Viet Nam's complex higher education system needs to be better integrated in order to improve training quality, a foreign education expert has suggested.
At a workshop held yesterday in HCM City, Martin Hayden, deputy rector of Australia's Southern Cross University, said Viet Nam should establish a single coordinating body such as a Ministry of Higher Education and Research for its higher education system.
A single coordinating body, he said, should take responsibility for implementing national priorities approved by the State for the higher education system.
The higher education sector has been expanding rapidly. From 2001 to 2011, there were on average eight new universities and twelve new colleges founded each year, and the enrollment increased from 162 students per 10,000 persons in 2001 to 251 students per 10,000 persons in 2011.
The growth is expected to rise to more than 400 students per 10,000 persons by 2020.
Hayden noted that Viet Nam's higher education system was complex, with national and regional universities, research institutes, academies, comprehensive schools, specialised schools, technical and vocational colleges, teacher-training colleges, community colleges and professional secondary schools.
Authority for decision-making in Viet Nam's higher education system is widely dispersed and as a consequence, administration of the system is highly fragmented, according to Hayden.
The government has responsibility for the two national universities.
The Ministry of Training and Education has responsibility for another 54 public universities and colleges, while 13 other ministries, together with many State agencies and provincial governments have responsibilities for another 250 public universities and colleges.
Hayden said the dispersal of authority within the system severely limited its capacity to make progress in a coordinated manner, leading to problems in implementing system-wide policies.
New accountability processes should also be deployed, he suggested, adding that line-management control by ministries and other State instrumentalities were significant impediments to accountability.
"Public universities, which are generally not able to make their own decisions in Viet Nam, should be given more self-governing capacity," he said.
Viet Nam's public universities rank poorly in terms of institutional autonomy, even in comparison with public universities in the former Soviet satellite countries such as Hungary, the Czech Republic and Lithuania.
"The need for a transfer of governance responsibilities for public universities from the State to university councils is a matter of high priority," Hayden said.
Further expansion of the public higher education system, however, would require vastly increased amounts of expenditure.
Because the capacity of the Government to invest even more heavily in the higher system is limited, increased tuition fees appear to be the only available option, according to Hayden.
He said the government should also set up an independent quality assurance agency for the higher education system.
Organised by the Viet Nam National University-HCM City's Development Fund in co-operation with the International Education Institute, the workshop was attended by many domestic and foreign educational experts.
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