Shinawatra University Ranks 7th in Thailand for Peer Reviewing

One important way to measure the academic quality of a university is through the willingness and ability of its faculty members to conduct anonymous peer reviews. Currently, Shinawatra University ranks 7th in Thailand in this regard (https://publons.com/institution/?country=126&order_by=total_merit).

The Publons website ranks universities according to a points system which shows a top ten of:

  1. Khon Kaen     1,390
  2. Chulalongkorn 1,204
  3. Mahidol          1,001
  4. Assumption    455
  5. Walailak          366
  6. Srinakhinwirot    265
  7. Shinawatra        195
  8. Kasetsart             157
  9. Chiang Mai         128
  10. Rangsit               126

No doubt other ranking systems exist but I’m going with this one.

 

Sa Khrai Special Economic Zone

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I spent two days last week in Amphur Sa Khrai in Nong Khai province in the northeast of Thailand as part of a team exploring special economic zones (SEZs) there. The current government has announced that Nong Khai is one of five to be invited to open SEZs according to the cross-border development concept. The Nong Khai administration has decided that two areas in Sa Khrai will be used for this purpose.

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The land selected is in public hands and not currently being used very productively. Apparently, it is high enough not to be at risk of flooding and there is a supply of artesian water that can be used. There is a plan to use a private sector partner to provide solar power to supplement the conventional electricity to be supplied by EGAT (Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand).

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The purpose of the trip was also to start explaining to local people and stakeholders about what the SEZs will mean for them and their lifestyles. Even though it will be a few years before they are ready for business, it is now time to begin planning for the future.

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The people seemed interested, at least, perhaps (for some, anyway) because the value of their land is going to increase so much. The whole area will change, since infrastructure will be required at a high level in order to attract international investors. There is also the prospect of a large number of good quality jobs.

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The River Mekong was looking impressive as ever – I heard that the level had risen significantly over the previous few hours and a flood was expected but we seem to have escaped that for the moment.

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The riverside on the Thai side is being built further to provide a place to promenade and to connect with the market and restaurants with a view to future growth in the tourism industry (which is currently down 90% in Nong Khai, according to estimates).

Durban

The International Conference on Economics and the Social Sciences and the International Conference on Education and International Management, organised by the IFRD (represented by myself and Dr. Dilip Kumar from Kuala Lumpur) was recently held at the Durban University of Technology, in June 2014.

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The conference was well-organized and well-attended with more than 80 papers presented. Most people who were there seemed to enjoy themselves and there was a particularly lively group of scholars from Nigeria, who were mostly involved in the education sector.

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Durban University of Technology has more than a dozen campuses in the region and each of them is located in an urban area. The university is designed to assist local people and communities to improve themselves – I am told that 70% of university students come from families in which they are the first people to have an opportunity to undertake tertiary level education. They have just launched graduate level programmes and taken on 200 PhD students and 500 masters level students.

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Durban itself has a pleasant and very colonial city centre. Around the central market, which was just down the road from the hotel where I was staying (the Royal, once a little grander than it now is), there are many imposing buildings and statues of important dignitaries, including the Empress Victoria of the British Empire.

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Despite it being the height of winter, apparently, it was still sunny during the day and reached 22 degrees, which was very pleasant. There was plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit available in the supermarkets and from street vendors, as above. Despite the wealth indicated by the buildings of the city centre, there was certainly evidence of the high rate of unemployment, with lots of guys hanging around the parks and homeless people in many places.

Away from the city centre, places for gambling and drinking were numerous and no doubt other vices were available. It is possible to smell cannabis being smoked in various places. Several places were selling hair, in some cases ‘virgin hair from Brazil’ with a view to installing dreadlocks into one’s existing do. Together with the fashion in the retail part of the city centre, it seemed like people were looking for a way out of their existing lives.

There were also many notices posted offering abortion services that were variously ‘safe,’ ‘without pain,’ ‘cheap’ and even one offered by a faith healing service.

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Here, on the other side of the tracks, is a view of the harbour. I am told that this is the busiest harbour in Africa, which is quite impressive. There were some yachts grouped together which I could see from the window of the hotel, but railways and container vessels are much more authentic.

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This is Durban Post Office, for people who like post offices around the world.

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This is the Durban Department of Labour, for people who are interested in departments of labour around the world.

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And, finally, this is part of an industrial estate (or at least a part of industrial Durban), for people who like industrial estates and special economic zones around the world.

 

 

Koh Chang and Koh Mak

I am back now from a short trip to Koh Chang and Koh Mak to scope out a research project being organised by DASTA (Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration) and ISMED (Institute for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Development). The concept is to explore tourism development within the concept of the low carbon destination. DASTA has been working with organizations on Koh Mak, Koh Kood and elsewhere to promote low carbon development, principally through the use of solar cells.

We went first to Koh Chang to determine whether there is any opportunity for doing research on low carbon tourism there. These are some scenes from the long drag across White Sand Beach. It has become very commercialised and lacks any real feeling of authentic Thainess – which is why it now does not suit all tourists.

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There are more Russians about the place, many of them family groups – a few years ago, there were very few accompanying children but this is a maturing market. During the day, they may go out on the cruise ship (2-3000 baht per person per day) or some other activity, which is quite expensive. Plenty seemed to be taking advantage of the street food available in the evening, perhaps as a low cost option.

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The parts of the island we looked at seemed to be in more or less full great transformation flow – although there are supposed to be some constraints on commercialisation based on family-based ownership of the land. Anyway, we moved on to Koh Mak,

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Koh Mak is a much smaller and quieter island. Like all the neighbouring islands, it rapidly rises up from sea level so there are plenty of cliff views and resorts. DASTA has already enlisted 17 organisations (private and public sector) to participate in the low carbon concept and we attended a workshop on the subject there.

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We also had chance to view many of the more prominent sites on the island and interview business owners and government officials. The Cinnamon resort hotel has the longest pier and the lighting is powered by solar cells.

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When the sun goes down, the lights go on – very picturesque and, based on solar power, as sustainable as we are likely to see. That most tourists seem to be unaware of the solar panels and the low carbon destination concept does not seem to be entirely relevant – it seems to me contradictory to imagine that tourists will fly from Europe (nearly all are European) to the Gulf of Thailand if they were committed to a low carbon lifestyle. That does not mean people are antithetical to the idea but that it is not likely to be a determining factor when choosing a destination. The low carbon elements can be focused on the supply side and can be effectively invisible on the demand side.

There are some problems with embedding the concept more deeply into society and economy. A lot of influence on the island is wielded by a small number of families and, where family-owned businesses are concerned, there is rarely much transparency. It is also difficult to enforce specific regulations (e.g. for new buildings) at a level which is neither national nor provincial – even provincial level regulations are problematic in Thailand, where there is such emphasis placed on ‘unity’ and uniformity. For example, there is an agreement that high carbon activities such as jet ski use and hire will not be used around the island, yet there is nothing that can be done to prevent people travelling from other islands on them – we watched a gang of a dozen of them arrive Sunday morning. There is also the problem of replication of efforts, since interests are building their own piers and integrating the ferry service with resort ownership and, therefore, creating a series of semi-monopolies in which there is little incentive to improve quality of service. Many of the waiting staff, for example, seemed to be low-cost Cambodian migrants (the border is close) and the amount of training undertaken seemed minimal.

Anyway, the research will develop and these are just some initial observations. More will follow.

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Return of the Walking Brain Dead

IMG_0883This morning seven or eight buses pulled up outside out building – which we share with VoiceTV. People slowly got off and began milling about, as if they did not really know what to do. Eventually the keepers herded them towards the gates, where they blew whistles and held up signs.

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Fortunately we had plenty of police present to protect us. I noticed there were about thirty formed up when I arrived this morning and some of them had protection and riot gear, so it seems they knew something was likely to happen today.

IMG_0892If you look carefully, you can see the woman at the front is holding a sign saying “We believe in obvious lies, why don’t you?” The one next to her is holding a sign saying “Fewer facts and more hate-fuelled prejudice!” (I believe the Chulalongkorn University Alumni Association is debating whether to adopt this as their official motto). The man at the back is handing out leaflets entitled ‘Will hate anyone for money.”

We closed up and left by another exit.

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Brains! Brains! We haven’t got any ….