AIT is on the right track
Re: "AIT has lost its way", Letters, April 4.
In response to Professor Belcher's letter from Tokyo. Dear Professor Belcher, I'll try and address your points in an as academic and level way as possible. First off, the 1950s are over. The 1990s are over. We are in the 21st century. I think most would agree that no university today plays, as you say, its "role as it did in the '50s through the early '90s". AIT is no exception. Since then, Seato has pulled its mission and funding and AIT is no longer the only graduate school in the region.
Second, AIT is actively participating in "development of knowledge and social and economic development". AIT has added relevant "research thematic areas" that address today's challenges. We also have new centres, such as the centres for Sustainable Development for Climate Change, for Corporate Social Responsibility, and for Excellence in Nanotechnology.
The AIT Extension has an outstanding track record in outreach.
Next, AIT, for a very small university, hangs on quite well to "teaching, research and relevance to development". Per capita in publishing, AIT is tops in Thailand. With regard to quality, admittedly AIT has issues, as does every university. To address those issues, we have CLIQ, a centre tasked with the mission of learning, innovation and quality for the 21st century.
AIT still produces exceptional students. One alumnus from the nanocentre in 2009 was the top student in electrical engineering at UC Berkeley this past year. A 2011 student had more than 20 publications in high-impact journals while still at AIT and now works in nanotechnology at the prestigious Angstrom Laboratory in Sweden. There are similar examples from other departments of AIT.
And yes, then there was the parenthetical comment about flood experts at AIT. In the United States there are numerous experts in water management, flood control and disaster preparedness - would you agree? Yet devastating floods occur regularly in the US with great loss of life and property. Floods cannot be stopped because of experts. Facts: AIT resides in the bottom of the flood basin. The buildings and infrastructure on campus are 20 or more years old and built without regard to flooding criteria. Decisions were based on information and updates received from experts. We fought valiantly side by side with the Thai Army to hold back the waters. Yes, in retrospect, we could have done better, done more, but they probably say these same things in the US.
AIT is constantly reinventing itself. Maybe you are not aware that AIT is playing a major role in developing a new evaluation system for universities - the Alternative University Appraisal, headed by Hokkaido University. I am proud to be part of that team and able to play a role in its development. AIT is indeed involved - no illusion about that. AIT is unique and has unique problems that require unique solutions. So, Professor, I invite you to join us and make AIT better by offering constructive solutions, or if you wish, please come here and debate me - of course only under the codes of academic integrity and professionalism.
Asian Institute of Technology