Issue No. 3, 13 June 2000

Report of 6 June 2000 Reform Process Committee (RPC) Meeting

A. Welcome

The President welcomed Ms. Krongthong Smitobol, the new staff representative, and Mr. Hilario P. Ricarte, Academic Planning Officer, to the RPC. Mr. Chaimongkol Chalermsukjitsri who had resigned as staff representative was commended for his contribution to the Staff Relations Committee and for addressing important issues such as staff development and training. The staff election committee will be requested to advise on the procedure for the selection of the replacement for Mr. Chaimongkol.

B. Follow up on the 30 May 2000 RPC Report

1. Approval of the Report

Members reviewed and approved the draft report of the 30 May 2000 RPC which will incorporate comments and suggestions made at the meeting.

2. Clarification on AIT as a 'non-profit' Institution

According to the Exchange of Notes between the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand dated 9 February 1967, AIT is indeed a non-profit sharing institution for graduate studies in engineering and allied sciences. Therefore, it is not appropriate for AIT to conduct any operation other than graduate teaching and research in engineering and allied sciences for pecuniary purpose. The implication of 'non-profit sharing' being that as a non-profit institution AIT is not allowed to float any shares and that nobody financially owns AIT.

However, this does not preclude AIT from making a surplus in the areas of technical higher education and research as long the surplus is reinvested for educational and research purposes. AIT cannot have any commercial ventures on its campus run by the institute. All such operations will need to be outsourced. The AIT Center, Golf Club, Playschool/Child Center in particular have been viewed as commercial operations and that which has resulted in some unfavorable judgements against the Institute. Legal advice is being sought in this matter to protect the reputation of AIT and to reaffirm its position as a non-profit institution.

The President thanked Dr. H. L. Tien for soliciting the input from the AIT community in the work of the task force looking into the operations of commercial providers on campus. A standard rental for all the Outreach tenants has been prepared and will be implemented. The rents for other units on campus and outside vendors would also need to be calculated following a similar format.

3. Feedback from Constituencies / Questions / Other Comments

1. A Staff Appeals Panel will be set up comprising the following members:

President (Chairman)
HRO Coordinator
Concerned Dean or Unit Head
Immediate Supervisor

Two representatives from the Staff Affairs Working Group
Two representatives from the Labor Union

The panel will serve as a venue for staff members to appeal should they feel that they have been unfairly evaluated by their supervisors. All appeals must be channeled through the HRO Coordinator who will be responsible for convening the meetings. The President will make the final decision once a particular case has been heard by the panel. In order for them to maintain their freedom of action, representatives of the staff are not expected to take part in the final decision, the responsibility of which will fall on the President. Other members from the AIT Community familiar with the case may also be invited to attend whenever required. An important aspect of the reform process will be to ensure that supervisors at all levels closely monitor the performance and progress of their employees and give them the opportunity to improve on the job.

2. The HRO Coordinator was requested to look into all the International Staff contracts to confirm that by 1 July 2003 there could be only one staff category. Since the actual realization will be gradual, there is still a need for an International Staff (IS) representative who also serves as a member of the Staff Affairs Working Group / Administration which meets every month. The process for the selection of a new Staff Representative to the Board needs to be worked out in consultation with the staff representatives, Labour Union and IS representative. The administration will set up a task force with assistance from external consultants to review both international and local hire staff privileges to try and come up with a set of benefits pertinent for all staff.

3. During the meeting of the Staff Relations Committee on 16 May 2000, it was felt desirable to have a representation of staff in the committee which better reflects the composition of the Institute's staff in terms of nationalities and gender. Regarding nationality distribution a possibility would be to have a proportionate representation from among Thais and non-Thais (not among nationalities). There was some concern expressed as to possible adverse effects this categorization might have especially since the newly elected staff representatives do truly represent the concerns of all staff irrespective of their nationality. The need to formulate election guidelines to ensure a representation that better encompasses the diversity of AIT and reflects the international composition of its staff was stressed. There is a need to understand the depth and implication of the issues involved and to make a commitment within the feasible framework. This serious concern will be brought to the attention of the Board Staff Relations Committee.

4. A Reform Steering Committee (RSC) is being set up comprising the following members :

President (Chairman)
School Deans
HRO Coordinator
6 Consultants (change management and financial systems)
3 from inside AIT (at no cost to AIT)
3 from outside AIT (at least two of them seconded i.e. at no cost to AIT)
Legal Adviser
Mr. H. P. Ricarte and Mr. Karma Rana will be co-secretaries

The RSC will monitor the work of the three implementation committees and look into specific issues such as the voluntary early retirement plan, implementation of the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) etc. The feasibility and cost of the early retirement plan will need to be looked into and approval of the Board sought on the use of appropriate funds (such as certain reserves) for this purpose.

5. Flexibility in the implementation process is necessary especially in the relocation of staff. It is important to build the capacity of employees so that they can be absorbed into matching positions within the Institute. The four drivers of reform namely, organizational climate, criticality, readiness of substitute mechanisms and sense of urgency are important factors which will guide the implementation process. Specific recommendations made by the implementation committees will be brought to the RPC.

6. The January and May 2000 intakes have shown a notable increase in the number of fee-paying students, mainly due to the augmentation of the number of students under external support. AIT has recently signed a landmark educational cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), Government of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. AIT has been listed among the institutions where MOET will send their officials for postgraduate studies at the Master and Doctoral levels. Similar efforts are ongoing in Sri Lanka and planned for Bangladesh and other countries of the region to avail AIT of the benefits of increasing bilateral aid from institutions such as the World Bank and ADB on the basis of AIT's excellence and its resolution to reaffirm its role as an institution to the service of the region. However, these efforts alone are not sufficient towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Institute. AIT is in need of a sense of direction and vision and the proposed reform measures serves as a positive and important step towards reassuring donors and stakeholders in general and ensuring their confidence. Effective strategic planning requires that the house has first been put in order.

7. The meetings of the Implementation Committees with the concerned units will start from the week of 12 June 2000.

8. Strong interest was expressed in the establishment of an endowment fund which will necessitate a rigorous campaign aimed at potential donors among AIT stakeholders.

4. Next Meeting

The next meeting of RPC is scheduled for 13 June 2000 at 11:00 am, in the Board Room, Administration Building.