Thai universities facing crisis, laying off staff

THAI universities are experiencing financial troubles earlier than expected as they have to start laying off staff amidst lower enrollments by Thai students.

Universities in Thailand are divided into two categories namely state universities, owned and supported by the government, and private universities, owned by private companies or individuals.  Altogether there are almost 300 universities in Thailand.

The decline in students have now been experienced by private universities, some of whose quality are said to be lower than state universities but experts say in the future the problem is likely to spread to some state universities as Thailand is moving into the ageing society.

Assistant Professor Dr Arnond Sakworawich, Business Analytics and Intelligence Program Head, Graduate School of Applied Statistics, National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) said earlier he predicted the crisis could hit Thai universities in the next three to five years.

“But I was wrong now that the crisis has arrived,” he said, adding that he has been informed by a lecturer at a private university that she has been assigned to inform her colleagues that they have to be laid off as there is not enough students. Five private universities have now sought permission to close down.


One private university has reportedly been sold to a Chinese investor, who started to lay off Thai lecturers, who can only teach in Thai and English, and hire the Chinese who can teach in Chinese instead.

There is not enough number of Thai students and without students from China, private universities find it hard to survive.  “I have heard that another private university is under negotiation with the Chinese as they have more Chinese students coming while losing as many as two-third of the Thai students. The Chinese investors plan to bring in more Chinese teachers and Chinese students to study at the Thai universities they bought.”

It’s a good business model for them because they would also invest in dormitories and food shops around the university.

This is not a cause of concern but the thing for Thais to worry is that the students who come and will not leave Thailand after they finished their studies but stay on to do business around the universities and elsewhere, he said, adding that the Thai authorities, especially the Immigration, should be more stringent with this issue.

The faculties which are likely to face the axe are those which are no longer popular among students which include faculty of economics, statistics, computers, history, philosophy to name but a few.

In Thailand the faculties for which there is always high demand for lecturers are Nursing Science and Medical Science programs.

Another well-informed source said aside from coming to study at a university in Thailand, the Chinese also send their children to study at the so-called international schools in Thailand as the enrollment fee is much cheaper than international schools in China.

A growing number of Chinese students have been choosing to study in the One Belt, One Road countries especially Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar.

Due to their lower tuition fees and similar culture, Asean countries will attract more Chinese students to study and work there in the future, analysts said.

Wang Ge, a Thai teacher and admission consultant for Thai universities in Kunming, Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, said that more people in the past year or two studied Thai for their bachelor’s and master’s studies in Thailand.

“Many parents and students said that they chose Thailand because they saw the opportunity of China’s Belt and Road initiative, which greatly increased the cultural and economic cooperation between China and Thailand,” Wang told the Global Times.

Another reason is that more of Thailand’s private universities have come to China for recruitment in the past two years and some have even set up offices in Yunnan, Wang said.

According to the website of the Chinese Embassy in Thailand, over 8.7 million Chinese visited Thailand and some 30,000 Chinese students studied in Thailand in 2016.

Many Chinese students apply for majors including management, marketing and Thai language, Wang said. He majored in Thai during his undergraduate studies in Thailand from 2011 to 2015.

“The tuition fee was only 35,000 yuan per year, and my four years’ tuition fee in total is less than the fee in the US for one year,” Wang said, adding that in addition to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have also witnessed a growing number of Chinese students.

In May 2017, the Thai government announced legislation that would allow “high potential” foreign higher education institutions to set up campuses in Thailand.

However, all prospective branch campuses were expected to offer courses that would support science and technology or areas listed in Thailand 4.0, a government initiative designed to propel the economy from middle- to high-income status.

The first foreign ones to establish such partnerships were the USA’s Carnegie Mellon University and the National Taiwan University.


Top: Chinese graduates throw their mortar boards into the air at Columbia University, New York. Photo: Xinhua via
South China Morning Post
In-text: Chinese graduates of Columbia University attend the commencement ceremony in 2015. Photo: Xinhua via South China Morning Post

By Kowit Sanandang