WALAILAK PRESIDENT’S ASSERTION – GREEN UNIVERSITY OF DECENT WORK,
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY AND WORLD QUALITY EDUCATION
Professor Dr. Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, President of Walailak University at
the 1st International Staff Meeting with the President and New Year Celebration 2022
Thursday, 23 December 2021 at Conference Room, 4th Floor,
Walailak University Hospital
Good Morning Colleagues,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!
As Professor Surin Maisrikrod, VP, mentioned we have indeed set a very ambition goal to be a world top ranking university. It’s not going to be easy. This is going to be a long journey. But I would like to say that our journey has begun. We have been working very hard during the past five and half years and if we continue to work harder we will achieve our goals. Today I would like to use this opportunity to mention to you some of what we achieved so far.
First of all, please rest assured that we value very highly contribution made by our international faculty members. We would like to do well in our efforts to take good care of the foreign staff, who are at the forefront of our internationalization drive. You all will have an equal chance to get promoted to be assistant, associate and full professor here. We will take care of you the same way we are treating as our Thai faculty staff – regardless of nationality or religious! If anyone has any problems about applying for promotion – and others — you can come to talk with me directly. My door is open all the time. We want every one of you to be happy while working here. We still have so many things to do together. As Professor Surin said the University is entering the 30th anniversary of its establishment this coming March and there have been ups and downs. But from now on, we will not let it go down again, no more! We don’t have any more time to let it go down. We just want to go up and up. In the past few years, we have been working very hard to set a clear path to becoming a world ranking university. We have been reinventing our university. Some of our successes may be just our beginning.
This year we did have a lot of good news. First, the QS, an international ranking agency, has ranked Walailak University at 551st – 600th in Asia. It is the first time that Walailak University has been ranked by QS. Even it’s still a bit far from where we should be, this is a good beginning, and I do believe that we will get better in the future. Similarly, the Times Higher Education (THE) also for the first time placed Walailak at 601st-800th in its 2022 world Impact Rankings. THE Impact Rankings are measured against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ranking confirms an international recognition of our academic services to our communities. We are very proud of our roles in the community. Furthermore, this year we climbed to 116th in the world’s IU Green University Rankings, while retaining no. 1 for two consecutive years among universities in the South of Thailand. We are already one of the most beautiful campuses in Thailand and I do hope that in the future we are the best. That’s what we want to be. I have heard encouraging feedback from visitors to Walailak Park; people are obviously impressed by its green, beautiful setting and pleasant atmosphere of the park Walailak Park has now become a must-check-in point in Thasala. I do hope that every one of you have spent time in the park – for your morning or evening walk.
These are some of the major achievements since my arrival here in July 2016. I began “An Era of Change” at Walailak University! Recently, the Ministry of Higher Education has categorized the Thai universities into five groups, largely on the basis of high-level research works. Walailak is one of the 16 universities in Group One: Global and Frontier Research University! The great majority of the universities in this group are much longer-established with much bigger resources than Walailak. In the year on my arrival, there were only 124 research publications. Do you know what has happened since? Publications have increased more than four times over the past five years. For this year alone, there are now 533 research publications already. It’s not just the number though. It’s about the quality as well because most of our research publications – nearly 80% – are in Q1 and Q2 making us, among the top universities in Thailand. And because of the high quality publications, the number of citations of our research works have increased. Just a few weeks ago, three of our scientists were among Stanford University Names World’s Top 2% Scientists 2021. It’s quite significant for us. To you all, my international colleagues, if you are sure that you want to work with us long term as our permanent staff, you will have a chance to get involved in high-level research projects as well.
On the teaching front, I have launched teaching reform programs that are benchmarked against international standards. Walailak is the only university in Thailand that requires all lecturers – I emphasize ALL — to undergo training in teaching courses, based on the United Kingdom Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF). Every lecturer, old or new, has to join the training courses, otherwise they are not allowed to teach. I am proud to tell you that more than 90% of our faculty members have been awarded teaching fellowships (HEA fellowships) by the UK-based Advance Higher Education (formerly Higher Education Academy – HEA). As far as I am aware, there is one university in the UK, Huddersfield University, that has 100% of its lecturers HEA-certified. Why not Walailak? I want to make sure that all of our faculty members are properly trained in teaching; I want them to be professional teachers. I am very proud of the teaching reform initiatives and high number of HEA fellowships from the UK. Because of our achievement, Thailand is now ranked no. 2 next to Australia in terms of the number of HEA fellowships for countries outside of UK. No other universities in Thailand can catch up Walailak, now! We are the only university in Thailand that has made UKPSF as its core teaching platform. Because I think this is an excellent teaching framework that help our students. It is quite clear that our students have found the framework very beneficial, enhancing their learning. It is because our lecturers are more aware of what effective teaching is. They are more aware of individual student needs and attention. Student learning performance have improved. So, this is one of our key successes within a short time.
Furthermore, we have both renovated and built new teaching facilities, largely making them more technologically-equipped “smart” classrooms and laboratories. We want to make sure that our students benefit most from advance information technology. At the end of this year, we should have a total of 144 “smart” classrooms, an addition of another 72. All of them are for small-group teaching. I have done away with big lecture theater teaching. We want our teachers to be close to their students. Our lecturers should know every student in the class. This has not come by easily. We have invested a lot in order to achieve this – in terms of teaching training, teaching facilities and new technology. I am sure that Walailak has the largest number of small and smart classrooms among universities of similar size in Thailand.
Besides, I have also upgraded our laboratories or workshops into digital laboratories. More than 90% of our laboratories have been renovated and changed into smart or digital laboratories. Advance laboratories are essential for such areas as medicine, dentistry, veterinary, pharmacy, allied health sciences, public health, and nursing. These are areas in which Walailak are especially strong.
You would be pleased to hear that student enrollment at Walailak has increased in the past two years, in spite of a downward trend nationally. In the last academic year, Walailak was the only university in Thailand whose student enrollment was higher than the original target certified by the Council of University Presidents of Thailand. It was phenomenal, given the fact that other universities all saw their student number going down. This has been very encouraging and I am confident that this coming academic year is going to be even better. What does this all mean? What causes this? I think it has been due to our rising reputation as a quality university among high school students and their parents, following series of serious reforms as mentioned above. Moreover, we are now able to attract higher number of top school leavers from well-known schools, both in the South and other places in Thailand. You yourself may have observed the high quality students. We still have to work harder in order to attract high performing school leavers. For sure, these youngsters will not want to study in a low quality institution!
Recreation and sports are pretty much on my mind. We cannot just focus only on classrooms and laboratories. Dormitories and sports venues are also important for student life. Yes, it has been hard work, but I think I have done so much renovating and refurbishing student dorms and sports facilities, including an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a well-equipped gym, tennis, and futsal courts. Of course, these facilities are also for all of you, staff, as well.
All in all, I feel that I have done a lot to improve things around here in the past five and a half years. There are still many remain to be done. As I said at the outset, what I have been doing as President of Walailak – to make this university a world ranking university – is a long journey. I would say that you have been a part of the journey so far. I have initiated “An Era of Change” here, and you are a part of that era. We are in it together. We have set ambitious goals and I want you work together to achieve them. All of you would be proud of what we have done and will do together.
I have asked the CIA Director, Asst. Prof. Dr. Patnarin Supakorn, to organize this get-together today. In the future, when things are back to normal, I would like the CIA Director to form a foreign staff club, so that we can have more activities together. Perhaps, we can have a big get-together, may be 2 or 3 times a year to share our opinions together.
Happy Holidays and Good Luck to You All.