Changing Economic Scene: Momentous changes have taken place on the international scene. The end of the cold war, the transformations in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the imminent emergence of a common market in western Europe are events of truly historic significance. These changes have made a profound impact on both international relations and the world economy. Simultaneously, most developing countries have embarked on bold measures of reform in restructuring their economies and opening up to forces of competition, both-domestic and foreign. All these changes will certainly have an impact on the Indian economy.
India is passing through a historic moment on the economic front. The Eighth Five Year Plan has been launched in the backdrop of certain strengths in the economy as well as certain concerns which have surfaced over the recent years. The Government have taken new initiatives and bold decisions to reorient and restructure the economy to meet the challenges of the present economic crisis in the country.
The above scenario necessitates identifying certain imperatives in the approach to planning. These include providing for more decentralization and liberalisation of controls; enlisting people's cooperation and participation in national programmes and schemes; striving to achieve targets with less financial outlays through improved efficiency and productivity; optimizing the utilization of resources and encouraging greater involvement of private sector and progressively decreasing government subsidies.
The changed scenario could be viewed in terms of: (i) economic reforms with massive dose of liberalisation, (ii) globalisation of Indian economy, and (iii) Indian industry getting exposed to global competition. The responses needed to meet the impact of changed situtation effectively are : (a) optimal utilisation of resources, (b) resources mobilisation, (c) collaboration, networking and sharing of facilities, (d) excellence and relevance in the R & D effort, (e) improved productivity, increased efficiency and quality, (f) modernisation, (g) competent and relevant manpower development and (h) international interaction and collaboration.
In the process of increasing efficiency and productivity in a situation of resource limitations, sharing and optimizing the use of available resources assume importance. It applies to all sectors and there should be greater cooperation and interaction. Interaction and interdependence are well recognised concepts in the present-day world. This assumes particular significance in the roles of universities, technical institutions, industries and R&D organisations.
Role of Technical Education: Technical Education is one of the most crucial components of Human Resource Development. It is a basic and essential input for national development and for strengthening our industry, economy and the quality of life of our people. Naturally, technical education has to be treated as a priority sector. The beneficiaries of technical education are not only the students, but also the industry, the Government and the society at large. Hence financial inputs to the technical education system are to be viewed as a long term investment in the national economy. More significantly, the cost of such education has to be shared by all the beneficiaries and in particular by the Governments, the industry and other sectors of the economy and the students.
It should be recognised that the academic world, industries and the R & D laboratories together hold the key to technology development in many sectors of the economy of the country. Survival of industry depends largely on improved, innovative and new technologies, and for this purpose it needs the support of academic institutions. The R & D activities in the higher professional institutions are therefore important to the industries and crucial to the economy of the country. This activity therefore needs to be supported and promoted.
Restructuring our economy would require higher level, broadly educated work force of larger proportions of scientists, engineers, managers and technicians. Accordingly, development of technically qualified human resources becomes crucial to the success of implementing economic restructuring and for deriving sustained economic development. In view of the required gestation period for developing these human resources, it is important that greater effort and investment in technical education should begin right away. The decrease in the levels of government subsidy and greater reliance on market forces, would also apply to the technical education sector as the Government is under financial constraints and has to make difficult choices about where its investments should go. While it is true that the 8th Plan Document specially recognizes human resource development as the core of all developmental effort and correspondingly attaches priority to the sectors of primary education, literacy and basic needs, the overall scenario which the technical education system would face is of a reduced budgetary support from the Government.
Financial Support for Technical Education: It is expensive to maintain technical education at a high level of excellence. With the high rate of obsolescence in technology and phenominal growth of new technology, continual updating and initiating new programmes in emerging areas are essential for maintaining a state-of-art technical education system. Faced with resource constraints at the national level and the consequent inadequate financial support from Government sources, the technical education sector needs new initiatives to mobilise the required fiscal support, Institutions have to be encouraged to achieve maximum self-reliance by generating resources through various measures.
Given the new initiatives taken by the Central Government in restructuring the Indian economy, which may ultimately lead to integration into global economy, the time is ripe now for the higher and technical education institutions to move towards less dependence on government funding and become self-reliant to the extent possible. The self-reliance should be understood in terms of building up of the capability to bridge the gap between the fund requirement and the fund availability through suitable measures for fund generation, without affecting their primary task of teaching and research - Such capability would ensure fulfilling the objectives and goals of the institution without undue interference from funding agencies, thus developing a degree of financial autonomy essential for proper academic functioning. Overdependence on Government support has already led to both inadequacy and rigidity in resource allocation to various sectors of academic activity. It is essential that institutions should reduce this dependence through raising internal and external resources like contributions from industry, alumni, charitable trusts etc., elimination of wastage and improvement of financial management practices. There is much to be gained through interaction among institutions, laboratories and industries by way of equipment sharing, collaborative R & D, joint academic programmes, sharing and exchange of faculty and sponsored research. The professional institutions will also have to demonstrate capabilities which would enhance the confidence of the investors and accountability to the society.