Public hearings eyed for new 'university ministry'

Committee to discuss university regulations

Photo courtesy Office of Higher Education Commission (Ohec)

The Education Ministry plans to conduct public hearings in the regions to gather feedback on its plan to upgrade the Higher Education Office (Ohec) into a new "ministry of university affairs".

Udom Kachintorn, who heads a committee setting up the ministry, said that as the committee is now writing the ministry bill, it wants to get feedback from the public on whether it will help enhance the national education system.

"The hearings will also discuss how the new ministry should regulate universities and solve problems in tertiary education such as a lack of good governance, internal conflicts in some university councils, and some universities offering substandard courses or running programmes without proper permission," Dr Udom said.

The first public hearing will be held in Bangkok at Chulalongkorn University on March 20. The second will be in Khon Kaen at Khon Kaen University on March 25.

The third hearing will be in Chiang Mai at Chiang Mai University on April 22 and the last hearing will be held in Hat Yai at Prince of Songkla University on April 29.

Policymakers, executives of departments and academics from the government and non-government sectors, along with the general public, will be invited to take part.

Dr Udom was recently appointed by Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin to head a special 15-member panel to study and oversee the process of setting up the new ministry.

He said the goal of establishing the ministry is to turn Thai universities into research and innovation drivers, and highly skilled and qualified workforce providers, in line with the 20-year national strategy and the "Thailand 4.0" vision.

Dr Udom said a timeframe for setting up the ministry was laid out during a committee meeting last month, adding it would take about 14 months, or by April next year.

The bill required to establish the ministry will be drafted and can take roughly four months until May. After the draft is completed, it will be forwarded to the cabinet for consideration which will take about six months from June to November before being submitted to the NLA for deliberations before January 2018.

The bill is expected to be deliberated in its third reading by the NLA in April 2018.

Dr Udom said one of the ministry's main functions would be supporting the activities of universities, not only regulating them. The ministry must address problems in the education system as well as promote high standards at all universities, he said.

Dr Udom said the committee intends to make every process in establishing the ministry transparent and open to scrutiny from the public and various bodies and that is why it needs to provide a setting for public discussions.

Last month, most stakeholders backed the government's plans to upgrade Ohec into a new ministry, a survey conducted by the NLA revealed.

Chalermchai Boonyaleepun, chairman of the NLA's higher education sub-committee, said the assembly had carried out a nationwide survey.

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