Bangkok Post

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.”

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