What new programs are in place at Bangkok University?
OSATHANUGRAH: We have recently launched the School of Entrepreneurship and Management in association with Babson College, which is the world’s number one school for entrepreneurship. We have actually been in talks with Babson for about 3 years. This year, we are launching the new school and a Master’s degree program where we now provide a Master’s of Management in Entrepreneurship. This is all very new. We are the first school in this field in Thailand, so there has been quite a lot of interest. The degree is one year divided into 4 semesters with one semester spent studying overseas at Babson.
What made Babson the right fit to partner with?
OSATHANUGRAH: Everyone knows that Babson has been ranked number 1 consecutively for 20 years. The second reason, my father, the founder of the university, was the first Thai student to study at Babson. It was his desire and goal to have Bangkok University and Babson in collaboration. So that was the start.
What other international partnerships do you currently have in place?
OSATHANUGRAH: Right now, we have a PhD program in knowledge management and innovation management in collaboration with George Washington University in the States. We have a partnership for business telecom with a university in Paris where you can have a dual degree PhD. We are looking to have more in the future.
Overall, what percentage of your students are international?
OSATHANUGRAH: We have over 26,000 students and the university is divided into two campuses, one in the city here in Bangkok and the other one is in the suburbs. Out of those students, approximately 2,000 are in the international college, which is located here in the city campus. Out of the 2,000, approximately 200-250 come from abroad. We have over 56 nationalities here.
To what extent do creativity and innovation play a foundation role at Bangkok University?
OSATHANUGRAH: Actually, our positioning is a creative university. This is an ongoing process and for that we have to be open. We don’t just teach from textbooks or classes, but encourage participation with students and the business world because the world is getting smaller and it is going digital. So to be a creative university, we have to talk with everyone, and involve everyone, there has to be a lot of projects and not just classroom work. Many projects are based in the real world. We have 12 schools, a business school, and an engineering school that has built robots that sells food in restaurants, and that is a creative project. We have an amazing art gallery, where we are now, that shows international artists and also the best Thai contemporary artists. So, in terms of creativity, it is like a creative solution in every area, not just in the arts.
Where do you see opportunity for more integration of the arts into both Thailand’s metropolitan capital of Bangkok and into the education system as a whole?
We think that it is very important for people and society and businesses to be conscious of the arts, creativity, and design because the consumers are looking for innovation. Without creativity, there won’t be innovation in anything.
OSATHANUGRAH: I think in Thailand the art education in elementary school has been too traditional and not a very creative learning process. We have too few art galleries and art museums, especially contemporary. But for Bangkok University, we are very famous for communication arts and performing arts, and also design. We think that it is very important for people and society and businesses to be conscious of the arts, creativity, and design because the consumers are looking for innovation. Without creativity, there won’t be innovation in anything. So I think this is really important and that we are lagging behind other countries like China, Japan, Korea, and Singapore; they are investing a lot. But Thais are naturally creative people, they are good artists and designers.
What kinds of investments does Bangkok University make in the arts?
OSATHANUGRAH: For Bangkok University, it is huge because for this exhibition, collectors came to the opening from around the world, especially from Asia, Singapore, and they are surprised that we have 2 big galleries for a university. Even for a commercial gallery this is big, the ceiling is high, and each gallery is 200 square meters, and we have 2 floors. That is a lot for a university that is not considered a fine art university. We also have a good theater at the other campus and a ceramics museum, which is the best in Thailand, and actually the world for Sukhothai ceramics, which is the first capital of Thailand around 800 years ago. The collection was donated by my father to the university, so the investment is huge.
How can Thailand position itself as a tertiary education leader within the Asian Economic Community (ASEAN)?
OSATHANUGRAH: We have to move fast and change. We have to go international and there has to be more international programs. Of course, we plan to have more collaboration with other world class universities because that is the best way to go international, not just by ourselves.
What are some of the positives and what are some of the challenges in Thailand’s higher education sector?
OSATHANUGRAH: The business sector moves faster than the education sector. The challenge of the universities, public and private, is to change. The challenge for the education Ministry is to open up, have a more open mind, and I think we need less control. To have new and innovative programs or degrees, we cannot have strict rules. Quality control is important, but not too much. For us to be an education hub among ASEAN, Thailand has to be more open and change faster.