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Thailand plans to set up Ministry for Research and Higher Education to support Thailand 4.0

Thailand plans to set up Ministry for Research and Higher Education to support Thailand 4.0

An announcement
by the Ministry of
Education
(MoE) highlighted the plans of merging the Ministry of Science and Technology
(MOST) with the Office of Higher Education (OHEC) to form the new Research and
Higher Education Ministry.

The merging of
the current MOST with the OHEC, to form the new Research and Higher Education
Ministry, is being considered by Thailand to achieve the objectives of the
Thailand 4.0 initiative.

Minister of Science
and Technology Dr Suvit Maesincee is hopeful that the merger between the two
would be completed by the end of this government’s term. But, the Education
Minister implied that the process may take more time than that because more
public hearings are needed.

Dr Suvit shared
that the responsibilities of the new Research and Higher Education Ministry
include the unification of all research universities and related institutes in
order to produce and manage human resources in response to the country’s future
development programmes; as well as, support technology start-ups, and small and
medium enterprises (SMEs) to leverage the use of new technologies.

The new Ministry
would also be responsible for assisting Thai farmers use new technologies so
that they can become “smart farmers”, he said. Since the country is promoting the
S-Curve industries, providing manpower and promoting technology were crucial
factors of success.

There were
rumours that the MOST would be dissolved but Dr Suvit clarified that the
ministry would be merging with OHEC and other agencies like the National
Research Council of Thailand and Thailand Research Fund.

The reorganising
of these agencies is part of the government’s bureaucratic reform agenda, which
covers the next 20 years, and the Thailand 4.0 initiative.

In order to
provide more focus and attention to Thailand’s higher education institutes, ensuring
that they are aligned with Thailand 4.0, the OHEC is set to become a separate
entity from the MOE and the Ministry is preparing for the split.

The budget
allocated for social and natural scientific research, both local and foreign
collaboration, will fall under the proposed Research and Higher Education
Ministry. Also, a new model, similar to that of the Chinese Academy of Sciences,
will be adopted and will focus on research and development for satellites,
astronomy, nuclear physics and other crucial fields.

The following
agencies: The National Science and Technology Development Agency, the National
Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, and Geo-Informatics and Space
Technology Development Agency will all be under the new ministry’s umbrella.

Dr Suvit said that
he would discuss with Mr Kobsak Pootrakul, the Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s
Office, to set up a group that would work on the merging of the Science and
Technology Ministry with the Office of Higher Education Commission and all
other aforementioned agencies.

As explained earlier, Deputy Education Minister
Udom Kachintorn said that there had been discussions concerning the merger but more
time will be needed before it takes into effect. More talks are in line to
better explain the situation with all the stakeholders concerned. This being
the case, it remains unclear if the merger could be completed within the term
of the current government. Elections are scheduled to take place early next
year.

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