The number of students applying to the Rajabhat university network is in decline and the same trend is hitting private universities, according to a prominent scholar.
The network, which comprises 38 universities countrywide, is "shrinking" in terms of student numbers, Supat Champatong, secretary-general of the Office of Higher Education Commission (Ohec), said Thursday.
In the past, Rajabhat universities were home to nearly 600,000 students but that number has now dwindled to 540,000.
Many private universities, especially those in the lower northern provinces, are "likely to disappear" as the number of centres for new enrolments in this region are disappearing quickly, Mr Supat said.
The Ohec secretary-general expressed concern over the quality of Thai educational institutions and the way they select students.
Early this year, Ohec listed what it called "substandard courses" on its website.
The list contained 182 courses that failed to reach commission standards for the 2015 and 2016 academic years.
Mr Supat assessed them yesterday as being of "inadequate grade" despite generous government funding to boost the education system.
He said lecturers also need to raise their game, or at least their standards.
State-run universities have 59,800 lecturers in total but only 650 hold the position of professor, he said. Up to 38,200 lecturers are now earning the rank of scholar, he said.
Rectors and administrators have a mountain to climb if they hope to one day stand alongside more recognised foreign universities, Mr Supat said.
During his meeting with researchers yesterday, he stressed the need for universities to focus more on new research, technological creativity and ways to push innovation.
Such factors are driving foreign universities to higher educational standards, he said.
Good teachers and textbooks are not enough and "scholars must keep pace", he said.