Govt wants to fast-track satellite campuses at SEZs
Ivy League universities have shown an interest in establishing satellite campuses in Thailand’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs), according to the Education Ministry.
Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin make the remark yesterday following the government’s recent announcement that it plans to allow foreign institutes of higher education to operate in 10 SEZs along the border.
The current list of candidates includes Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, some leading universities in the United Kingdom and several top universities from Japan, he added.
Dr Teerakiat said many Thai universities still lack the resources and personnel to produce enough well-trained graduates in fields of science and technology such as robotics and electrical engineering.
The nation needs world-leading universities to provide teaching support in fields that are crucial for the upgrade to “Thailand 4.0”, the country’s newest economic model that relies on the pillars of innovation and technology.
The government will ask Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to use his broad powers under Section 44 of the interim charter — powers that have been incorporated into the recently promulgated new charter — to soften the rules and allow institutes of higher education institutes from overseas to operate in Thailand, Dr Teerakiat said.
He said they will only be permitted to operate in the 10 SEZs along the nation’s land borders, where demand for skilled workers is high.
The country needs to equip its workforce with the skills required to make Thailand 4.0 a success and foreign universities can help plug the gap, the minister added.
He said Japanese universities may be especially interested in having satellite campuses here because Thailand is an important production base for Japanese companies, particularly in the automotive industry.
Dr Teerakiat said Japanese companies operating in Thailand have faced shortages of highly skilled workers in robotics and electrical engineering for many years, so if advanced Japanese schools set up shop here they can also serve as matchmakers.
“For quite a few years, many foreign universities have wanted to establish branches in Thailand because they think the country has the potential to serve as an international education hub,” Dr Teerakiat said.
“But under the current regulations of the Office of the Higher Education Commission, foreign universities need Thai partners to operate here, which foreign investors see as a burden, so we are relaxing the rules,” he said.
“I think some of them will definitely grab this opportunity.”