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Q: What goals do you have for developing the Faculty of Law during your term as Dean of the Faculty?
A: In my view, an educational institution has 4 main objectives, including: 1. To educate in order to produce graduates, 2. To conduct research, 3. To provide academic services for society, and 4. To preserve art and culture. Considered collectively, these objectives aim to meet the needs of society.
For this reason, the Faculty of Law must be a premier educational institution which is capable of leading society by producing legal professionals who will disseminate correct and progressive knowledge throughout and solve problems within society, including everyday dilemmas faced by ordinary people and legal issues debated in the media. We should be capable of playing an advisory role in determining the legal consequences of and the best solutions for these problems.
A factor that must be considered in managing the Faculty of Law is the rapidly increasing number of law faculties emerging in numerous educational institutions. Although the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University has long served as a model for law faculties in Thailand, the rapidly increasing number of law faculties and the initiation of various law programs have posed considerable challenges for Thammasat University. As Dean of the Faculty, I must preserve the leading role of the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University on the national level, and I hope to increase the Faculty’s role in academia regionally and internationally.
In order to be a frontrunner in education and a model for other universities, not only must the Faculty be able to produce skilled graduates, but it must also prioritize the advancement of knowledge. We must not be stagnant. We must further the development of the knowledge we have attained and strive to acquire new knowledge. While the Faculty of Law has consistently produced quality research, I would like to see the Faculty become a leading legal research institution, which is capable of utilizing research results for the betterment and progression of society. In order to achieve this goal, the focus of research must expand beyond the use and interpretation of the law. We must start to address actual societal issues for research both in the public and private sectors. Our professors and lecturers, who already have considerable burdens, must be given sufficient incentives to assist in the furtherance of knowledge through research. We must encourage the increased dissemination of research results both on the national and international levels.
Secondly, I hope to create academic collaborative networks both on the national and international levels. Such networks will assist in achieving the goal of increasing research. In order to find new research topics, academic forums must be available to Faculty staff, lecturers, and students to hold debates and exchange ideas with others from different institutions or nations. For example, lecturers may have the opportunity to work with foreign lecturers, and students may be given increased opportunities to exchange ideas with students of other institutions. We cannot learn only within the confines of the University. Some of the knowledge we possess may not be appropriate to address certain issues. Thus, we must seek suitable solutions through debates and the exchange of ideas with others.
Moreover, collaboration with alumni and ordinary citizens is also important. The Faculty of Law could not exist without the support of our alumni and the society at large. Numerous alumni and benefactors have consistently provided support to the Faculty both financially and by granting various opportunities to Faculty lecturers and students. This has enabled us to meet our anticipated objectives. I intend to preserve, develop, and improve the Faculty’s relationship with its alumni, and find other ways through which they may assist with the development of the Faculty of Law.
Lastly, I aim to produce graduates who are inquisitive and critical thinkers. Admittedly, the trend in Thailand at present increasingly places importance on diplomas and degrees. However, I believe that the skills of a graduate should extend beyond the ability to memorize legal provisions and pass tests. Graduates must possess problem-solving abilities that are applicable even in situations that they have never encountered through their reading of previous court decisions or textbooks. Such ability may only be acquired from training which encourages their curiosity and develops analytical solution finding. Additionally, graduates from the Faculty of Law should have enthusiastic attitudes and be adaptable to technological advancements and the progression of knowledge. We often hear that “legal professionals are narrow minded.” It is for this reason that we hope to see our law graduates excel not only in the realm of law, but also in the areas of science, technology, or engineering. We hope that through our teachings, our graduates will be able to go on to learn from or connect with others from different professions.
A: At present, various educational institutions have increasingly began their own law faculties. Over about ten years ago, there were only around ten bachelor of law programs available. Presently, there are over one hundred programs. There is an emerging trend of thought among law students which question the necessity of studying at certain institutions. They ask: “Why should we study in an institution which requires considerable effort? We can study in any institution that offers a law degree and just graduate. After that, we’ll still be able to take the judge or prosecutor examination.” For certain institutions, the commonly heard phrase “complete payment of tuition fees ensures graduation” holds true. Hence, both the increase of law faculties and the societal trend towards valuing structure over substance constitute challenges to the maintenance of legal education at present. The Faculty of Law at Thammasat University is affected to a certain extent by these challenges. Thinking that “Thammasat is rigorous in its admissions and even more so in its academics”, students aspiring to study in our institution become less motivated. Although it is true that graduates of Thammasat University are highly reputable, students may study in other institutions and similarly graduate. Thus, while maintaining its standards and quality, the Faculty of Law may have to consider methods through which it could improve its curriculum to correspond with current interests and differentiate itself from law programs offered elsewhere.
Another challenge faced by the Faculty concerns Thammasat University’s change from being a wholly public university. While the Faculty requires greater financial means as it seeks to improve its environment and facilities, becoming a university which is merely under the “supervision” of the State has resulted in a decrease of the government subsidies it receives. As the Faculty does not intend to profit from its students’ tuition, a significant issue which must be addressed is the method through which the Faculty could secure additional financial means to meet its needs. I believe that Thammasat does not intend to compete with other institutions in advertising that the complete payment of tuition fees guarantees graduation. Thus, the search for alternative sources of funds constitutes a challenge which the Faculty currently faces.
If we don’t overcharge our students or initiate programs with the intention to hand out diplomas, we must consider whether increased assistance from our alumni, or the initiation of collaboration programs with the public or private sectors in sharing resources and facilities without having to make investments ourselves are possible.
How can we ensure the quality of our students and the sufficiency of our resources? Our Faculty remains attractive among students as it is well equipped and nationally reputable as a prestigious educational institution.
Interview by Chanchai Saechung
Photo by Radit Kitkusol
Translated by Pundaree Tanapathong