Issue No. 6,
4 JULY 2000
REPORT OF 27 JUNE 2000 REFORM PROCESS COMMITTEE (RPC) MEETING
A. Review and Approval of the 20 June 2000 RPC Report
Members reviewed and approved the draft report of the 20 June 2000 RPC which will incorporate comments and suggestions made at the meeting.
B. Matters Arising from the 20 June 2000 Meeting
1. The RPC serves as a platform for the exchange of ideas and dialogue towards ensuring a collective understanding of the reform process. It should not be confused with a decision making body. The setting up of a Staff Appeals Panel is an initiative on the part of the administration to provide a venue for staff members should they feel that they have been unfairly terminated. It is not a tribunal where a decision has to be taken at the end of the meeting. The President will make the final decision once a particular case has been heard by the Panel. Representatives of the Labour Union and Staff are members of the Panel; their presence will ensure the fairness of the process. In order for them to maintain their freedom of action, it should be understood that they are not expected to be bound by the final decision, the responsibility of which lies with the President.
2. The reform process should not result in a proliferation of independent cost centers conducting their own outreach activities. It was reminded that CEC was established just for that purpose, and could be used for all non-school related activities.
3. The Board Finance Committee has recommended that the position of CEC should be the same as that of any other Institute Cost Center with its reserves amalgamated into the Institute General Reserve. Continuing education is in US universities undertaken through a university extension, separate from the University. It is important not to confuse the non-degree offerings of CEC, RCC and CLET with the real AIT academic degrees.
4. Proposals for outsourcing certain RCC operations should take into consideration both financial and technical aspects. Developing internal capabilities especially in view of the experience the Center has accumulated over the years might be more practical.
5. The issue of income tax reimbursement and its effect on the ISF was raised. The matter of the future of tax reimbursement and of the use of the general support provided to AIT is still under discussion with the Royal Thai Government. This is closely linked to the international status of AIT. Any new information on the tax reimbursement issue will be conveyed to the RPC.
C. Progress on the Reform Implementation Committee Meetings
The Provost provided general information on the outcome of the following meetings of the Reform Implementation Committees.
1. Office of the Media and Information Services (OMIS)
The main objective of the action plan was to restructure OMIS and propose a new modus operandi taking into consideration the principles discussed at RPC. At present, the campus-wide support services of OMIS, including those of the Media , Photography , Graphics and Printing Units are subsidized by Central Funds. The Information and Photography Units, being part of the public relations/promotion services needs to be fully subsidized by Central Funds and should be a team support serving both the administration and Schools. This Unit may best be placed under the Office of the President together with the new Public Relations Officer. The Media Unit, on the other hand, may be placed under the Office of the Provost to perform preventive maintenance of academic equipment in classrooms and Schools, and to provide media-related services at customer rates. Another option is for the Media Unit to be under DEC. The Graphics and Printing Unit services are best outsourced to companies outside or to the entrepreneurial venture formed by former OMIS staff on campus, in the spirit of competition. Staff members eligible for early retirement and relocation to Schools were also considered. OMIS has been requested to further deliberate on the initial measures and report back at the next meeting scheduled for 26 July.
2. Center for Library and Information Resources (CLAIR)
The second round of consultations with CLAIR confirmed that a 30% reduction in salary and operating costs could be effectuated. It is thought that the function of the Information Resources Center (IRC) arm is best devolved to the Schools, i.e., IFIC and GE-IRC to the School of Civil Engineering, and ENSIC and RERIC to the School of Environment, Resources and Development, where the subject specialist are based, to give value-added dimension to the services.
3. Distributed Education Center (DEC)
The objective of the first round of consultations with DEC was towards ascertaining the feasibility of proposals from units affected by the reform process insofar as the distance education function is concerned, and to gain insight of the future directions of the Center. Distributed education constitutes a frontier technology, which AIT should play a leading role in the region. It largely makes use of the next generation Internet and requires networking with people engaged in this technology. With proper training, the present RCC staff might be able to handle multimedia development. Potential RCC staff should be allowed to migrate to DEC to speed up the implementation of distributed education activities. The support staff from the Media Unit of OMIS would be a welcome addition to DEC for purposes of materials production, specifically taping of courses. The administration and management of distributed education non-degree courses could be handled by CEC especially the development of marketing aspect. DEC has the capacity to venture into the distance education delivery of actual lectures, which is thought to be more attractive than Web-based courses. Cleaner Production has been identified as a possible DE project in collaboration with all four Schools. A strategic plan on the reversal of the DE traffic from Asia to the West is now being prepared entailing development, in order of priority, of AIT on-line , of virtual university infrastructure, of publishing house, and of design and technical services. Since distributed education is relatively a new venture in Asia, AIT has no professional peer yet in this field. The firmly established universities engaged in this field are in the West, with which AIT needs to collaborate.
4. Office of the Student and Community Affairs, Registry and Admissions
The functions of Admissions, Registry and Student and Community Affairs are found to be totally distinct from each other without any overlap. It was felt that the merging of the three offices would therefore not improve the structure nor the process. As a centralized function, Admissions could continue its normal routine work with the Schools doing the on-line screening of applicants using the data assembled by Admissions. The offer of admission would be independent of the offer of scholarship and that, which will be handled separately by the Scholarships Office. Both Registry and Admissions are offering services which can be charged directly to users to help defray the operating expenditures of the units. The Unit Heads of Admissions and Registry have been requested to prepare an appropriate costing of such services. To date, the welfare support services provided to students by the Student and Community Affairs are not costed and charged accordingly. The housing rental might be restructured to include the welfare-related services component to make the operation of the unit financially viable. Other sources of funds for welfare related services will also be explored. These revenue-generating measures are expected to reduce the costs to Central Funds.
5. Finance and Treasurer's Office
Although a computerized financial system is used by AIT, it is too limited as a number of functions have to be done manually. The number of personnel employed now at Finance is considered optimum for its operation and reduction in manpower is possible only with the installation of a modern system. However, before embarking with the proposed adaptation of ERP or any other system, experience must be taken into account in the decision making process. Information gathering with comparator institutions has to be made in terms of financial system used. The reform of the Finance Department hinges on the success of the new system geared at shortening the response time. While awaiting the new system, it is imperative that the present system be made more efficient by redefining the whole operation of finance and ascertaining the time spent by an employee for each task by conducting a time and motion study.
E. Next Meeting
The next meeting of RPC is scheduled for 4 July 2000 at 9:00 a.m. in the Board Room, Administration Building.