“Chula is now 101 years old and we need to adjust in order to compete with international institutions,” says the director of Chulalongkorn University’s Urban Design and Development Centre.
Chulalongkorn is No 271 in the QS World University Rankings 2019 and No 44 in Asia.
“Digital disruption has had a major influence on our lives and education is no exception, so we need to turn our institute into a digital and innovation hub,” Assistant Professor Niramon Kulsrisombat told The Nation Weekend.
“The knowledge-based economy and demand for well-matched skills have prompted universities to adjust.”
Niramon and her team are preparing “Masterplan 2040” for Thailand’s oldest institution of higher learning, which will be submitted to the school’s supervising council. If approved next year, it is expected to make Chula that vaunted hub of innovative learning by 2023.
Niramon, an urban architect, advocates an approach she calls “urban acupuncture” to minimise the cost and the number of adjustments required by having all the changes handled locally.
“With the motto ‘Adaptation, shift and openness’, we will offer multidisciplinary studies using digital media to encourage students, lecturers and outside experts to collaborate on creating innovations in various fields,” she said.
“Openness” refers to adding more windows to the main school buildings, including the facades of faculty buildings facing roads, and to establishing galleries where student projects can be displayed. And the Veterinary Medicine Faculty will have its own mini-clinic open to the public.
“The multipurpose Sala Phra Keow building will become a ‘centre of excellence’ with 20 lecturers doing research on innovations alongside professionals in various fields,” Niramon said.
“There will be a lab dedicated to floater innovation involving a ‘cross-pollination’ among science, engineering, design and business.”
Directly opposite will be a digital library housed in a glass cube above the swimming pool.
“Students enjoy digital experiences and we have to provide them with facilities for self-learning and community-based learning.”
To cultivate creativity, there will be theatre and botanical gardens. Facilities open to the public around the clock will include a co-working space, garden cafe, bistros and a stadium.
Blessed with many green areas and big trees, the coming changes will make the school even more “eco-friendly”.
“The renovated buildings and glass cubes will get their power from solar panels,” Niramon said.
“Students will be encouraged to use public transportation and we’ll have more mini-coaches for shuttles to and from the Siam BTS station, and all activities will have recycle-and-reuse components.”
Importantly, she said, students will be involved in the transformation, creating the innovations they and future generations will be using at the university.