university were served by ad-hoc members since 2019, during which it suffered a loss of about Rs 90 lakh due to an erroneous tax exemption granted to the registrar, according to a Public Accounts Committee report tabled in the Lok Sabha in December last year.

The university also witnessed hunger strikes by students resulting in their suspension and expulsion of teachers for supporting the cause to roll back the cuts in scholarship stipends, and students representation in the sexual harassment committee, among other issues.

''What we are trying to do is we'll try to reduce the expenditures to the extent possible, because in some cases, it's possible to reduce it. I personally believe there's no justification of overspending when you can do without it,'' Aggarwal said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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