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State, Private Thai Universities Must Focus On Quality


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State, Private Universities Must Focus On Quality

By Chularat Saengpassa

The Nation

Changes in the annual entrance examination methodology do not only affect students but also private universities.

As state universities offer several rounds of entrance exams to absorb most of the talent, few students are left to be pitched at by private universities.

Private universities are now crying foul over the exam system. As confirmed by news reports that state universities are holding several direct admission tests each year, students can travel around the country to enrol into a state university. Despite the hefty hikes in tuition, state universities are still affordable for most students. Some universities have also expanded to welcome more students.

Pavich Thongroj, a former secretary-general of the Higher Education Commission and the president of Rajabhat University Kalasin, said last week that some state universities have seen their student body surge from 20,000 to 50,000. This leaves fewer students for private universities, as well as some state universities that could not adjust to keep up with the competition.

Since the government allows some state universities to undertake marketing campaigns to support themselves financially, these universities do everything to skim the cream of the crop. Some offer three rounds of direct admissions a year for undergraduates. Entrance tests for graduate and post-graduate students also take place more than once a year.

To reach out to students nationwide, many Bangkok universities open campuses or education centres upcountry. Provincial universities also establish their own centres in the capital.

This stokes competition in the education market. Private universities have to follow suit. Last year, state and private universities set up 339 education centres nationwide. Some centres offer educational sessions, but some do not. Rajabhat University Loei, for example, launched three centres in Khon Kaen but offers no education sessions. Burapha University in Chon Buri's Bang Saen has the most education centres at 27.

There are 92 state universities versus 40 private universities, excluding 30 private colleges and 19 community colleges.

Sitthichai Pokai-udom, founder of Mahanakorn University of Technology, said that amid the fiercer rivalry, private universities would suffer more. In 10 years' time, some private universities will close their doors, he said.

Already 10 private universities are on the brink, as well as five to six Rajabhat universities.

Competition is one thing, but more concern should be directed to the quality of education, he added.

That is true. Private universities are indeed an alternative. They come into existence to fill in the void left by the government. Striving to survive is their nature. But what they and state universities must focus on is how to maintain quality when teaching staff cannot catch up to the explosion in courses available.

This may call for special attention from university councils. Now special courses can be offered with the councils' approval. The Higher Education Commission simply gives a rubber stamp to the courses. Students would never know the difference while taking the courses. They would realise it only after they enter the job market and find out that they could not find work. Many of them would be forced to look for undesirable jobs and years of study would become a waste for the students, their parents and the whole economy. Eventually, companies would complain about the shortage of labour in some fields and the insufficient knowledge of those in other fields. Just see what the directionless competition is leading to.



-- The Nation 2011-02-07

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