Academic and Social Integration by Chiang Mai University

Views : 4916 | 01 Oct 2021

In 2012 Chiang Mai University created a roadmap to respond to the university’s vision to be socially responsible. Chiang Mai University is recognised as the first responder for society’s many challenges. Drawing from Chiang Mai University’s arsenal of knowledge and wide network, local and community problems as well as larger issues can be solved, and people empowered. When faced with any significant problem in the North of Thailand, the first place that often comes to mind is Chiang Mai University, a seat of learning with a wide network, that has met and solved many of our society's challenges.

One of the recurring roles for Chiang Mai University’s researchers and academics is to work closely with various communities, the government sector, the private sector, and NGOs to help find solutions to their problems. This has led to much improvement and positive change, whether it be to the quality of life, the economy, the environment, politics, health, or arts and culture. These efforts clearly show the benefits of integrating expertise and knowledge directly into the community.

For nearly 60 years, Chiang Mai University has been accumulating knowledge, conducting research, and working directly with multiple communities to find specific solutions for each problem. As the north of Thailand's first seat of higher learning founded in direct response to the needs of the people of Lanna, Chiang Mai University is committed to being a leading university committed to social responsibility and sustainable development.

Since 2018, the university has 213 projects run by 213 teams working in service to society. These projects, collected in the CMU SE database, show the works of academics dedicating themselves to the greater good, applying their knowledge in 252 communities across the region. In addition, a policy shift has seen a realignment on how the university engages with society. Instead of research and development being conducted as per the interest of academics, it is now society who dictates their needs for the researchers to respond to. Today, the university’s social engagements yield direct results to society. Each time there is a project to serve society, the aim is to assist in the streamlining and effectiveness of cooperation between sectors for a sustainable solution and future.

Supporting academic services to society
Connecting academics directly to communities

Chiang Mai University’s CMU Societal Engagement Office stands behind the process of developing a practical knowledge and innovation structure. Working together with communities, Chiang Mai University's role is to help connect government and private sectors, with the sole focus on community needs. Our aim is to help society at large, and to that end, we must create a strong system which can be used most effectively to impart our expertise and knowledge directly to meet real needs. The university strives to connect the government sector with NGOs, local businesses, researchers, students, villagers and communities, driving efforts to find solutions to serve society in a sustainable manner.

Associate Professor Dr. Avorn Opatpatanakit,
Vice President of Chiang Mai University, facilitating CMU Societal Engagement

Associate Professor Dr. Avorn Opatpatanakit, Vice President of Chiang Mai University working with her team comprising
Suphaphan Krairoek, Naropagon Sittiwong, Wannee Kipanan, Piyapong Arthid, Siritida Songnoi

Associate Professor Dr. Avorn Opatpatanakit, PhD., Vice President of Chiang Mai University working directly to drive academic services to society said,

“In the early stages we didn’t use the phrase ‘academics to serve society’, having previously used the phrase ‘academic services’, however, Professor Dr. Piyawat Boon-long, previous director of Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI) advised that ‘academics to serve society’ is a more appropriate phrase for the works currently been done by the university.

Local communities have their own unique set of knowledge and are able to convey their problems to the university so that researchers can respond with the correct set of knowledge, connecting the government sector and the private sector. Between 1997 and 2010, the university acted as liaison between communities and the Thailand Research Fund. Today, the target is to allow research and data to be used to serve and impact society at large. It is therefore imperative to create mechanisms, systems and teams to help support this initiative.”

The university is today focusing on three strategies which are innovation of energy and the environment, innovation of health and food, and innovation for elderly care and creative Lanna. Communities in Omkoi, Phrao and Mae Chaem Districts of Chiang Mai Province, and Sri Bua Ban District of Lamphun Province have been selected to be model communities for the university’s works. Areas in the city of Chiang Mai have also been selected with many communities in Suthep and Chang Phueak Sub-districts being selected. Further afield, there are also some projects in Nan, Lamphun and Mae Hong Son provinces as well as other areas across the upper North.

When working in the field, the Societal Engagement team has found that the proposition has been twofold: the knowledge base of the academics who have already worked on location and the needs and problems of the community which requires solving. One of the main challenges has been that communities find it hard to access expertise, and academics often do not know which community needs their expertise. Therefore, the Societal Engagement team held meetings between the two groups so that the solution can match the problem. This has resulted in academics working on projects they are passionate about, focused directly on communities which will most benefit from their knowledge base.

One other area which is very important to this team is to promote and support the development and access of academies in their efforts to help society. This is done with a coach/mentor system which allows those with experience to help nurture younger academics who may lack real practical experience.

From the beginning of the process, the team helps develop project proposals so that they are of quality. Then they support the extraction of knowledge to apply to real issues followed by supporting the preparation of all documents needed once the project is complete, so that academics may publish or apply for various academic ranks.

In order to achieve success in working in the service of the public, a platform has been developed for the input of TOR and job achievement data so that all stakeholders within the university may have access to head of projects, all contacts for participatory researchers, the name of the project, GPS locations, plan and process for the community involved, associates and affiliates, funding source, results and impact of research. This information can all be found at The aim is for this easily searched database to be a tool to streamline efforts, provide information, and facilitate the university's objective in helping society at large.

Chiang Mai University's Highland Initiatives
Promotion of Thai language learning for highland students' project

Most of the university's projects span the north of Thailand, with many initiatives taking place in the highland communities on sustainable development. This high-impact work covers areas from education to health to job opportunities. For instance, the project to promote the Thai language amongst highland communities by the Faulty of Education follows the policies laid down by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Princess Debaratanarajasuda. This project, based in Omkoi District of Chiang Mai, focuses on activities for teachers to generate educational tools for the studies of Thai, arts, and the community, to further the understanding and skill development of teachers in terms of organizing knowledge, innovative teaching tools, connecting local identities for careers, local wisdom and human resources. This project has resulted in highland students' improvements in listening, speaking, reading, and writing Thai language skills and overall communication. It also fosters pride and love of their own cultural identities.

New Normal & Education School project

Police Patrol Teachers New Normal lerning

 Integrated English learning in Omkoi District's Mae Teun

The Humanities Academic Service Centre (HAS Centre), for instance, has had to work to adapt to these new pandemic times by providing new channels for learning. The New Normal and Education School was founded to assist highland students in furthering their education. Via the use of digital channels and information technology tools, those who wish to learn have access to knowledge and educational planning in this era of the new normal.

One instance of educational schooling in the new normal is the Police Patrol teachers' utilisation of tools created by the Faculty of Humanities of Chiang Mai University to offer distance learning to students affected by Covid-19. This includes video clips, and test papers, which are disseminated both on and offline.

Integrated English for Omkoi's Mae Teun Community is one project which infuses the English language into multiple areas of a community. The Faculty of Humanities of the university have studied local knowledge of the people of the community of Mae Teun and integrated English into many aspects of study. Community leaders and local area officials are also taught conversational English so that they can communicate multiple areas of local knowledge in the English language at a basic level.

Four Wishes: Building Sustainability in Academic Social Services
One of the past challenges was the lack of continuation once a project had started. To that end, the university is taking a Four-factor bottom-up approach.
“Our participatory bottom-up approach has four main areas,” explained Associate Professor Dr. Avorn, “Firstly, propositions must come from the communities themselves. Secondly, there must be a joint action plan, then the operations must be jointly driven and lastly, a summary of the project must be compiled so that feedback can be of use to all stakeholders. What is most important is building up local personnel so that they can be at the heart of sustainability.”

With a three-year implementation plan, communities can become an integral part of their own sustainable development. Names of local participants are also included in the projects so that they feel a sense of ownership and pride. This is how Chiang Mai University is becoming an integral part of sustainable local development across the nation.

 While the university has a database of knowledge from working with many communities across the North of Thailand over the decades, it has found that communities are often not fully aware of what areas of expertise the university can provide. Without ease of access to the university or knowledge of services available, the Societal Engagement agency's task is to facilitate matching problems with the right solutions.

Chiang Mai University. 239 Huay Kaew Road. Muang District. Chiang Mai. Thailand. 50200

Phone : +66 5394 1300
Fax : +66 5321 7143