Progress, Yes. But Still Many More Challenges Ahead
Colleagues and Friends,
On 29thMarch 2019, WU celebrates the 27thanniversary of its foundation. As part of the celebration, a ten-day long Agricultural Fair is held from the 25thMarch – 3rdApril. Two other very important events are also concurrently held: The International Conference on the 4thIndustrial Revolution, and the Walailak Research Conference, an annual event.
There have been quite a number of positive changes happening again at our university in the past 12 months. While we are able to maintain well our greatest strengths in terms of quality staff, world class research, extensive community engagement, and high employability for graduates, we have added a lot more to these.
Our English Language Institute (WULI), three international colleges: WU International College (WUIC), International College of Dentistry, and International College of Veterinary Science continue to be in the forefront of our internationalization efforts. I have seen a marked improvement of English proficiency among our first-year students. Our surveys show that 77% of our first-year enrolees have demonstrated a marked improvement after their three terms of studying English language. We continue to monitor their progress very closely via extra tutorials, individual consultations, and small group meetings. We have added three more terms of ESL that students are required to do, to make sure that they are better-equipped with the English language.
Our first cohort of Veterinary Science students are doing well; they have reported the benefits of the College using English as a medium of instruction. Higher level of English language proficiency is essential for our graduates to compete internationally. The International College of Dentistry is admitting it first cohort in the middle of this year. Our WUIC continues to grow in student numbers, welcoming students from more than 10 different countries.
Our adoption of the world-renown UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) has advanced beyond expectation. In one go, 37 out of the 60 faculty members who went through the first training program last year were awarded fellowships by the AdvanceHE from the UK. More positive results are expected to come through. In the meantime, the second cohort of 60 teaching staff is undergoing a similar program, and in fact we are planning for the third cohort! I am very determined to uplift our teaching standards to that of the world. Having fellowships from AdvanceHE, our staff are effectively accepted into the international community of quality teaching.
Faculty development happens on another front - very impressively. I have in the past two and half years been able to help staff apply successfully for their academic promotions; the number of faculty members getting promotions during this short period doubled the numbers accumulated during the past 25 years. Very phenomenal!
Faculty members have engaged well in high-level research. Our research works are well-ranked, being among the top 10 universities in Thailand on the Nature Index Ranking 2018. And on Scimago Institutions Ranking, Walailak University is ranked 27thamong more than a hundred Thai universities. For a medium sized university, I think we are doing reasonably well, in terms of our research and publications.
The construction of the University Hospital Center is on schedule, being over 70 per cent completed. The hospital will significantly add great value and relevance of Walailak University to the community, not only those in Nakhok Si Thammarat but also the whole of the upper South of Thailand.
Talking about being relevant to the community, it has turned out that the Walailak Park that has just been finished only six months ago has now been enjoyed by the residents of Thasala. I feel that they now “own” the place. I am very happy about this. I would like to claim that with some 100 acres combining land and a reservoir the park is the largest university park in the country!
During the past two and a half years at Walailak University, I have worked very very hard to change things, to improve things. And I think I have done reasonably well. But there are still so many challenges ahead, something I am prepared to face squarely.
Prof. Dr. Sombat Thamrongthanyawong