In its long, uneven progress to modernity, much of
Asia has been held back by a shortage of able technocrats. Many countries lacked schools
to train them. Even where technical institutions did exist, the best young graduates often
sought jobs and advanced education abroadand stayed there. Foreign dependency was
perpetuated; for too long know-how had to be imported.
Grasping this, in 1959 the Council of Ministers of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization
opened the SEATO Graduate School of Engineering in Bangkok. Eighteen students from
Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines matriculated in its only subject, hydraulic
engineering. The school prospered. Outliving SEATO, it was established in 1967 as an
autonomous educational institution: the ASIAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, or AIT.
Although based in Thailand, AIT was conceived as a school for the entire region. Asia
provided the vast majority of its students and, eventually, half its faculty.
Concentrating in the fields of natural resources, agriculture, manufacturing, and
infrastructure development, it employed classical engineering and management principles to
devise new technologies for Asiato improve irrigation, for example, dispose of
organic waste, build affordable housing, and develop renewable sources of energy.
At AIT's modern 160-hectare campus built in 1973 outside Bangkok, some 750 students
annually pursue master's and doctoral degrees as well as shorter diploma courses. Research
and outreach programs complement teaching. Working with the faculty, students participate
in the development of new ideas and their dispersalthrough workshops,
community-based projects, and liaison programs with universities.
AIT's student body is chosen scrupulously on the basis of merit and yet, at the same time,
forms a cross-section of Asia. In any given year as many as twenty-six different countries
may be represented. No one nationality dominates. At AIT everyone is a minority.
"Politics" is forbidden. Studying and living side-by-side, AIT's students learn
to accommodate each other's differences and to respect one another. A loyal network of
alumni keeps the connections alive after graduation, creating a grid of friendship and
mutual interest that spans the region.
Nearly all AIT graduates stay in Asia, three-quarters of them in their own countries. As
middle- and senior-level managers in the public and private sectors and in education, they
apply their high-tech skills to raise their countrymen's standard of living and to improve
the quality of their environment. Some have become leaders in advanced technology.
Funded largely by more than twenty governments, as well as by foundations, corporations,
and individuals, AIT has an enviable reputation for high standards. Under its current
president, Dr. Alastair North, it continues to adapt its specialized training to Asia's
accelerating growth and demands for increasingly sophisticated expertise. True to its
mandate, it is generating know-how from withintapping the region's vast reservoir of
talent to create Asian technocrats.
In electing the ASIAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY to receive the 1989 Ramon Magsaysay Award
for International Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes its shaping a new
generation of engineers and managers committed to Asia in an atmosphere of academic
excellence and regional camaraderie.