Located in the heart of South East Asia, Thailand is an important regional economic, transportation and education hub. Thailand is the second biggest economy of the ASEAN countries, and is the largest exporter of rice in the world, as well as being a major producer of automobiles, rubber and electronic appliances.
For Australian students looking to study in Asia, Thailand offers an exciting and affordable experience, with excellent education institutions that offer a large number of high quality courses in English at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Thailand also has good opportunities for research students, with nine national research universities, and particular strengths in medicine, environmental science, ecology and biological sciences, engineering and manufacturing, tourism and hospitality, and ASEAN and Southeast Asian studies.
Both the Thai Government and Thai universities value international students, and you will be well supported throughout your study experience in Thailand.
Visitors to Thailand will experience a country of scenic diversity and ancient traditions, of tranquil temples and modern urban excitement. Students will have the opportunity to travel locally and to surrounding countries, such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar, while gaining an invaluable international living experience.
There are a number of resources for students looking to study in Thailand, including:
Thailand: A Study Abroad Guide for Australian Students is an Australian Government initiative.
Study in Thailand is a comprehensive website for foreign students wishing to study in Thailand.
- Thailand Guru - a practical guide designed for expatriates living in Thailand.
Higher Education at both undergraduate and graduate levels in Thailand is under the responsibility of the Office of the Higher Education Commission in the Ministry of Education. Currently, there are 79 public universities, 71 private higher education institutions and 19 community colleges.
Timing of study sessions
The current academic semesters for Thai universities are June to September and November to March. However, Thai universities will introduce a new academic calendar for the 2014 academic year, in which the first semester will commence around mid-August and finish around mid-December, and the second semester will start around mid-January and will finish around mid-May. The move by Thailand to implement a new academic calendar from the 2014 academic year onwards is motivated by an effort to align with other ASEAN countries and in preparation for the ASEAN Economic Community integration in 2015.
Preparatory language opportunities
If you intend to undertake a university program taught in English, you will find that you can get around most of Thailand with minimal Thai. However, learning some Thai can help you to get more out of your study and life experience in Thailand, and can assist you if you would like to seek an internship or paid work following the end of your study period. Almost all Thai universities offer Thai language courses. There are a large number of private language schools that provide Thai language tuition, some of which can be found on the following websites:
Studying in English
The provision of high quality university qualifications taught in English is a key priority for the Thai Government, and for many of Thailand’s leading universities. These programs are usually called International Programs, and are offered across a broad range of disciplines, from science, arts, engineering and law through to medicine. Since 2005, the number of International Programs offered by higher education institutions in Thailand has grown significantly from 520 programs to 981 programs in 2010. In 2010, both Thai public and private universities offered a total of 981 international programs both at undergraduate and graduate levels, ie 342 undergraduate programs; 389 masters degree programs; 225 doctoral degree programs and 25 other degree programs. Foreign and Thai students can take courses for credits from such programs. Thailand: A Study Abroad Guide for Australian Students is a good starting point for discovering universities that offer International Programs.
Work and internships
At the time of writing, international students who are in Thailand on an Educational (Student) visa are prohibited from working full time. Under Thai law, international students are permitted to work up to 20 hours a week in paid employment. However, the work that students undertake must not adversely affect the image and status of the college or university the student is enrolled at. It is possible to apply for a work permit to undertake a full-time internship while in Thailand – the type of permit/visa will vary depending on whether the internship is paid or unpaid, organised directly by the student with the employer, or organised through the university. Undertaking an internship without the appropriate work permit may invalidate a student visa. As visa rules can change, students are advised to consult their nearest Thai Embassy or Consulate for the latest information regarding work rights for students.
Internships in Thailand are available in a wide variety of fields in the private and non-profit sectors. Internships may be paid or unpaid, for credit or not-for-credit, graduate internship, work and travel, and externship. Internships can be organised through a Thai university, or students can apply directly to the organisation that they are interested in interning for. AEI surveyed a number of employers in Bangkok and found that most had at least one to two internship positions each year, with the most common areas being tourism and hospitality, law, engineering and accountancy. Students can directly approach employers to enquire about opportunities. Thai universities can also help students organise internships, and there are a number of third party organisations that can broker internship opportunities in Thailand. In addition, there are a number of international governmental organisations based in Thailand, such as the UN and 24 UN agencies. The UN and other international governmental organisations offer internship opportunities, which are generally advertised on websites. Internship opportunities at the UN are competitive, and usually require students to have a second language.
The cost of living in Thailand is very affordable compared to many other places in Asia. To live comfortably in major cities like Bangkok or Chiang Mai, prospective international students should reckon on approximately THB10,000-20,000 (AU$300-600) per month for transportation, meals and leisure activities. Students will also need to budget for accommodation costs. There is a variety of accommodation options for students, from on campus residences to off campus apartments for one or more students. In Bangkok, the approximate rate of a single occupancy in an on campus residence is between THB 4,000 to 10,000 (AU$135-330) per month, with this cost decreasing for universities outside Bangkok. For off campus accommodation, rent for a studio room in Bangkok, Phuket or Chiang Mai could be as low as THB4,500 per month, while rent for an apartment is typically higher, at approximately THB10,000 (AU$300) per month. Costs will again be cheaper outside of the major cities. These figures are only an approximation and living expenses will depend on your individual lifestyle and spending habits. Much more information about costs of living is included in the websites and guides listed above.
Tuition and fees vary from university to university, and students should consult individual universities for accurate costs. Costs are almost always cheaper than Australia. Very generally, tuition fees for undergraduate study in public institutions are between THB875-1,750 (AU$30-55) per credit hour. For the graduate level, the tuition fees are about THB35,000 – 70,000 (AU$1,100 – 2,200) per year for a masters level program, and about THB175,000 (AU$6,200) Other expenses that need to be paid to the university include student activities, health services, student registration, student ID card and graduation fee. Tuition at private universities is generally higher than Thai public universities.
Accessing money in Thailand is reasonably simple. ATM machines that accept international debit and credit cards are prevalent, and foreigners can easily open Thai bank accounts.Thailand Guru provides information about Money and Banking.
Scholarships and support
See the Money matters for general information on scholarships and financial support for studying overseas. Thai Universities offer scholarships to international students, often through partnership agreements between Thai and Australian universities.
Visas and insurance
Visas and entry
Foreign students coming to Thailand to study are required to possess an Education (student) visa (commonly known as an ED visa). As long as students have the correct documentation, it is a fairly straightforward process. Students can find out more information on how to apply for a visa and current fees for visas at the Royal Thai Embassy in Canberra, or Thai consulates in most Australian capital cities. As requirements for visas can change from time to time, it is always best to seek advice directly from your nearest Thai Embassy or Consulate. If you are planning on studying in Thailand for a longer period of time, it may be necessary to extend the validity of your visa at an immigration office in Thailand. For information on how to to apply for a visa or extension of a visa visit the Thai Immigration Bureau.
Healthcare and insurance
All students should take out full insurance cover for medical treatment and accidents, including medical evacuation to their home country. Generally the standard of healthcare available in Thailand is very good. While there is a good public hospital system, there exists a very well-resourced private hospital system offering extremely high quality medical services - equal to or better than most in the world. There are a number of very good private hospitals in Bangkok and other major cities offering both excellent medical and dental services. The following private hospitals and clinics in Bangkok are amongst those that can be recommended:
Bumrungrad Hospital: http://www.bumrungrad.com
Samitivej Hospital: http://www.samitivej.co.th
Saint Louis Hospital: http://www.saintlouis.or.th
Accommodation and transport
There are many kinds of accommodation for students in Thailand ranging from campus dormitory, private apartment, serviced apartment, condominium, and houses. Home stay is not common in Thailand. Foreign students are recommended to contact their host institution to arrange temporary accommodation before their arrival. Many Thai universities will assist students to find long term accommodation once they have arrived. The standard of accommodation for international students at Thai universities is high and almost all universities in Thailand provide on-campus accommodation. In general, there are two types of residence halls for international students. Almost every university provides the traditional style residence halls that are normally single sex, single, double or triple occupancy bedrooms, with private facilities. All residence halls consist of both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned bedrooms and are smoke-free. Facilities generally include bed, desks, chairs and closets. Further information on accommodation, including listings of apartments and other off campus options, can be found at the following websites:
Getting around Thailand is relatively easy with a well-priced air, bus and train network connecting most of the country. A wide variety of local transport is available in Thailand. Depending on where you are, this can include taxis, subway, skytrain, buses, songtaew trucks or tuk tuks. Public transport is considerably cheaper than in Australia. Non air-conditioned buses cost between THB7-10 (AU$0.20 - $0.30) while air conditioned buses cost less than THB30 (AU$1.00) a ride. Songtaew trucks provide transportation on shorter or less travelled routes in many cities. The cost is between THB20-50 (AU$0.65-1.65) depending on distance. A maximum cost for the Bangkok BTS (skytrain) and the MRT (subway) is THB40 for a single journey.