Dr Pornchai Mongkhonvanit, President of SIAM University, visited Nepal recently to address the convocation of the 2022 batch of Kathmandu College of Management. Tamish Giri from New Business Age caught up with Mongkhonvanit to learn about his association with SIAM and ACD-University Network. Excerpts:
Please tell us about SIAM University and its contribution to quality education.
Our main priority is to keep our students updated and relevant to the industry. We collaborate with various industries, including one of the largest private hospital networks and an engineering factory. At SIAM University, our staff acts as the link between higher education research and professional practice. This is the focus of our institution.
In addition to our rankings, we are particularly proud of being recognized by the Ministry of Higher Education Research and Innovation in Thailand. We are the first and only private university acknowledged for our emphasis on innovation and technology. In Thailand, public universities are categorised into five groups, and we are proud to be at the forefront of knowledge, innovation, and practicality.
Could you please share the objectives of your current visit to Nepal?
Our purpose for visiting Nepal is to strengthen our longstanding relationship with KCM, which spans almost ten years. KCM is a dynamic institution that consistently updates itself. During our visit, we aim to discuss curriculum updates. Specifically, we plan to achieve four objectives with the curriculum. First is to enhance our business administration program by incorporating courses on digital technology, ensuring it remains current and adaptable to potential disruptions in the business landscape. Second, we wanted to collaborate with KCM to develop a new curriculum for the Bachelor of Computer Science in Information Technology. This curriculum will cover programming, digital and cyber security, and artificial intelligence, benefitting both management and computer science students.
Facilitating our students' exposure to a Bangkok-based plan, wherein a significant percentage will gain industry experience for at least one semester, was our other objective.
In Nepal, SIAM University partners with Kathmandu College of Management (KCM), while other Nepalese colleges claim affiliation with foreign universities. What distinguishes partnership from affiliation, and what are the implications?
A partnership entails active collaboration rather than simply adhering to a prescribed system. Partnerships involve mutual input and efforts to improve the educational experience.
As I mentioned earlier, diversity has the potential to enhance our approach to various tasks. Achieving better outcomes often requires some contemplation. In many countries, such as the United States, institutions like the University of Pittsburgh and, for family medicine, Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia, and Sheffield University in the UK, serve as examples. Sharing ideas and adopting effective practices can be mutually beneficial. I believe that valuing time over solely focusing on business considerations is crucial. It's essential to broaden perspectives and encourage individual growth. From my perspective, this partnership serves as a platform for shared learning and coexistence, extending beyond the collaboration between Thailand and Nepal, as each party has its respective partners.
At present, SIAM University hosts around 1500 international students from 42 countries, forming a global platform of sorts. This international environment facilitates enhanced learning experiences for students. Modern information technology enables learning without physical proximity, allowing us to glean knowledge from each other, irrespective of our locations. This dynamic learning process benefits both universities and contributes to the overall development of numerous countries throughout Asia.
Diversity enhances management education by fostering a varied classroom environment. How has this partnership improved diversity at SIAM University?
Diversity is a core belief for us. When students from Nepal come to Thailand, they have the opportunity to exchange ideas not only with their Thai peers but also with other international students. It's worth noting that Nepal boasts abundant resources, just as Thailand's youth are a valuable asset. This is how we can mutually learn and leverage our respective resources. I hope that through collaboration within the Asian Cooperation Dialogue framework, we can achieve meaningful accomplishments. We want to shape a future that not only understands the value of collaboration but embodies it.
You are also the Executive Director of the ACD-University Network. Could you outline the network's main activities, evolution, and near-to-medium-term plans?
Our primary objective is to create an overarching platform for university exchange in Asia, akin to Europe's single university association. After developing this network, we will expand the scope of hotel management students working together.
Asia, despite its vastness, is often fragmented into smaller segments, trying to find a way to recognise each others' education system. By establishing this recognition, we can facilitate greater student mobility across Asia. Our next endeavour involves creating a research cluster network to rediscover the knowledge that Asia has lost during the process of modernization. The third aspect centres around shifting our perspective on sustainable development as Asia is the largest producer and consumer. We need to have more people to work together.Lastly, there exists a wealth of crucial knowledge that deserves cultivation. If we can do this, it can reflect the economic development in a specific country as well.
Our focus extends beyond Thailand; we consider Thailand merely as an Asian member. Acknowledging the prevalent challenges posed by political and economic issues, our aim is to forge connections with other universities, thereby building a global platform for higher education. A lot of people across Asia deserve access to high-quality education, but political and economic constraints often impede this. While knowledge is undoubtedly significant, even more vital is the ability to collaboratively and peacefully work together. It's our duty to prevent the recurrence of problems experienced by previous generations. With this mission in mind, we are trying to build SIAM University as a gateway for education in Asia.