The Graduate School of Public Administration (GSPA) was established in 1955 as Thailand’s first graduate school offering graduate-level courses in public administration. Over the five decades, GSPA’s study programs have been committed to continuously improve its courses to be relevant to the current societal conditions and requirements. Graduates from GSPA hold important positions in various public and private sector careers and are known to help contribute to Thailand’s development.
Establishment of GSPA
The Graduate School of Public Administration is the first graduate school in Thailand offering graduate-level courses in public administration. GSPA was established as part of Thammasart University under Royal Decree (พระราชกฤษฎีกา) effective July 6, 1955 under the initiative of leading Thai scholars, namely Dr. Malai Huwanan and Mr. Chao Pattanacharoon, and with the sponsorship from General Por. Piboonsongkram (President of Thammasart University at the time), along with assistance from Indiana University.
With the agreement between Thammasart University and Indiana University, GSPA was established under Thammasart University and started to offer graduate-level courses in 1956. Faculty members from Indiana University helped design and teach the early curriculum and courses until 1963.
On April 1, 1966, the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) was established by the Royal Thai Government as stipulated in the National Institute of Development Administration Act B.E. 2509 (1996). The Graduate School of Public Administration became one of its founding schools. The GSPA has been producing graduates in public administration and started offering a Ph.D. program in Public Administration in the first semester of academic year 1984. Since the second semester of academic year 1987 GSPA has been offering this Ph.D. program on a part-time basis also.
In 1992, with the rising demand at the Master’s Degree level, the GSPA expanded its operations to include campuses in different regions of Thailand. It foresaw benefits of offering citizens in remote areas the opportunity to earn a Master’s Degree in their local areas. The GSPA collaborated with the Teacher’s College of Uttaradit (Uttaradit Rajabhat University) and the Teacher’s College of Nakhon Ratchasima (Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University) in offering a Master’s Degree Program in Development Administration. These programs were met with positive response and demand has continued to grow from people in nearby areas. In 1991, GSPA opened additional campuses in Surath Thani province in the southern part of Thailand, and later in Ubon Ratchathani province in the Northeast, in Lampang province in the North, and in Hatyai (Songkhla province) in the South. In 1994, the GSPA further expanded with campuses in Phuket and Udon Thani provinces and later added Lamphun Campus, Phitsanulok Campus, and Chonburi Campus. Based on demand and GSPA’s teaching capacities different campuses were opened or shut down accordingly. As of 2014, the GSPA has six regional campuses in Phitsanulok, Nakorn Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Chonburi, Surat Thani, and Songkhla provinces. The GSPA has continued developing its educational standards such as curricula, school buildings, and the use of new technologies in order to improve educational quality.
Aside from the master’s and doctoral programs, the GSPA also offers other academics services. The Mini Master of Management Program (12-week-program) commenced in 1991 The program has been well received by high-level executives in the private sector. Upon request, the GSPA also organizes in-house training for many organizations. For example, they organized an Executive Training in Agricultural and Cooperative Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Similar training programs are still being organized for various Thai and foreign organizations.
To bring our academic services to the international level and to strive to become the leader in Development Administration Education in South-East Asia, in 1993, GSPA started offering the International Ph.D. Program in Development Administration targeting students from various countries in the region. The program was developed from the Thai language program and was approved by the Institution’s Council and the Ministry of University Affairs.
As a result of experiences with the Mini Master of Management program, which offers individuals from various fields, both from the public and private sectors, the opportunity to attend a short-term executive degree program, the GSPA developed its Master’s Degree in Public and Private Management. It is designed to facilitate students to exchange their knowledge, experiences, and opinions which will lead to more fruitful collaboration in the future. The program started the regular program in the second semester of academic year 1996. Later in the second semester of academic year 1997, GSPA organized part-time programs in Bangkok and Sikew Campus, Nakorn Ratchasima province. An experiment to develop its Master of Public and Private Management (MPPM) program to be an international program in 2001 failed due to low demand. It has produced graduates in the field of Public and Private Management since 2001.
The GSPA places a great deal of emphasis on academic excellence, especially producing opinion leaders to develop the administrative system both at public and private organizations along with non-profit organizations. Also, there is an emphasis on the acquisition of knowledge that emanates from morality.
Creation of the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA)
The National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) was established on April 1, 1966, by a royal proclamation of the National Institute of Development Administration Act, and backed with Ford Foundation funding and the combined academic weight of the MUCIA consortium. The official inauguration, which took place on July 22, 1966, was opened by Prime Minister and chairman of NIDA’s Governing Council, Field Marshall Thanon Kittikachorn (Karnjanaprakorn et al. 1974:5).
The general objectives of NIDA were (Karnjanaprakorn et al., p. 1):
• to provide education in administration and development;
• to conduct research;
• to promote technical knowledge in higher vocational skills.
The act gave NIDA university status as well as departmental status in the Office of the Prime Minister. It provided for four disciplininary schools, one being the School of Public Administration—incorporating the IPA. The other three were the Schools of Business Administration, Development Economics, and Applied Statistics. The core curriculum was inter-disciplinary: all NIDA students were required to take five common courses with other schools. In a review of the core curriculum carried out later in 1969, the reviewer praised its superiority over previous curricula in these terms:
(1) Particular emphasis is placed on the Thai setting and the unique aspects of Thai government, society, administrative system, finance, and economy. This material is presented in conjunction with relevant material from other developing countries in order to provide perspective. Since NIDA is expressly designed to fill Thai needs, this change is extremely important.
(2) Greater attention is given to the specific problem and procedures of economic development and to the Thai system for accelerating development by national planning. (quoted in Karnjanaprakorn et al. 1974:27).
In addition, three NIDA centers were established that built on the work of the earlier “bureaus” of the IPA: the Research Center; the Training Center; and the Development Document Center. Activities of these centers continued and expanded those of the earlier bureaus, including publication of the Journal of Public Administration, developing numerous and broad-based in-training programs for thousands of participants, and further developing a top-quality library to serve the research and teaching needs of all four schools. Each school was headed by a dean and each center by a director.
From the beginning, NIDA also had another training center, the English Language Program, with its own director reporting directly to the Rector, NIDA’s chief administrator. It had always been foreseen that a knowledge and command of the English language was essential for students entering graduate studies in public administration, as so many of the textbooks and other study materials were written in English. Furthermore, English was seen as essential to those graduates hoping to advance to higher levels in the Thai government and bureaucracy (Karnjanaprakorn et al. 1974:31).
The administrative management of the Ford/MUCIA/IU project fell to IU’s Graduate School of Business, which had earlier been involved in the IPA program at Thammasat and also had academic strengths in business administration, applied statistics, and business economics.
The objectives of the project were to be reached in three broad ways: through long-terms advisors to be supplemented by short-term consultants, training of NIDA faculty members at advanced degree levels; and provision of library books and equipment. (Karnjanaprakorn et al. 1974:102).
In addition to Thrombley, 13 other MUCIA advisors served the project between 1965 and 1973 for a total of 27 man-years at NIDA. Their major concerns were lecturing; assisting in curriculum and course development; selecting NIDA faculty and staff for fellowships to the United States to get advanced training; emphasizing the importance of research, and advising in other related areas.
A major component of the Ford/MUCIA/IU project was the attention given to professional staff development, in the form of fellowships to study for at advanced degrees at IU and other U.S. universities. By April 1973, near the conclusion of the project, 25 NIDA staff members had returned from abroad with advanced degrees (Masters’, M.B.A., D.B.A., D.P.A., D.Ed., Ph.D.) in fields ranging from business, economics, education, political science, public administration, statistics, and sociology; 20 of these were sponsored by the Ford/MUCIA/IU project. Another 20 staff were expected to complete their degrees by 1976 (Karnjanaprakorn et al. 1974:103).
Celebration and Recognition of the IU-Thailand Partnership
In a 1986 article they wrote for the Indiana Alumni Magazine to report on the 30th anniversary of the IU–IPA/NIDA educational partnership, IU alumni and NIDA administrators Dr. Amara Raksasataya and Dr. Chirawan Bhakdibutr remarked that during one year in the 1980s, “three-fifths of the governors of Thailand’s 72 provinces held degrees either from IU or the IPA. IPA and its successor NIDA have educated 3,300 master’s graduates and trained 1,500 of the Thai government’s top executives, including the prime minister, and more than a thousand of its diplomats” (1886:11).
As part of that 30th anniversary, the IU Alumni Association of Thailand was officially dedicated, with an office at Sri Nakharinwirot University in Bangkok. To celebrate the occasion, then IU President John Ryan traveled to Bangkok to present the association with a ceremonial brass plaque. Also in attendance were W. George Pinnell, executive vice president of IU; Howard Schaller, executive dean of the business school; Dr. Amara, NIDA rector; and Dr. Bunchana, a former NIDA rector and Thai ambassador to the United States.
In 1986, H E King Bhumibol Adulyadej awarded royal decorations to eleven IU administrators and faculty members who were so important in shaping public administration education in Thailand. Recipients were IU Chancellor Herman B Wells and IU President John Ryan, in addition to Woodworth Thrombley, William Siffin, Howard Schaller, George Pinnell, Lynton Caldwell, Lawrence McKibbin, Fred Riggs, Cecil Brett, and M. Ladd Thomas.
IU’s Thai Alumni
At the time of the 30th IU-Thailand anniversary, it was estimated that there were about 425 Thai alumni of Indiana University. Thai students currently at IU in 2005 represent the 4th generation of Thais who are being educated in Bloomington.
Among the distinguished Thai students who were trained in the United States is Dr. Amara, who completed an M.A. in political science in 1957 and a Ph.D. in 1960 from IU. In the 1980s, Dr. Amara was a Senator in the Thai government and, from 1983 to 1986, served as Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister on political, administrative, foreign, and legal affairs. Among his many titles are Distinguished Professor Emeritus of NIDA, President of NIDA from 1985 to 1987, a Justice of the Constitutional Court of Thailand, and a Fellow of the Royal Institute at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
I was particularly delighted that, at the NIDA graduation ceremony, Dr. Amara received an honorary doctorate. For me, this was a wonderful reaffirmation of the friendship and cooperation that has been the hallmark of what Dr. Wells fondly called the “Bloomington–Bangkok axis.” In Spring 2001, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) conferred upon Dr. Amara the honorary Doctor of Laws degree. His enormous contribution to Thailand as an advisor to prime ministers and in the drafting of the country’s current constitution is legendary.
Fifty years ago Indiana University was fortunate to have been involved at the inception of the Institute of Public Administration’s founding. Ten years later, IU was again fortunate to participate in the creation of NIDA itself, now the leading educational institution in Thailand for graduate education in national development.
Today, teaching about public administration in Thailand is primarily the domain of Thai scholars, as it should be. In contrasting U.S. and Thai bureaucracies, Dr. Uthai (1984:55-56) spoke of “two administrative environments with different structures and value orientations” and of the difficulty in transferring knowledge from one country to the other. By calling attention to different societies’ “indigenous knowledge” (1984:58), he understood well that the development of NIDA depended as much on its responsiveness to Thailand’s own cultural and social context as on imported, external models. In turn, U.S. scholars now recognize that they have much learn from Thai scholarship and administrative practices. While elements of U.S. and international public administration will continue to cross-fertilize public administration in Thailand, it must do so in partnership with Thai scholarship.
When former IUP President John Ryan heard about the symposium to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the School of Public Administration, he commented: “The effectiveness of public administration efforts in interpreting the practical needs of the body politic in Thailand today are all the stronger because of the extraordinary record and level of achievement that has been accomplished by NIDA and IPA.”
As the School of Public Administration celebrates this great milestone it must look to the next fifty years. In Thailand, as in many other parts of the world, sources of funding are changing, calling for imagination and innovation in order to continue serving new populations and new constituencies. Public administration at NIDA is uniquely poised to branch out in new directions not only within Thailand but within the greater Southeast Asian region. It has the human and physical resources to take the lead in dynamic and creative directions. Through new technologies, distance learning, short- and long-term training programs, and workshops and conferences, it can enhance its existing stature and make a decisive impact. I was particularly impressed with the resources at the School and its command of technology for instruction and outreach. As I was looking through Indiana University’s Archives and came across historic photographs of Thai classrooms as they were in the 1950s, I realized that no one then could have ever imagined the technical sophistication of today’s classrooms at the School. These capabilities, together with an outstanding staff and curriculum, will be valuable as NIDA and the School re-address their future mission. Of course, public administration must at the same time sustain its fundamental teaching and research missions. But here too, new approaches, new methods, and new theories will have to inform faculty research and teaching, as well as student learning.
I have enormous confidence in NIDA and the School of Public Administration. Fifty years ago, Thai entrepreneurship and skill, coupled with American resources, opened up limitless opportunities. NIDA and the School must now use its rich experiences and legacies of the past as they explore the somewhat uncharted but promising, opportunities of the future.
Anon.“Contract Signed Tuesday for IU–Thailand Program.” Indiana Daily Student, May 4, 1955.
Indiana University 1954 “Program Concerning the Contract between Indiana University and the College of Education of Thailand through FOA.” International memorandum, September.
Indiana University 1955 “Memo on Meeting on Public Administration Contract.” Internal memorandum, March 28.
Karnjanaprakorn, Choop, Lawrence E. McKibben, and William N. Thompson 1974 NIDA: A Case Study in Institution Development. International Development Reearch Center, Indiana University.
Laohavichien, Uthai 1984 “The Problems and Prospects of Public Administration Education in Thailand,” Asian Journal of Public Administration 6(1): 46-60.
Raksasataya, Amara and Chirawan Bhakdbutr 1986 “IU-Thai Partnership,” Indiana Alumni Magazine, September, p. 10-11.
Siffin, William 1966 The Thai Bureaucracy: Institutional Change and Development. Honolulu: East-West Center Press.
Wells, Herman B 1980 Being Lucky: Reminiscences and Reflections. Indiana University Press.