Australian and Thai universities collaborate together across a wide range of research and teaching areas that involve over 40 Memorandums of Understanding; Thai and Australian education departments share information regarding policy and education system developments; economic trade between Thailand and Australia has increased nearly 300 percent since their Free Trade Agreement came into effect; and Thailand hosts approximately 700,000 Australian tourists each year.
Clearly, Thailand and Australia’s relationship is strong, multifaceted and offers many benefits for both countries. ThammasatUniversity (Rangsit,PathumthaniProvince) understands the potential role of universities in fostering this relationship and, hence, was keen to host the Australian Studies Centre of Thailand at their Rangsit campus.
The Commission on Higher Education, Ministry of Education, Thailand, which also provides supporting funds for the Australia Studies Centre’s operations, recently selected ThammasatUniversity as the Centre’s host university.
The Centre is part of a wider strategy of the Commission on Higher Education to develop and support a range of area studies centres within the university sector to encourage a better understanding of Thailand’s international partners amongst the general Thai society.
For example, the Commission aims for the Australian Studies Centre to promote and support the teaching and research about Australia in Thailand, and also to provide a range of information services on Australia for the Thai community more generally.
Associate Professor Chulacheeb Chinwanno, Vice Rector for International Affairs at ThammasatUniversity, said the Centre will act as a contact and information resource for the Thai people, and also bring together Thais and Australians people with common interests and concerns.
‘The Australian Studies Centre is essentially about helping Thai people understand Australia better, so that when they conduct business or other interactions with Australians, they have an insight into their background, lifestyle and the way that Australians are likely to think,’ Dr Chulacheeb said.
Based at ThammasatUniversity, the Australian Studies Centre will conduct its activities through a network of university partners from all over Thailand, acknowledging Thailand’s relationship with Australia as a national initiative.
Mr Mike Courtnall, President of the Australia-Thailand Institute in Canberra, Australia, which supports institutional and people-to-people interactions between Australians and Thais, recently visited Bangkok to meet with executive staff at ThammasatUniversity and to learn more of their plans for the Centre.
Some of these planned activities include: a web-based knowledge database for Thais seeking further information on Australia; the writing of Thai language text books and teaching resources on Australia: the establishment of a network between Thai and Australian researchers; and a number of public seminars and workshops on issues where Thais and Australians may learn from each other’s experience.
The Centre will be led by Dr Suphat Supachalasai who will be Centre Director and who is an AustralianNationalUniversity alumni specialising in international trade.
His Excellency, Mr. Paul Grigson, Australian Ambassador to Thailand said the Centre and its university partners can play an important strategic role in further enhancing the harmonious political, economic and social relationship of Thailand and Australia.