MEDIA AVAILABILITY: The Thai and WSU partners in this project will be available for interviews and photographs while in Pullman, April 14-18, 2003. Contact Bill London at (509) 335-4853 or (home office) (208) 882-0127.

PULLMAN, Wash. — Twelve faculty and doctoral students from Khon Kaen University in Thailand will participate in a cross-national research symposium beginning on April 14 at the Washington State University College of Education as part of an ongoing partnership, funded by the U.S. Department of State, to privatize Thai universities.

Forrest Parkay, education professor and project director, said Thai higher education has functioned as a centralized bureaucratic system, with universities owned by the government. However, the Thai government has decided to privatize the universities, with the goal of creating “autonomous” universities on the American model and reducing cronyism, mediocrity, and red tape.

The symposium is part of the University Partners for Academic Leadership collaboration between WSU’s faculty in educational administration and their counterparts in Thailand. Following the symposium, the Thai and WSU educators will then go to Chicago for a featured presentation about their collaboration at the American Educational Research Association national conference.

Because of his years of involvement in international education, the Thai government turned to Prof. Parkay to lead the privatization effort. The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs funded the project, which began with a month-long institute at Pullman last May attended by nine presidents and 24 vice presidents from Thai universities.

Assistant Professor Willie J. Heggins III is the program co-director. Heggins said that the program is helping higher education reform efforts in other countries and enhancing WSU’s reputation worldwide, as well as integrating technology and incorporating new ideas into the curriculum of the higher education program at WSU.

“This exchange enhances the education of our graduate students–and our faculty–by linking theory and practice in our study of higher education. At our institutes, we are intimately involved in the decision-making of the university presidents from Thailand. That face-to-face experience builds a worldview in this time of globalization and significantly adds to our growth and research,” Heggins added.

The future of the UPAL program is expected to include expansion to other Asian nations, like Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore, building on the success of the Thai collaboration, Heggins said.

More information about UPAL is available at the program’s Web site: www.educ.wsu.edu/thaipartner/upal/.