PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to examine the governance system of autonomous universities in an emerging economy, i.e., Thailand. The authors examine the degree of freedom that Thai autonomous universities enjoy and the process that they follow in instituting their governance system.Design/methodology/approachThe authors use case study method of research where units of analysis are 16 public autonomous universities. Data are collected directly from the Universities and available documents and through interviews with ten informants from five universities. Data are analysed using the triangulation method before presenting findings.FindingsThe authors find that Thai autonomous universities had different degree of readiness when they were granted autonomy status by the government. According to their Acts, the universities can specify their own governance pattern, leadership recruitment, revenue management, budgeting and personnel management. With the strengthening role and accountability, the university councils have enjoyed wider space of actions in institutional governance. Size and composition of the councils differ. Big and more mature universities tend to have more members and their councils comprise more outside experts than the small ones. Thai autonomous universities’ governance structure is in the pattern of corporate-like structure. Participatory process is applied in the university decision making. Big universities are strategically directed towards being research universities, while small and newly established universities are striving to expand to health science education. In academic governance, there is an academic board which helps the council to handle academic standards and give academic related recommendations. The launch of Education Criteria for Performance Excellence Framework to standardise the country’s higher education system has become controversial and is said to lessen the universities’ degree of academic freedom. In financial autonomy, the study finds that most universities are still dependent on government budget.Originality/valueThis case study depicts the governance system of autonomous universities in Thailand, which is one of the emerging countries. Taken into account that existing literature regarding university governance, especially in the emerging countries is limited, the study, which eventually proposes recommendations for lifting these universities’ governance performance, should be able to contribute fruitful knowledge in the area.
Journal of Advances in Management Research – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 6, 2018