75% of Thai universities could close as enrolment falls and foreign competition heats up

75% of Thai universities could close as enrolment falls and foreign competition heats up

Fall in enrolment numbers a 'wake-up call'

Freshmen check their entrance exam marks. Within a decade, if present trends continues, three-quarters of Thai universities will be gone. (Bangkok Post file photo by Thanarak Khunton)
Freshmen check their entrance exam marks. Within a decade, if present trends continues, three-quarters of Thai universities will be gone. (Bangkok Post file photo by Thanarak Khunton)

Three quarters of Thai universities are at risk of closing over the next decade due to low enrolment and increased competition from foreign rivals, an education expert has warned.

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Three quarters of universities 'at risk of closure'

Dumrongkiat Mala

Three quarters of Thai universities are at risk of closing over the next decade due to low enrolment and increased competition from foreign rivals, an education expert has warned.

Arnond Sakworawich, a lecturer in actuarial sciences and risk management at the Graduate School of Applied Statistics of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida), said he is worried the government's idea to allow institutes of higher education from overseas to create satellite campuses in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) along Thailand's borders would put many Thai universities in danger of shutting down.

Mr Arnond said Thailand's higher education market has been shrinking for many years due to a demographic transition from high to low levels of fertility.

"There are just 600,000-700,000 babies born in Thailand per year on average now, compared to 1,000,000 per year from 30 years ago. The National Economic and Social Development Board also expects the number of Thais in the school-age group (0-21 years) will fall to 20% of the population in 2040, a sharp drop from 62% in 1980," he said.

In 2016, the NESDB reported 704,058 babies were born in Thailand.

During last year's admission, the universities had vacancies for up to 150,000 prospective students to study various subjects, but only 80,000 applied for the entrance test, he added.

Mr Arnond said the numbers are a wake-up call for 170 universities nationwide that the higher education market in Thailand is getting smaller each year.

"When the market is shrinking and you try to add more players in it, the consequence is surely a higher competition. The worst-case scenario for me is that three-quarters of Thai universities may be forced to shut down over the next decade because they will not be able to compete with well-known and foreign universities," he said.

Pong-In Rakariyatham, an academic whose expertise lies in university enrolment procedures, said he has noticed a significant fall in the number of students and changes in the labour market that will potentially have a big impact on many universities' non-scientific programmes.

"New social trends could make some majors outdated, so those which want to stay financially healthy may have to close certain programmes. Majors in the social science field are likely to go first," he said.

Somwang Phithiyanuwat, an education scholar of the Royal Society, said university administrators need to start thinking of changes in the number of students in each department to survive.

"Students now prefer to study in scientific areas over social science, so I think universities need to reduce social science majors and stop attempting to win more funding by attracting students to fill university seats," he said.

Thammasat University is also aware of the declining number of students and is finding ways to strike a balance as the university is now considered too big, said Thammasat University rector Somkit Lertpaithoon.

In terms of quality, world-renowned universities have 25,000 students on average, but Thammasat has gone beyond that with 40,000 students, Mr Somkit said. The current social trend is making the university consider downsizing, or even closing, some social science majors. Among them are the university's top degree programmes, law and journalism and mass communication, he said.

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  • academic: someone who teaches at a college, or who studies as part of their job - นักวิชาการ
  • actuarial science (noun): a field of study that applies mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk in insurance, finance and other industries and professions - คณิตศาสตร์ประกันภัย
  • administrator: someone whose job is to manage a business, organisation, or institution - ผู้บริหาร, ผู้บริหารกิจการ
  • admission (noun): selecting students to attend a school or university - การรับเข้า
  • applied statistics (noun): the work of professional statisticians, who are responsible for the production and presentation of statistics -
  • apply (verb): to make a formal request for permission to do or have something - ขอ, สมัคร
  • at risk: in danger - ตกอยู่ในความเสี่ยง
  • aware (adj): knowing that something exists, or to have knowledge or experience of a particular thing - ทราบ, รับรู้
  • border: the official line separating two areas, regions or countries - เขตแดน อาณาเขต
  • campus (noun): the buildings of a university, college or business and the land around them - พื้นที่ที่เป็นที่ตั้งของมหาวิทยาลัย
  • competition: a situation in which people or organizations compete, i.e., try to be more successful or better than somebody else who is trying to do the same as you - การแข่งขัน
  • consequence: result of effect of something - ผลที่ตามมา
  • considered (verb): regarded as; thought of as - ถือว่า
  • decade: a period of ten years - ทศวรรษ
  • decline: to become less or worse - ลดลง
  • demographic: data relating to the population and different groups within it - สถิติประชากร
  • downsizing: making something smaller -
  • due to: because of - เนื่องจาก
  • enrolment: the number of students at a school or university - การลงทะเบียน,การลงชื่อ,การสมัครเข้าเรียน
  • expert: someone who has a particular skill or who knows a lot about a particular subject - ผู้เชี่ยวชาญ
  • expertise: a high level of knowledge or skill - ทักษะความรู้, ความคิดเห็นของผู้เชี่ยวชาญ
  • fertility (noun): the ability to have babies; how many babies women have in a country - ภาวะเจริญพันธุ์, อัตราการเกิดของประชากร,
  • financially: involving money - ทางการเงิน
  • funding: money given for a particular purpose - การให้เงินสนับสนุน
  • graduate school: a part of a college or university where you can study for a second or further degree - บัณฑิตวิทยาลัย
  • impact (noun): an effect or influence - ผลกระทบ
  • in terms of (idiom): regarding; used to show what aspect of a subject you are talking about or how you are thinking about it - เกี่ยวกับ, เกี่ยวข้องกับ
  • institution: an important tradition or system upon which society is based - สถาบัน
  • journalism: the activity of reporting the news for a newspaper, magazine, radio programme or television programme - วารสารและสื่อมวลชน
  • labour market (noun): the number of people who are available to work, considered together with all the available jobs - ตลาดแรงงาน
  • lecturer (noun): a teacher at a university or college - อาจารย์ผู้บรรยาย
  • mass communication: the study or the mass media, especially newspapers, television, radio, magazines - วารสารศาสตร์
  • National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) (noun): NESDB (National Economic and Social Development Board or "Sa-pa-pat") - Thai government planning agency for economic development, creates five year plans with an agenda of: 1. Alleviation of Poverty and Income Distribution problems, 2. Enhancing Thailand’s Competitiveness, 3. Promoting Social Capital Development, 4. Promoting Sustainable Development (Source: Wikipedia) - สำนักงานคณะกรรมการพัฒนาการเศรษฐกิจและสังคมแห่งชาติ
  • National Institute of Development Administration (noun): (Nida) a public graduate university in Thailand under the Commission on Higher Education, the Ministry of Education - สถาบันบัณฑิตพัฒนบริหารศาสตร์
  • nationwide: throughout a whole country - ทั่วทั้งประเทศ
  • on average: calculated by adding several amounts together, finding a total, and dividing the total by the number of amounts - โดยเฉลี่ย
  • outdated: old and no longer suitable or useful - ล้าสมัย, ที่พ้นสมัย
  • overseas: connected with foreign countries, especially those separated from your country by the sea or ocean - เกี่ยวกับต่างประเทศ, ข้ามทะเล
  • potentially: possible in the future - ที่อาจเกิดขึ้นได้
  • procedures (noun): ways of doing something - ขั้นตอนการดำเนินการ
  • prospective: likely to be or become a particular thing - ซึ่งคาดคะเนไว้, ที่คาดหวังไว้, ที่มุ่งหวัง
  • quality: the standard of something when it is compared to other things like it; how good or bad something is - คุณภาพ
  • rector: the person in charge in some universities, schools, colleges and universities - อธิการบดี
  • reduce: to make something smaller or less in amount, size, importance etc - ลดลง
  • renowned (adj): famous and admired for a special quality, skill or achievement - ที่มีชื่อเสียง
  • risk: the possibility that something dangerous or unpleasant might happen - ความเสี่ยง
  • rival: a person you are competing against or opposing - คู่แข่ง
  • satellite: something that is controlled by a larger thing or that depends on a larger thing but is separate from it - บริวาร
  • scholar: someone who studies a particular subject and knows a lot about it, especially a subject that is not scientific - นักวิชาการ
  • sharp: sudden and rapid, especially of a change in something - ฉับพลัน, กะทันหัน
  • shrink: to become smaller, or to make something smaller - หดตัว, เล็กลง
  • significant: important - สำคัญ
  • social sciences: economics, sociology, psychology and other academic disciplines that study how society works -
  • strike a balance (phr): to create a balance - สร้างความสมดุล
  • survive: to continue to exist - อยู่รอด  สืบต่อไปได้
  • transition: the process of changing from one situation or state to another - การเปลี่ยนถ่าย การโอน
  • trend: a gradual change or development that produces a particular result   - ทิศทาง แนวโน้ม
  • vacancy: a job that no one is doing and is therefore available for someone new to do - ตำแหน่งว่าง
  • wake-up call: when something happens that shows you that you should be thinking about something or worried about some problem -
  • worst-case scenario: a description of the worst possible situation that could result in the future - สถานการณ์ที่เลวร้ายที่สุด
  • zone: an area that has an important or typical feature; an area where a particular activity is allowed or not allowed - พื้นที่, บริเวณ, เขต
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