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Friday, September 22, 2017

THAILAND - Drastic population drop to hit higher education funding | University World News

"Without reforms to the higher education sector, Thailand’s drastic population drop in recent years could affect funding and quality of universities, education experts are warning after the latest round of university central admission exams saw a declining number of applications" writes Suluck Lamubol.


Some 80,000 Thai students nationwide applied for the central admissions examination compared to 100,000 last year. Some 110,000 places are available in the higher education system this year – already reduced from 156,000 available places two years ago.

Rapid expansion of universities, increased competition among education institutions and population decline are being blamed the gap between higher education supply and demand, experts say. One expert has even warned that three quarters of Thai universities are at risk of closure, particularly as the decline in the number of school leavers has coincided with a government policy of allowing in foreign branch campuses in special economic zones.

Arnond Sakworawich, a lecturer in actuarial science at the National Institute of Development Administration in Bangkok, told the English-language Bangkok Post newspaper that the policy would put many Thai universities in danger of shutting down.

Declining births
Higher education expanded rapidly during 1980s due to an increase in population where over one million babies were born each year. However this has dropped to an average 600,000-700,000 babies born each year in recent years. Currently, there are total of 170 higher education institutions in Thailand.

According to 2015 statistics from the UN’s population division, Thailand ranks seventh in the world in terms of rapidly-aging population. The country’s economic planning agency the National Economic and Social Development Board also estimates that by 2040 the school-age group will drop to 20% of the population, compared to 62% in 1980.

The central examination acts as a clearing house system with universities considering students this year based on their exam scores. However, the exam has become less popular as fewer universities are involved.

The decline in central admission system numbers was expected as it is also attributed to the direct admission that took place earlier, said Suchatvee Suwansawat, head of the Council of University Presidents of Thailand. More students were applying directly to universities, which have their own criteria for recruitment that is often considered to favour more privileged students, rather than through the central exam.

Private providers could be hit
Nonetheless, the drop in central exam applicants has been very high. Private universities have voiced a concern that they could be wiped out from the market if trends continue. Private universities have been lobbying the Education Ministry to ease regulations so that they can set up branches in neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, for example. With the exception of Vietnam, Thailand’s Association of South East Asian Nations or ASEAN neighbours all have rapidly growing youth cohorts.

Saowanee Thairungroj, Rector of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and president of the Association of Private Higher Education Institutions of Thailand or APHEIT said that since public universities receive subsidies from the state, private universities – which currently account for 20% of national education provision – are at a disadvantage.

“If you do not have well-established funding sources for the education business, it is possible that you would have to be shut down or downsized,” Saowanee told Prachachart Thurakit, a Thai language business newspaper, last October, adding that already 120 staff have taken up the university’s early retirement programme brought in to reduce the budget spending.

Source: University World News

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