x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Budget cuts starting to bite, FNC says

Thousands of students were denied spots at the Higher Colleges of Technology this year because of a shortage of cash, a report by the FNC says.

ABU DHABI // Thousands of students were denied spots at the Higher Colleges of Technology this year because of a shortage of cash, a report by the FNC says.

The Minister of Higher Education linked the university's challenges in admitting students and retaining Emirati staff to a funding freeze since 2007.

The FNC report, which the council discussed yesterday, found that just 19 out of the HCT's approximately 1,200 staff were Emirati, a rate that they attributed to low salaries and benefits and long hours.

FNC members said the Ministry of Finance had not provided promised funding to the HCT based on the number of students on its roster. A further five per cent cut to the federal budget threatens to undermine these efforts, they say.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education, who is also the HCT chancellor, called on the ministry to release the funds in the "immediate future" to allow the university to focus on development and accept more students.

The FNC report said the university's expansion plans and research initiatives had faltered because of the budget shortfall. More than 6,000 students have been turned down in 2010 because of the lack of funds, and the figure is expected to reach more than 7,000 in 2012 if the situation is not remedied.

FNC members also escalated the debate over the federal budget, which faces a five per cent cut, complaining that their powers were limited and their proposals were in jeopardy. Dr Anwar Gargash, the minister of state for FNC affairs, defended the Government's track record in dealing with the FNC.

The council also heard that the country was creating a global food prices database to predict shortages and help to regulate prices. The Minister of Economy outlined measures to protect the food supply by encouraging overseas investments in agriculture and building up the industry locally.