Payap University Past and Present

Payap University traces its roots back to 1888, when the Thailand Theological Seminary was started by American Presbyterian missionaries, and 1923 when the McCormick Hospital School of Nursing began. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Presbyterian missionaries were sent from America to bring both modern education and modern medicine to the people of Thailand. Having begun several prominent institutions in Chiang Mai, namely the Prince Royal’s College, Dara Academy, McCormick Hospital and McKean Leprosarium, by the mid-1900’s, the mission wanted to help establish a Christian university in Thailand. At that time, however, the Thai government prohibited the opening of private higher education institutions.

The Royal Proclamation of the Private Colleges Act of 1969 made private higher education a legal possibility for launching post-secondary, degree granting institutions. Around 1970, the Thailand Theological Seminary and the McCormick Hospital School of Nursing initiated discussions to set up a private college. Together with representatives of the Church of Christ in Thailand, the American Presbyterian Mission, and the Disciples Division of Overseas Ministries, they formulated articles of incorporation that were submitted to the Royal Thai Government. Payap College received accreditation on 21 March 1974, and became the first private college in Thailand outside of greater Bangkok. The first class of 204 students was accepted in 1974 and 154 students were graduated at the end of the 1977-78 academic year. Payap has always welcomed academically qualified students of all religions and ethnic backgrounds.

In its early years, Payap College operated in borrowed facilities. Originally there were two campuses, one adjacent to McCormick Hospital and the other five miles distant, a four-acre site on the west side of Chiang Mai, on which stood three residential buildings. Although initial plans called for the development of these two campus sites, it soon became evident that expansion of the four-acre western site near Chiang Mai University was impractical; skyrocketing real estate costs precluded additional land acquisition at that site. The eastern campus, opposite McCormick Hospital, was strained to accommodate adequate facilities for both student and graduate nurses of the hospital and the students of the Thailand Theological Seminary. Although additional buildings on this 16-acre site would have been possible, facilities for the anticipated student body of several thousand students could not have been accommodated. The Board of Directors voted early in l974 to proceed with acquisition of land in a more favorable location, two miles to the east of the McCormick campus (now called the Kaew Nawarat campus). About l20 acres of low-lying land were then acquired; this site now comprises the Mae Khao campus, which serves as the main university campus. Subsequent land acquisitions across the ring road have increased the size of this campus to approximately 275 acres.

In l975, Payap engaged Metropolitan Engineering Consultants Co., Ltd., of Bangkok, a leading architectural and engineering firm, to prepare a ten-year master plan for campus development. The implementation of this plan began with the dedication of the first five buildings on the Mae Khao campus in 1982. Since then 16 major buildings have been constructed (many partially funded by grants from the ASHA program of USAID) on the Mae Khao campus. Payap also continues to offer classes on the Kaew Nawaarat site which is home to the College of Divinity, College of Music, Faculty of Nursing, Christian Communications Institute, and the new Lifelong Learning Center dedicated in 2022.

Payap’s achievements were recognized by the Royal Thai Government in 1984 when it became the first fully accredited private university in Thailand. Since then the university has continued to progress, expanding facilities to accommodate the student body, investing in the continuing education and training of the faculty through internal and external support of graduate education in the US and in other countries, and adding a wide range of international programs to attract students from across Southeast Asia and from other areas of the world.

Throughout its history Payap University has pioneered the teaching of new fields at the university level in northern Thailand such as music, business-related fields, law, and Peacebuilding. Payap continues to build on the distinctive characteristics of its American educational heritage. Payap University has an International College which was the first such English-language undergraduate program in Northern Thailand. The University launched the Faculty of Pharmacy in 2006, a highly popular program taught in Thai, but modeled after American Pharmaceutical education. Payap received financial assistance from the US government’s USAID/ASHA program to procure vital laboratory equipment for the Pharmacy program, improvements to the infrastructure for teaching and learning, including renovation of the campus to enhance accessibility to the disabled, and a major IT upgrade project and an energy and electricity cost saving solar project. The Payap campus is one of few institutions in Thailand that can easily accommodate those with mobility disabilities.

Payap is a leader among Southeast Asian institutions of private higher education. It has attracted one of the region’s most multi-ethnic faculties, established progressive research and community development programs including the region’s only private archives, and has hosted numerous international conferences. The university is working to increase the number of Payap students who participate in exchange programs with foreign academic institutions. Payap has long-standing international partnerships, including close ties to the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, the Institute of International Education (IIE), and various other institutions and universities. Payap has initiated an extensive Quality Assurance program, is developing new standards for teaching and learning, and is focusing attention on service-learning, student-centered learning, and increasing the use of information technologies, electronic information resources in teaching, and Lifelong Learning for Thais and Non-Thais.

Lastly, Payap University is approved by the US Department of Veterans Affairs to offer degree programs to eligible US veterans. Hundreds of former US military personnel and their dependents have attended Payap using their VA benefits. Payap is also recognized by the US Department of Education as an eligible institution.

In 2023, there were more than 2,500 students at Payap. The University offers accredited Bachelor, Masters and Ph.D. degrees. Below is the list of Faculties and their degree programs. For additional information about Payap University visit

Payap University: Colleges and Faculties (2023)

Faculty of Business Administration

Hotel Management (B.B.A.), Innovative Food Business Management (B.B.A.),Digital Marketing (B.B.A.), Management and Entrepreneurship (B.B.A.), Financial Management and Investment (B.B.A.), Accountancy (B.Acc.), Software Engineering (B.S.), Master of Business Administration Program (M.B.A.), Doctor of Business Administration Program (D.B.A.)

McGilvary College of Divinity

Christian Theology (B.A.)

Faculty of Nursing

Nursing (B.N.S.)

College of Music

Music (B.M.)

Faculty of Law

Law (LL.B., LL.M.)

International College

Information Technology (B.Sc.), English Communication (B.A.), International Business Management (B.B.A.), Hospitality Industry Management (B.B.A.), Linguistics (M.A.), Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (M.A.), Peacebuilding (Ph.D.)

Faculty of Pharmacy

Pharmaceutical Care (Pharm.D.)

Faculty of Humanities and Communication Arts

Thai For Communication for Foreigners (B.A.), English (B.A.), Psychology (B.A.), Japanese Language and Culture (B.A.), Business Chinese (B.A.), Communication Arts (B.Com.Arts)

Graduate Education

Educational Administration (M.Ed., Ed.D.), Hemp and Medicinal Plants for Local Development (M.A., Ph.D.)

International Education for Interdisciplinary Studies

Digital Business and Financial Technology (B.B.A.), Business Administration for Executives (M.B.A.), Business Administration (Ph.D.), Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (M.A.), Education Administration (M.Ed., Ph.D.), Cultural and Creative Industry Management (M.M., Ph.D.)