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Major hindrances to higher education sector in Vietnam

Major hindrances to higher education sector

in Vietnam

Tran, B.Q.

DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) candidate

Swinburne University of Technology

Southern Cross University

Major hindrances to higher education sector in Vietnam


Vietnamese HE sector encounters:

- Poor-developed curriculum design
- Overeducation
- Negative impacts of private institutions
- Brain drain
They are the major hindrances to the quality development of the entire systems.
Keyword: Higher Education, enrollment quota, curriculum design


Learning and teaching in various HE level make me indentify disparency between two
education systems.

Department of Education, Science and Training of Australia (DEST) decentralize the

Q/A process of Higher Education sector. The power is given professional
associations, e.g. CPA, AMC etc. In Australia, an accounting graduate need to get the
CPA (Certified Public Accounting) qualification. Likewise, in order to practice in
Australia, An overseas medical doctor needs to pass an examination with AMC
(Australian Medical Council).

Those associations control the professional practice, thus have a deep impact on the
curriculum design of HE sector. Universities must register the accredited courses to
the proper professional bodies and such registration is valid within a certain time
frame, varied from 3, 4 or 5 years. Course revision must take place as those
authorities modify their regulation of practicing. On summary, DEST assigns the third
–party bodies to audit the course quality. This approach allows a certain degree of
freedom for universities and reduces the workload for DEST.

In Vietnam, the Government launched the Higher Education Reform Agenda 2006-20
(Nguyen, 2008). Under the new regulations, institution managing boards will prepare
and implement their own expenditure plans with a minor governance role played by
MOET. However, there is no way to audit the quality of course content and

Major hindrances to higher education sector in Vietnam

curriculum design. It should be known that the graduate quality has a deep impact in
the job market and influence socio-economic factors deeply.

1. / Outdated syllabus and/or course material

I used to be invited by a public university X1 for giving lecture in their program of
Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA). The course is offered for mature learners
in evening classes and weekend workshops.

My duty is to lecture the unit “E-commerce for managers”. It is a core component of

the program structure. There are approximately145 students in this course. The
prescribed textbook of the course is:
E. Turban, Jae K. Lee, and D. King (2002), Electronic Commerce: Global
Perspective, Prentice Hall.
The current year is 2009!! 7 years have already past.

During the interval, there are so many changes in E-commerce thanks to the
transformation of computer science. Feeling sorry for my students, I find necessary to
revise the body knowledge by a newer edition of the prescribed textbook. I asked the
permission from the course coordinator. I was told that it‘s better to remain the
current situation owing to the school policy. He revealed:
“In order to change, you need to get through the Head of the School, the
Acting Dean of the Faculty and the Academic Director of the University.
Many paperwork need to get filled.”

Ordinarily, in computing or fast-paced majors (accounting, financial & banking,

biochemistry etc), it is advised that revision of the textbooks should be within 2 years
interval and amendment of the entire course material (curriculum, topic structures and
study material) should be done during 3-4 years interval. Good example, the above
textbook, the author group has released five editions between 2002 and 2009 (2002,
2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009).

Respectful of privacy, the actual name of the institution cannot be disclosed.

Major hindrances to higher education sector in Vietnam

It is merely an example of outdated textbook, quoted in curriculum statement.

Although poor curriculum design explanations is often blamed for insufficient fund or
inadequate of academics and subject specialists, it actual cause is red tape and
especially organizational inertia. They are major barriers to education improvements.
Outdated reference and poor-designed study material influence negatively to
graduate’s quality. And they are also among the explanations overeducation, the
second issues will be discussed below.

2. / Overeducation in the graduate labour market

A friend of mine, a New Zealander fluent in Vietnamese, hired a receptionist for his
recruiting agency a couple of months ago. It is interesting to know that she got:
- A bachelor degree (accounting)
- A certificate of web designing
- A diploma of financial management
He told me that it is hard to find a receptionist, in his country, with such a bundle of
degree and certificate. So, what is the underlying fact?
It is a common in Vietnam because of the educational mismatch between the
schooling and the job demand. Consequently, graduates attempt to acquire as many of
professional and technology certificates, diplomas to improve their career competitive
advantage regardless of whether the employers need or not. Even worse, many
graduates decide to “back to school” owing to the huge gap between the job market
demand and what universities are offering. Surprisingly, overeducation is growing as
more and more private institutions established (Nguyen, 2008).

3. / Quality of private HE institutions

According to Dantri News (2009), there are approximately 400 HE institutions and
college in Vietnam and 25% of them are private, cited by Nguyen (2008). Although
Ministry of Education and Training, MOET, attempts to audit the HE quality by
conducting the so-called enrollment quota for every institution (Lam and Vi, 2009),
many private institutions have many tricks to overcome this.

Major hindrances to higher education sector in Vietnam

In fact, private universities are companies. Cutting cost and increasing enrollment
number is their profit model. Popular cost-effective strategies of private institution
- Hiring casual academic staff from other institutions
- Reducing or cutting research-based activities
- Creating a joint degree with an overseas institution to acquire the partner’s
curriculum, instead of developing its own
- Delaying revising course content to reduce academic and administrative cost
And the penalties are:
- Lack of course coordinating & consulting activities
- Poor curriculum design:
o inadequate career-oriented academic program
o heavy program structure (plenty of core units – short of electives)
- Poor career consulting services for graduates

4. / Brain drain
Kapur and McHale (2005) insist that tolerant skilled immigrant scheme of developed
nations such as Canada, Australia or NZ… appeals oversea students. There is no
exception to Vietnamese students. If possessing a degree of a major prescribed by the
scheme and having a sufficient linguistics skill, overseas students can get the
permanent residency of those countries. Despite critics from the motherland, their
explanation is generally:
- Highly-paid income. As in the motherland, the income cannot offset the
overseas education expenditure, stated by Chen and Boufford (2005).
- Superior working (practicing) environment
- Finer welfare system and government-funded healthcare service
- Better education for their offspring
Not only Vietnam but also other Asia Pacific nations such as Philippine, Malaysia,
China PRC, India (Khadria, 2000), Bangladesh and Pakistan are critically influenced.
In reality, attracting intellectuals back home is a very tough task when those countries
still struggle with poverty, low literacy and other socio-economic impacts.

Major hindrances to higher education sector in Vietnam


The DEST employs both smart power and Divide and Conquer strategy to audit
Australian Higher Education sector. Professional associations are made used of
controlling the outcome of a degree. As a graduate cannot qualify for the license from
the proper association, he/she cannot practice, or work, legally. Thus, the course,
he/she is awarded, become outmoded. Causally, the university/ faculty needs to revise
the body knowledge of the course to keep up with the new standards of the
corresponding professional agency.

Although MOET, on vice versa, controls the university’s input via enrolment quota,
there is no checkpoints to manipulate the training process and output to guarantee that
graduate skills match industry requirements. In fact, the education and skill mismatch
between university supply and labour demand, cited as overeducation or overskilling,
is extensive, up to 47%, figured by (Lam and Vi, 2009). It is so-called “abundance
and insufficiency” in the skill pooling.

In long-run, as multinational corporations more present in Vietnam, those

international practicing standard will be absorbed and accepted in Vietnam owing to
the labour demand of those corporations. Associations, such as CPA, CFA, ICAA,
PMI2 etc, will launch their foothold in Vietnam training marketing via join programs
with universities to create a more transparent working practice in this globalization
trend, soon or late.

CFA: Chartered Financial Analysis
ICAA: Association of Chartered Accountants
PMI: Project Management Institutions


Chen, L. C. & Boufford, J. I. (2005) Fatal Flows Doctors on the Move. New England
Journal of Medicine, 353, 1850–1852.
Dantri News (2009) Vietnam should close the majority number of HE institutions.
Kapur, D. & Mchale, J. (2005) Why Is Immigration Becoming More Skilled-Focus.
Give Us Your Best and Brightest: The Global Hunt for Talent and Its Impact
on the Developing World Centre for Global Development.
Khadria, B. (2000) Second-Generation Effects of India's Brain Drain. The Migration
of Knowledge Workers.
Lam, D. B. & Vi, N. H. (2009) The Development of the Community College Model
in Vietnam at the Time of the Country's Reorganization and International
Integration. Community College Models.
HARMONIZATION. The International Conference Series on Raising
Awareness: Exploring the Ideas of Creating Higher Education Common
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