Students weigh in on admissions system trouble
text size

Students weigh in on admissions system trouble

The well-meaning but flawed TCAS university system has caused tens of thousands of teenagers great distress

Up to 11,056 students fill a convention hall at Impact Muang Thong Thani sitting an admissions exam. Photos: Apichit Jinakul
Up to 11,056 students fill a convention hall at Impact Muang Thong Thani sitting an admissions exam. Photos: Apichit Jinakul

Frustration among students and parents has peaked over the trouble-plagued new admission procedures, known as the Thai University Central Admission System (TCAS). Introduced this year and supposedly designed to level the playing field and reduce complications, TCAS seems to have instead doubled the woes of students fighting to get seats in universities.

The system consists of five rounds of admission. The first, which began late last year, requires students to submit their "portfolio" to be considered by universities. The second round is dubbed "quota round", where each university allots placements to students in specific regions or with special talents. These first two rounds involve no written exam.

It's the current third round that has stirred and debate. This round involves a central examination with each student choosing four possible subjects without ranking their preferred order. This has caused a massive seat-hogging problem with top students winning exam spots for several (if not all four) courses and in effect shutting out those who come after them even though their scores are also considered acceptable. The fourth round consists of another central exam with each student choosing another four courses, now ordered by preference. Applications for this round ended yesterday.

Lastly, the final round in July sees those who are still left without a place seeking out vacant spots at individual universities.

Students have complained about the high cost of the exams (to increase their chances, students can take exams on several subjects if they can afford them), technical glitches (the website is prone to crashing) and time-consuming procedures (the application process can take more than six months). The Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT), which devised and oversees TCAS, has apologised for some of the hiccups, insisted that the system was created to ensure equality, and vowed to consider various recommendations from academics, parents and applicants to fix the flaws for next year.

Still, TCAS is yet another episode in the perennial headache that is Thai university admissions, which has gone through at least eight different systems in the past 60 years. As the debate is ongoing, one thing is often missing: the voices of students, who are most affected by every new rule and system imposed by the authorities. Here, we listen to their concerns, frustrations and what they think the admissions system should look like.

Piyawan Namvichai, 18
Nawaminthrachinuthit Suankularb Wittayalai Samutprakarn School

What do you think about the Thai University Central Admission System (TCAS)?

The TCAS web portal crashed almost every time I went in, a result of too many users. The schedule keeps changing and the fee is so expensive.

What is the worst thing about the TCAS?

The whole process takes too long which makes me feel insecure and nervous.

How many universities did you apply for?

I applied for the Faculty of Business Administration at three different universities, and I got accepted to one, King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang. But it's not right for me, and I'm considering another private university.

What would you like to say to those who came up with TCAS?

I would like to let them know that they should think thoroughly and carefully before adopting it. It is a national and a sensitive issue. They should conduct an experiment first.

For you, what's the ideal university admission system?

One that takes less time, costs less money and has its website fixed as soon as possible.

Piyachat Kirdsaeng, 19
Debsirinromklao School


Did you already have an offer from a university?

Not yet, but I'm waiting for the interview at the Faculty of Architecture at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang.

How much have you paid for the application fees in total?

More than 3,000 baht. It's expensive because I took several exams on several subjects, each of which costs at least 100 baht and then there are charges for university preferences and administrative fees.

What if you didn't have enough money for all those exams?

Then I would have limited choices in faculties because each one of them requires different test scores.

For you, what's the ideal university admission system?

The university admission shouldn't cost this much and it should have only one or two central exams. The whole process should take less time than it does now, which is around five months. That way, high-school graduates can prepare themselves before university starts.

After the headache of TCAS, what would you like to do the most?

Lie in bed and do nothing.

Panitharn Dechprasert, 18
Nawaminthrachinuthit Suankularb Wittayalai Samutprakarn School


What university faculty did you apply for?

The Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy, Chulalongkorn University. I'm now waiting for an interview.

Did you feel nervous or stressful while waiting for the announcement? What about your parents?

I feel nervous sometimes. But I'm lucky that my parents understand me and are always willing to give me advice.

So what would you do if you really missed the chance to study at your dream university?

I would wait for the university admission next year. During that time, I would look for what I like to do and try to discover my passion.

What is the TCAS' most common problem that you encounter?

The frequently crashed web portal and the failure to solve the seat-hogging problem in the third round.

How much have you paid for the fees in total?

It cost me around 1,600-1,800 baht.

Nontiya Sae-Teaw, 18
Wat Thatthong School


Which faculty did you apply to?

I applied to the Faculty of Archaeology at Silpakorn University, but I missed it even though I applied to the faculty two times. I'm waiting for the next round.

How were you feeling at that time?

I was quite hopeless because I expected that I would get a seat. I cried for four days after the announcement and couldn't go to sleep.

How can you deal with that situation?

I try not to think about it. This also happens to everyone. At first, my parents felt disappointed that I couldn't get in. But when they heard news about the TCAS' failed system, they talked to me in person and encouraged me to keep going.

So what are you going to do next?

I will apply to other faculties that my scores are compatible with.

What do you think of first when talking about the TCAS?

Costly fees!

Samita Sueplerk, 18
Ratwinit Bangkaeo School


Did you already get a placement?

No, I'm still waiting for the fourth round.

Are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself?

Yes, I put in a lot of effort and feel very stressed. I don't want to disappoint my parents.

If the process doesn't go as well as you expect, how would you deal with it?

I may choose to study whatever my score can get me, then I'll wait and go through admission again next year to get into the faculty I really want.

If you could, what would you like to change about TCAS?

I would like to shorten the duration of the whole process from five months to two months, so I would have more time to prepare before the term starts.

Worrawut Yooying, 21
A fourth-year student, Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University


As a university student who came through the old system, do you think the TCAS works better than the system in your time?

No, because students have to go through a lot of processes and different exams and they still can't be sure that they'll have a seat in university.

What are the chronic problems of the Thai university admission system that just can't seem to be solved?

Seat-hogging and costly exam fees.

Do you feel for students this year?

I do. I feel uncomfortable and feel like they shouldn't encounter these difficulties in applying to universities. I also feel pity for them.

If you were to take an exam this year, what would be your biggest worry?

I would hope my parents understand me and the current situation. I'm sure the students who take the exams this year hope for the same.

Kantachai Sae-Ung, 22
A fourth-year student, Faculty of Management Sciences, Kasetsart University (Sriracha Campus)


What are your thoughts about TCAS?

I have heard that the web portal has been crashing since day one and it takes a few days to return to normal.

Between the new TCAS and the old university admission system, which one do you prefer?

I prefer the old one because the current system costs a lot of money and takes too long, up to six months.

How do you feel when applicants need to spend such a large amount of money on the university admission system?

It's unfair and unacceptable. Some poor students don't have enough money to pay for exam fees, but those from wealthy families can take as many examinations as they want.

What would you like to say to the unsuccessful applicants this year?

I feel sorry for them and would like to say that I, too, have experienced miserable moments like this. Don't blame yourself. Just keep going. University is not everything.

Do you like the content of this article?