ABSTRACT

The autonomous university policy is, without doubt, the most contentious in Thailand’s higher education sector. Although the proponents of the policy do not discuss this in the strict definition of privatization of higher education, the rationales to support the new policy are rested upon the premise that the market can induce more efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness than state actors (Stiglitz, 2000). While privatization of higher education refers to the “transfer in ownership” from public control to private management (Kwong, 2000), it can also refer to the “adoption” and “introduction” of market principles to public institutions without changing ownerships (Currie and Vidovich, 2000). Whitty and Power (2000) argue that recent reforms in the education sector focus on dismantling centralized bureaucracy and enhancing choice and competition among differing stakeholders. With or without private ownership, the quest of education institutions to become “quasi-autonomous” from the state reflects a fundamental shift in ideology and the changing role of welfare states in many countries (ibid.).