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Release: March 2, 2000

Skorton to participate in higher education reform in Thailand

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The government of Thailand has asked for the assistance of a University of Iowa administrator in reforming the country's university system. Dr. David Skorton, UI vice-president for research and professor of medicine, electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, has been invited to Thailand March 14-23 to meet with university and government officials and discuss ways to strengthen the Thai higher education system.

Along with members of the Association of Thai Professionals in America and Canada (ATPAC), Skorton will visit Prince of Songkla University and Kasetsart University in Thailand to discuss an ATPAC plan to strengthen graduate and research programs. Members of ATPAC are primarily Thai academics who work at U.S. or Canadian universities. Also joining the group will be Malden Charles Nesheim, emeritus provost at Cornell University.

Skorton believes he was asked to participate because he has collaborated with colleagues at Asian universities in the past and because his administrative experience includes both medical and research administration. He also serves as co-chair of the Iowa chapter of the Korea-America Friendship Society.

"I'm honored to be asked to participate and delighted to do it," Skorton said. "I'm humbled by the task though, because it's not clear that the American higher education model will be transportable to Thailand."

As part of the recovery from the financial crisis in Thailand and as part of other ongoing reform processes, the Ministry of University Affairs has decided to restructure the university system so the universities are more autonomous from the state. Under the new model, Thai universities would operate more like U.S. institutions with internal governance by faculty and administrators and greater emphasis on research and graduate education.

Skorton said he and the other visiting academics will spend time at the two universities, meet with university and government officials, and participate in workshops and discussions about planning for the future for higher education in Thailand.

"It's a daunting task to make suggestions in a brief visit about a national university structure," he said. "But I'm happy to do what little I can do to help."

Skorton said he also will take the opportunity to lay the groundwork for further linkages between the Thai universities and the UI. He said he hopes his visit will open doors for UI faculty and staff members to collaborate with Thai colleagues.