Many universities in Thailand are seeing class sizes steadily shrink as less and less students are submitting applications for enrolment.
Academics are now urging the top management at local universities to rapidly address the situation to avoid being left behind.
During a recent forum, local scholars discussed the significant decrease in incoming students, along with possible attributing factors.
— Bangkok Post (@BangkokPostNews) June 13, 2016
One reason was a trend shift in the majors chosen by students, with changes in the labour market having a significant impact on non-scientific programs.
While there are 170 institutions across the country offering up to 4,100 programs, this change has seen a particular decrease in students applying for courses in the social sciences, which cannot compete with students’ preference for courses in scientific fields.
According to education officials, in last year’s admissions period, universities had up to 156,216 spots open for prospective students.
However, only 105,046 applied to take the entrance exams, leaving more than 50,000 empty places.
If the trend continues, academics fear that some universities may be forced to shut down.
— Konrad Legal (@Konrad_Legal) May 23, 2016
“Universities which want to stay financially healthy may have to close certain programs,” said Pong-In Rakariyatham, an academic specializing in university enrolment, as quoted by the Bangkok Post.
For example, Thammasat University in Bangkok, the country’s second oldest higher education institution, currently has an average of 40,000 students, but the decline in student enrollments is making the university consider downsizing, or even closing, some of its top social science majors, such as law, journalism, and mass communication.
— Blanckkim’10×Monster (@potter_patter) February 9, 2016
Another factor believed to be behind the decline is the shift in the education levels of women.
“Many women who receive a higher education tend to marry late and this can affect the fertility rate, or the average number of children born per woman,” said Pong-In.
The National Economic and Social Development Board predicted that the number of Thais in the school-age group (< 21 years) will make up only 20 percent of the population in 2040, a sharp drop from 62.3 percent in 1980.
Pong-In said it was vital for university administrators to start considering changes to the number of students for each department and program.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.