Universities 'must transform' to survive

Universities 'must transform' to survive

Flexible learning on-demand, 24 hours a day, must be tailored to what people want to achieve

Thai universities must undergo a swift transformation in order to remain relevant in the age of digital disruption, a seminar was told on Friday.

The universities of the future must become places of learning for students all ages, said Patrachart Komolkiti, the director of the Learning Innovation Centre at Chulalongkorn University.

There will be no age limit for studying at universities, since everyone will need to re-skill themselves many times during their careers, he said at a seminar on “The Smarter Future of Higher Education”, held by the university.

“Thailand’s birth rate has fallen drastically, so universities will not be able to rely on secondary school graduates anymore,” he said. “At the same time, the average life expectancy for Thais is expected to improve thanks to better health-care technology. People will live longer and work longer, and that means they will need universities to help them acquire new sets of skills.”

Universities, said Mr Patrachart, will have to overhaul their curricula to make them more flexible and responsive to students who want to learn at their own pace.

“Above all, universities must transform themselves into learning spaces for students. University must be a place where students are taught to cultivate critical and analytical minds, a place where they become perceptive and know how to appraise situations, he said.

Piriya Pholphirul, director of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) Graduate School of Development Economics, added that digital technology enabled people to learn anywhere and anytime, so universities must adapt to this modern way of learning.

“Students will be able to study in multiple modes, switching seamlessly between on-campus, mixed or wholly online study, to suit their lifestyles and fit learning around work and other activities,” he said.

Flexible learning will be available on-demand, 24 hours a day, and will be tailored to what students want to achieve, he said.

“If universities do not move quickly to transform themselves into educational institutions for a technology-assisted future, they risk becoming obsolete,” he said.

Universities of the future will also have to educate their students to be global citizens with international or at least regional perspectives, he added.

“Thai universities will soon be competing not only with their domestic counterparts but increasingly with foreign institutions who are also struggling with falling numbers of students,” he said. “Top institutions in the world will expand their services to new markets in search of more customers. If Thai universities cannot improve their standing on the global stage, students will turn their backs on them.”

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