Thailand follows Oz route to liberty

April 12, 2001

Thailand plans to give its 25 public universities more autonomy by adopting the same system of institutional governance as Australia, writes Geoff Maslen.

Universities in Thailand operate under the ministry of university affairs, and their activities are incorporated into the ministry's line budgets and staffing system. The decision by the Thai Cabinet to give institutions more autonomy is seen as a critical part of Thailand's education reform.

Although Australian universities receive half their operating income from the federal government and are subject to annual checks by the education department, they are in essence independent.

Their governing councils decide how funds should be allocated, and they oversee the employment of staff and the enrolment of students.

In Thailand, the government wants to improve management and efficiency in the public university sector by increasing autonomy over the next five to ten years.

As in Australia, the government plans to allocate block grants to universities' governing councils and to conduct audits.

Thailand's 25 public universities enrol more than 1 million students. The 45 private universities and colleges have some 200,000 students.

As part of the government programme, the ministry of university affairs has been conducting a series of training seminars for senior university administrators.

Australian higher education officials were involved last month in running a seminar on corporate governance for Thai ministry and university officers.

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