For the past 36 years, Mahidol University International College’s (MUIC) has produced thousands of graduates, a good majority of whom now enjoy successful careers whether in public service or the private sector. This was made possible through the academic excellence of MUIC. Providing students with quality education has expanded their potentials, shaped their futures and enriched their lives.
One way of achieving and maintaining that academic excellence is through a professional evaluation by accreditation organizations. One of them, the ASEAN University Network-Quality Assurance (AUN-QA), recently accredited two more academic programs of Mahidol University International College (MUIC), namely, Computer Science and Communication Design programs. Meanwhile, MUIC’s Chemistry Program received recognition from the American Chemical Society (ACS). They join a growing list of MUIC programs that have received accreditation.
In this issue, MUIC 360° Magazine interviews the executives, faculty members, and students who have played a part in this recent achievement. They share with us how accreditation and recognition by reputable academic organizations play a part in ensuring that MUIC remains on top of the list of leading universities in Thailand.
Dr. Patsarin heads the department responsible for facilitating the accreditation of MUIC’s academic programs, among other duties. Such an undertaking is part of the college’s forward planning or strategic steps in order to keep abreast of the times and also in positioning MUIC to be prepared for the challenges of the future.
What is the significance of AUN-QA accreditation and ACS recognition to MUIC? In what ways does accreditation enhance the capabilities of MUIC?
MUIC, as the leading liberal arts college in Thailand, continuously improves its educational offerings—especially in program curriculum structure and content, as well as other support systems—as one of its strategies. Thus, receiving international accreditation reflects MUIC’s mission and goal “to be a globally recognized international liberal arts college.” Success in this endeavor will increase MUIC visibility within and outside of Thailand. It is also a strong indication that we will continue to develop our education service to meet the students’ needs and that of the changing world.
In the process of accreditation, the programs have to review their core products and services. With this revision, programs will see the bigger picture and may realize opportunities for improvement.
Accreditation bodies are often customer-focused. Students are definitely the most important group of customers. Every change and improvement plan that has been made focuses on making student learning experiences better.
Dr. Aram wears two hats—as lecturer mostly of mathematics courses and as Science Division Chair. Teaching math courses in MUIC for several years now, he said, “Mathematics is a visual subject. It involves translating abstract ideas into visual images. So when students have difficulties understanding math concepts, I would ask them to visualize those concepts with real world presentation.”
He believes that mathematics is an important foundation course for all Science majors (especially Chemistry and Computer Science). “Mathematics is a language tool for all science majors. It allows scientists to communicate the quantitative aspect of their subjects. This includes accurate measurement in chemistry, rate of change of different quantities in physics, binary number systems for representing information in computer science.
As division chair, one of his tasks is to ensure that the Science Division effectively shapes the future of its students through the academic excellence of its science programs. One way of keeping the Division in top shape is by having its programs undergo accreditation by relevant institutions, in this case, AUN-QA and ACS.
As a faculty member of the Computer Science program, Dr. Kanat strongly believes that it is in the front ranks of computer science programs in Thailand: “Our CS program is positioned to stand out as one of a kind.”
He explained: “We teach computer science as a rigorous science discipline, starting out focusing on foundation and mathematical aspects of computing, yet drawing on real-world scenarios/applications as a playground. Delivery happens through a set of well-designed introductory and core courses that integrate ideas across various areas of computing. This makes learning more engaging and fun than the siloed arrangement of traditional subject areas.”
He added that the x-factor is their tightly-knit community. “We are at a size where students and faculty members know each other personally, creating an ideal environment for personalized education. Students are supported to further their interests and passions; they have access to faculty members who have the (technical) expertise and care deeply about these students’ success and growth. Overall, this means the students get to work on many hands-on team-based projects over the years, fostering their technical and teamwork skills.”
Dr. Manchuta was part of the team that obtained the American Chemical Society (ACS) recognition for MUIC’s Chemistry program. The process started in August 2019 and concluded in January 2022, a rather long timeline having been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
She explained that the ACS recognition of the Chemistry program is the first in the Asia-Pacific and the third outside of the United States. “Gaining the recognition shows that our chemistry curriculum is world-class, broad-based, rigorous and aligns with the standards of ACS-approved four-year bachelor’s degree programs in the United States. These guidelines cover various aspects of chemistry education, crucial for training students to become effective scientific professionals, including curriculum, faculty and instrumentation,” she added.
The ACS recognition had a positive impact on the curriculum revision in 2020. “We refocused on core chemistry and natural science subjects and introduced a compulsory two-credit polymer course. Applied chemistry specialties are now offered through our partners (Flinders University for a double degree track and Siriraj Hospital for a BSc+MSc track). This is one example of many tangible benefits to our students enrolling from B.E.2563 onwards,” she explained.
Dr. Manchuta is optimistic that the Chemistry program’s students will benefit much from the ACS recognition. “Graduates from ACS-approved programs in the US are better prepared for technical employment, and so should graduates from ACS-recognized programs outside of the US. Aside from a comprehensive chemistry curriculum, one concrete example is that our MUIC students have access to modern instruments both at MUIC and MU-FRF (Mahidol University Frontier Research Facility) as parts of their coursework.”
Mr. Dhup Bhukdee is a senior Biological Sciences student minoring in both Chemistry and Computer Science. He recently finished his academic requirements and will soon graduate this year with a string of achievements—winning the Gold Medal in the Young Rising Stars of Science Award (2021), co-authoring a research paper in the Journal of Chemical Education in July 2020, among other notable feats.
Equally impressive is Mr. Dhup’s success in minoring in both chemistry and computer science and completing his Biological Sciences degree with first class honors in just four years.
He explained how each program complements the other: “Chemistry gives more depth and another perspective to what is taught in biology.” On the other hand, he said, “computer science adds a new way and logical thinking into solving problems efficiently.”
He credits his intellectual growth to his mentors in the Science Division. “It was only after I attended some classes and talked to instructors that my interest was widened and led me to decide to take chemistry as a minor and later computer science. Since my mentors know my interests and plan, they provided me with as many opportunities.”
Mr. Dhup now has several career options available to him: He currently serves as a research assistant to his thesis advisor while he is applying for graduate studies. If this plan falls through, he said he would likely work as a data scientist or a consultant.
He is confident of the quality of fellow graduates from MUIC that he does not hesitate to hire them in his company. “There are many successful MUIC graduates in both business and science fields that I have met and currently work with. Science graduates from MUIC have the potential to get hired by top companies because they have a solid grounding in the most fundamental courses and they can easily learn to adapt in the company they work in.”
Dr. Dynaya Bhutipunthu, who was then Program Director of Communication Design when it was starting to undergo AUN-QA accreditation, explained that the accreditation is very important in the development of the program.
The accreditation, which took place over a period of two years, required the following steps:
Asked in what concrete ways does the accreditation benefit the program, Dr. Dynaya said, “The process of applying for accreditation involved interviewing experts in the industry, alumni, and current students which helped us truly understand the kinds of skills students need to learn and the type of environment we must provide to lead to the success of our graduates. It helped us to further develop the program and will eventually benefit related fields in Thailand.”
The recent AUN-QA accreditation of the Communication Design Program was very significant because it is the first and only program of its kind in Thailand and ASEAN to be accredited by AUN-QA.
Ajarn Ploy, a faculty member of the Communication Design Program, indeed sees this as a major achievement for it enabled the faculty to take a step back, assess the program and the academic and practical needs of the CDP students, and implement necessary improvements.
“It helped us in ensuring the quality of our teaching and learning by allowing us to examine our curriculum in order to identify strengths and weaknesses, as well as the requirements of our students and stakeholders that enable us to solve problems efficiently.”
Asked about the capabilities and potentials of their students, Ajarn Ploy replied, “The strength of the CDP students is their creativity. They take advantage of their rough and raw craftsmanship to create their own unique style.”
For Ms. Chanakan Rojanapenkul, a 4th Year Communication Design student, a typical day in their studio class can only be described as “hectic, experimental, yet fun day.”
She explained, “Our professors start by assigning our task, and then we try to figure out our own solution to achieve our target. It’s hectic because everybody’s all over the place; no one really knows where to start, and no one really knows how the audience will perceive our works. But it’s fun for me because I get to see all the successful yet weird outputs I have made.”
She emphasized the importance of such a learning process: “These classes train me by allowing me to experiment independently and recognize my capabilities at my own pace. The professors would only guide us to what they believed could help solve our problems rather than telling us what’s supposed to be the correct answer or method. Our professors believe that we learn more through experience than on only theories.”
Most important is the strong support that students receive from their teachers. “My mentor, Ajarn Dow (Dr. Dynaya Bhutipunthu), encourages me to slowly figure out how to solve the problem I am facing and be able to give alternative solutions. And she also praises me when I achieve it.”
In the end, all of these lead to success. One of Ms. Chanakan’s achievements is having her team’s entry (a post-COVID travel app for Gen Z called “Scooch”) be accepted in ImaginAsia 2021.
According to Mr. Poom Suksirivecharuk, the Communication Design Program prepares its students to be ready for professional work even before graduating. “By the time we reach our third year, we would have already learned all the major fundamental skills that are required for us to take a simple freelance job or enter a design competition. Many CDP ajarns and alumni share news about design competition, internships, jobs and other career opportunities anytime there is one available.”
He said that under the program, each student is allowed to grow at his own pace. “We all go through each design step at a different speed.” However, he added that “when it comes to a team project, students learn to respect their fellow members’ design methods and thus synchronize our respective paces to work within the given timeline. In the program, not only do they teach us the hard skills of different techniques and design tools, in both digital and traditional platforms, but, more importantly, the CDP studio class also develops our soft skills through activities that require teamwork and more.” This results in success for most of the students’ individual and team projects, Mr. Poom said.
As can be seen from the above quotes, the recent AUN-QA accreditation and ACS recognition achieved by the Computer Science and Communication Design programs and Chemistry Program, respectively, demonstrates MUIC’s continuing endeavor to achieve world-class standards and make it the top international liberal arts college in Thailand.