Speech on University Governance

Speech on University Governance

Opening Speech by

His Excellency Mr. Paiboon Wattanasiritham

Deputy Prime Minister and

Minister of Social Development and Human Security

at an International Workshop

on University Governance

Siam City Hotel, Bangkok, 22 June 2007


Honourable Guests,

Distinguished Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to have the honour of delivering the Opening Address at this International Workshop on University Governance.

First of all, I wish to express my sincere thanks to the organizers, who are Phranakhon Rajabhat University, the University of Technology in Sydney, and the University of Missouri in St. Louis, for inviting me to preside over this important workshop. This workshop is meaningful not only because of its inspiring subject matter, but also because it forms part of the Celebrations on the Auspicious Occasion of His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday Anniversary this year. Indeed, His Majesty has been the inspiration for the entire nation in view of His devotion to the education of the Thai people.

I would like to take this opportunity to convey my appreciation to His Excellency Mr. William Paterson, the Australian Ambassador to Thailand, for his welcoming address this morning. I also thank the Australian-Thai Institute and the Australian Embassy in Bangkok for generously sponsoring this workshop.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The topic of university governance is indeed a topical one, not only in Thailand, but for higher education the world over. For the global context is one of reform, internationalization and competition in higher education. It calls for higher standards of university governance, placing great demands on all of us gathered in this room.

There is no one definition of university governance. It is defined differently in different contexts. However, it is obvious that there is a marked difference between governance and management. The University Council is responsible for governance whereas the President or the Vice Chancellor is responsible for management. As the organization at the top of the university structure, the University Council is dedicated to mentoring, directing, and working in collaboration with other groups responsible for university governance. As such, the Council’s main functions are to ensure accountability, to monitor and review the performance of the university, and to approve its vision, mission, strategic plan, and budget. So, the Council’s role is to govern, whereas that of the President or the Vice Chancellor is to manage.

To respond to the current challenges and the increasing expectations of external and internal stakeholders, the two bodies need to ensure a more effective discharge of their respective missions and to properly manage their respective responsibilities. In particular, each university must be aware of the need for administrative management to engage all members of the university community in attaining common goals through ensuring effectiveness, good governance and accountability.

To be sure, as an institution of higher education, a university’s first priority is to achieve academic excellence. But at the same time, it requires capable financial management to support its academic mission. Therefore, effective financial strategies must be implemented. It may be that a Governing Council has to delegate responsibility for budgetary details to one member who is a financial expert. And ideally there will be balance between the commitment to academic excellence and to a healthy financial state. Equally, the Council may have to identify other members with appropriate qualifications and expertise to help the university with its strategic planning. What is most important is that all University Council members carry out their duty with dedication and determination. They must devote time to attend Council meetings and represent the university when needed.

What is crucial to effective university governance is the appropriate allocation of resources. Each job at every level of a university structure must be done well to ensure effectiveness and accountability. The exercise of good governance requires the acceptance of tremendous responsibilities in all areas. If all bear in mind that they must act for the benefit of the university as a whole and eliminate all conflicts of interest, then sustainability in university governance is attainable.

Achieving this goal in the evolving context of higher education is not an easy task. However, each of us need not walk alone. The cooperation among university councils represented by this international workshop is a productive approach. The networking and partnerships that you build will provide a basis on which to elevate university governance that will enable our institutions to face future challenges and opportunities with confidence.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me again thank Phranakhon Rajabhat University and congratulate it on the auspicious occasion of its one hundred and fifteenth anniversary. I would like to thank all participants, particularly those who have come from abroad, for your active contributions to the workshop. I am certain that you would learn much from each other’s experiences, creativity, and leadership. I wish all of you productive discussions and a successful collaboration.

With these brief remarks, I now declare the International Workshop on University Governance open.

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