Two foreign universities ask to set up campuses
Two foreign universities placed in the top 200 of the world rankings have applied to create satellite campuses in Thailand, according to the Education Ministry.
Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin said Tuesday that Carnegie Mellon University, one of the leading universities in the US, and National Taiwan University, the most prestigious university in Taiwan, have already put in applications to set up branches in Thailand under a government scheme that allows institutes of higher education from overseas to operate to provide teaching support in fields that are crucial to the Thailand 4.0 vision.
Thailand 4.0 is an economic model aimed at pulling the country out of the middle-income trap and making it an innovation "value-based economy" to climb the next step of the ladder.
According to Mr Teerakiat, Carnegie Mellon University will provide courses in the field of logistics engineering, while National Taiwan University will provide courses in advanced engineering.
"Their applications have been received by the Office of the Higher Education Commission [Ohec] and they will be presented to the cabinet to get officially approved soon," Mr Teerakiat said.
According to the Times Higher Education University Rankings this year, Carnegie Mellon University was ranked 24th, while National Taiwan University was ranked 198th.
Mr Teerakiat said besides these two universities, many top universities in the UK and Japan have also shown an interest in establishing campuses in Thailand.
The minister of education said he will travel to the US this week to attract more top universities such as Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to set up campuses in Thailand or sign partnerships with local educational institutions.
Mr Teerakiat said Thailand needs to equip its current and future workforces with the skills needed to make Thailand 4.0 a success and he believes that foreign institutes of higher education could help plug the gaps where Thai universities now still lack resources and personnel.
"For many years, many foreign universities have wanted to establish branches in Thailand because they think Thailand has the potential to be an international education hub in this region, but under Ohec's regulations, foreign universities must have Thai partners to operate here, which is considered a burden for foreign investors, so as we have relaxed the rules. I think some will definitely grab this opportunity," he said.
Suchatvee Suwansawat, president of the Council of University Presidents of Thailand, said Thai universities should not fear more competition as this policy will benefit higher education in the long run.
"Bringing in top-tier universities from around the world will only benefit us. It's like having football players like Messi, Ronaldo or Beckham playing in the Thai Premier League. Our local players will be able to learn from the best in the world," he said.
Mr Suchatvee said Thai universities should not think that overseas institutions will put them in danger of shutting down; instead they should consider how to partner with world-leading universities to help develop Thailand's academic cycle.
Pavit Thongroj, former Ohec secretary general, said the government should ensure that foreign universities that are allowed to operate in Thailand must only be from the world's top tier of universities.
"If the foreign universities coming to Thailand are not top tier, I think we should use the budget to support top Thai universities to upgrade themselves by building new labs or hiring more foreign researchers and professors," he said.