Summary on Focus Groups

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					                     Summary of Focus Group Meeting Findings

Following the Admissions Committee meeting of 01 September 2006, student focus group
meetings were convened in Oct. – Dec. 2006. The purpose of the focus group meetings were: to
get feedback among others on (a) strategies for student marketing in the target countries; (b)
Recommendations on where media and advertisements should be placed/positioned; and (c) rosy
prospects in each country (i.e. most attractive programs/fields, etc). Of these, it was not possible to
achieve the last objective of finding out rosy prospects in each country from the small group of
students.
ERCO staff moderated 10 focus group meetings involving students from various countries. The
countries included SE Asian countries – Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand – targeted for
direct student recruitment for self-support / AIT fellowships; China and South Asian countries –
Bangladesh, India and Nepal – targeted for student recruitment through agents. (Please see
Admissions Committee Meeting Minutes, 01 Sept. 2006). Also, focus groups were convened with
students from Bhutan and Pakistan.
Some students who participated in the focus groups volunteered to promote AIT in their respective
former universities and were forwarded letters of introduction. Additionally, some students
indicated that they would consider being student recruitment agents for AIT after graduation. The
students also commented and provided suggestions on academic matters and on campus facilities
and services.
The following are the major findings from the focus groups:

Main Factors to study at AIT
   - Internationality, international rating (SOM)
   - Availability of full scholarships and fellowships.
   - Recommendations by friends, faculty who are AIT alumni
   - Recommendations by organizations sponsoring their higher education
   - Non-acceptance by other universities
   - Very easy and simple admission requirements
   - English medium an advantage for future career (Thailand)
   - Limited choice of international universities providing Civil Engineering courses
      (Thailand)
   - Area of interest matched with courses offered at AIT
   - Availability of special study area, such as MOT in AIT-SOM (Thailand)

Decision Making on the choice of Graduate School
   Mostly by students themselves, but influenced by Faculty, Alumni, Friends and funding source
   (e.g., parents and sponsoring organizations).

Source of Information on graduate schools:
   - Advertisement in the newspaper/ magazines (weekly/ monthly)
   - Internet, various websites, Yahoo/ Google Search
   - Official website of Ministry of Education (China, Indonesia)
   - Relevant Ministry’s and provincial websites, and magazines (Bangladesh, Vietnam)
   - Educational fairs, seminars and workshops (Universities participating in educational fairs
        are considered prestigious – Bhutan, India, Pakistan)

Source of Information about AIT:
   - Faculty who are AIT alumni
   - Friends / relatives who are AIT alumni
   - AIT faculty visits to national universities
   - Internet, Google Search
   - Advertisement in local newspaper (Pakistan)
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    -   Ministries wherein scholarships are available for civil servants (Bangladesh)
    -   Foreigners working in Bangkok
    -   Ford Foundation advertisement about the scholarship in China
    -   China Scholarship Council advertisement of scholarships to study at AIT
    -   Local Radio (Nepal)
    -   Institutions with link to AIT (Pakistan)

Suggestions/ Complaints:

a) On Promoting AIT
    - Promotional events should be well in advance.
    - Advertising in local newspapers, magazines, in front of major universities.
    - Participating in educational fairs.
    - Hosting an AIT seminar or AIT Day in hotels / universities provide a venue to interact
       with faculty members and distributing brochures of AIT.
    - Institutional linkages; AIT should approach private sectors of India and Pakistan to have
       collaboration and partnerships.
    - Faculty visits to universities.
    - Dedicated Agents for promoting AIT.
    - AIT website not user friendly and not up-to-date. Chinese language website suggested.
    - AIT should approach the banks in the public and the private sectors to make arrangements
       for students to take loans with low interest rates and no collateral. (Nepal).
    - Lack of information and promotion about the “good” facilities offered at AIT for the
       Islamic community.
    - Job placement opportunities for students upon completion of their studies at AIT.
    - Information on successful AIT Alumni is very important to motivate prospective students
       to apply to AIT.
    - AIT Alumni Directory with photos(s) and contact details should be posted on the web.
    - Tapping AIT Alumni who are faculty members / staff in universities.

b) On Academic matters
    - Criteria for admission at AIT are very simple. A requirement of GMAT or GRE would
       make AIT perceive to be “quality” institution with a high standard. (India).
    - Favoritism by faculty members (to students of their own nationalities or those who are
       advisees) reflects on their grades. Students also feel that many a times, the grading system
       is not fair. The examination papers should be returned to the students so that they can take
       a look at the papers and their mistakes. Doctoral students getting higher grades with ease
       while attending the same courses with Master’s students is not fair.
    - Lack of faculty members has resulted in interesting courses being not offered.
    - Student evaluation of FoS and School are not taken seriously.
    - The time frame for the doctoral program (three years) is really short and not realistic for
       completing the degree requirements.
    - The research grant allocated to students should have expanded use – such as, attending
       seminars or conferences to present research papers.
    - There should be a standard thesis proposal in all three schools.
    - The required courses should have the same credit hours.
    - Student should be informed more about collaborative research that AIT has with several
       institutions around the world.
    - Doctoral students should be given the opportunity to work while pursuing their studies at
       AIT. The opportunity for student assistantship is almost nil for both masters and doctoral
       students.
    - Tuition fees, which are high compared to overseas universities, should be waived for
       outstanding students after the first semester even if they have come on self-finance.
       (Vietnam)


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    -   The low levels of Basic English and Mathematics skills of some students delay the
        progress of the class lectures. The participation of these students is little in group projects
        or assignments but they get the same grades which is not fair.
    -   Internships and student exchange programs should be encouraged more.

c) On Facility and Services:
    - Admission Office does not reply email requests from prospective students.
    - Follow up with applicants offered admission should be done with visits to some countries.
    - AIT intranet is very slow.
    - Students fall victim to the “passing of the buck” by the various offices related to students.
       Moreover, the attitudes of staff members towards students are very rude.
    - Some laboratory supervisors are very busy and do not provide the much needed assistance
       to the students.
    - Sub-standard laboratory equipment.
    - Need proper management of class timings by some faculty members.
    - General atmosphere of the main library is not healthy and it is stuffy, full of dust.
    - Lack of up-to-date text books in the library; scarce books are borrowed and not returned
       by faculty.
    - Student accommodation single rooms are limited and living space/toilet is not
       comfortable. Some accommodations even are flooded when it rains.
    - Students opined that the service provided by the Maintenance unit is poor, specially
       “telephone repair”. Hence, as a solution, the students want to have “on-line complaint”
       for this service and the concerned department should take the feed back from the students.
    - On-line student accommodation queuing is requested, so that the allocation can be
       transparent.




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