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'SURPRISING' GROWTH IN FOREIGN STUDENTS

Stamford Uni bosses witnessing the internationalisation of education, a big increase in pupils arriving from abroad

"Internationalisation" is a major trend in the higher education sector, which has surprised even the president of one of Thailand's most international universities.

Associate professor Boonmark Sirinaovakul, president of Stamford International University, said the university currently has 1,600 students studying at its Bangkok and Hua Hin campuses of whom one-fourth are foreign students from as many as 56 nations.

"It's a kind of a surprise. The number of student nationalities has increased [markedly] each year. The first year I came here there were 29 nationalities," he said.

Boonmark has been the president of Stamford since early 2010.

About one-fourth of Stamford's foreign students are Chinese, Indian, and Nepalese, while the rest are a mixture of several nationalities from Africa, Asia, Europea, and America, said Gilles Mahe, chief executive officer of the Laureate International Universities' Thailand unit. Stamford has recently become a partner of Laureate, an academic organisation with a network of 60 universities in 29 countries.

Mahe said Stamford has witnessed an increasing number of applications from Europe, while those from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh were growing the fastest.

Professor Drummond Bone, chancellor of Stamford International University and chairman of the Laureate International Universities' International Advisory Board, said "internationalisation" is a major trend and a "buzz word" in the higher education arena. A British Council study recently revealed there are already more students studying at British colleges at faculties outside the United Kingdom, than those in the country.

"A quick change in higher education over the last 20-30 years is that it has become more student-centric. The world has become a global village, so if you want to have a career even in Thailand, you have to understand the world," he said.

The British professor was speaking at a press interview during his visit to Bangkok last week. He is here to give a lecture to students at Stamford University on "Being International: why Thai students need to be ready for the world." He also presented his views to faculty members of the university on the subject of "How and why education is changing."

Bone said analytical skills, teamwork and "mental flexibility" were among the required competencies of students in a rapidly changing world.

It is a common mistake that firms have expected educational institutes to produce students who are "up and ready" to work for them right away after their graduation, he said.

"[While] students should have analytical skills, specialised knowledge, an ability to work in teams, and understand different viewpoints, they [companies] should be prepared to spend money and train them for particular jobs," said Bone.

With an influx of information, the challenge is to understand and be able to make proper use of this information and have analytical skills.

"It’s about having 5-6 scenarios or possibilities and being able to decide what is useful," said Bone.

Other "hot trends" in the higher education sector include the collaboration of universities throughout the world and online curricula.


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