BRUNEI-MUARA – Low global oil prices have created significant financial challenges for local varsities, said the vice-chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) on Friday, with the higher education institute seeing its budget slashed by 18 per cent over the last three years.

Speaking on a panel during the Brunei Dialogue 2018, Professor Dr Hjh Zohrah Hj Sulaiman said that as a public institution, UTB’s funds are dependent on government revenue, which took a hit when oil prices nosedived in 2014.

The engineering and technology university saw a $3 million reduction in its budget, Dr Hjh Zohrah said during a panel titled “Challenges and trends impacting universities beyond 2020″.

The problem is not something unique to Brunei, she added, saying that public and private universities around the world face similar problems.

Even though oil prices have recovered, the vice-chancellor said: “It will remain a challenge for us, one that goes beyond the year 2020.”

On the flip side, UTB has been able to recruit specialists from the oil and gas industry as visiting professors and adjunct staff, who would otherwise be too expensive during a stable economy, Dr Zohrah said.

She added that in spite of the financial issues, the university has become more resourceful in terms of securing funds, forced to be less reliant on government coffers.

“We are fortunate enough that we can sustain ourselves through other means and innovations, such as producing tangible products, as well as from student fees… and consultancy fees.

“It has even enabled us to pay for the construction of our new School of Design complex, which will hopefully be completed by the end of this month,” she said.