PhD programs need modernization

The country needs to renovate its doctoral training system and should adopt policies to encourage potential candidates if it is to meet the needs of human resource development, said education experts.

Students of the HCM City University of Technology (Photo: SGGP)

There are three weaknesses that hamper the quality of doctoral training, said Dr. Nguyen Huu Anh, Professor of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Natural Science.

“The training program is both heavy and unreasonable; second, the models of training are not specific; and third, the organization of training is not favorable for the needs of trainees.

“If we fail to seek solutions for the three problems, we will not meet the need of training talent for the country”, Dr. Anh noted.

He suggested that PhD students should not be chosen through exams as present, they should be selected from excellent graduates.

The doctoral training programs must be standardized and courses must be well organized to ensure quality of training, he said.

Regulations and procedures related to doctoral training are cumbersome and complicated, discouraging many candidates, said Lam Tuong Thoai, a PhD student of economics at the Ho Chi Minh City National University.

He said “a thesis must undergo three or four assessments, even being subject to a foreign appraisal council. It is unnecessary and time-consuming. Instead, such thesis can be posted online for comments and feedback from experts”.

Many experts are of the opinion that the appraisal council for doctoral degree needs to be simpler, more professional and more efficient.

The inadequacies of training have led to a decrease in the number of PhD candidates in the past few years, experts said.

The HCM City University of Technology began its doctoral training in 1981 and now covers 41 specialties. But enrollment has dropped since 2004. This year the school had only 16 candidates, of which seven qualified for training.

The same can be seen at the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities. In the past five years, the school has not had enough students for its 13 doctoral courses.

The situation is worse at the Institute of Natural Resources and Environment, where there is only one doctoral student this year.

“A lack of students for doctoral degrees is a big problem facing the HCM City National University”, said Dr. Nguyen Duc Nghia, “Potentially, the school can train 600 PhDs per year, but it currently only provides 40 PhDs per year”. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Huynh Ho Thuy Duong, at Ho Chi Minh City University of Natural Science, blamed the situation for a lack of investment policies that would encourage potential doctoral candidates.

“The budget spending on basic research in the country is just 1-2 percent of the total spending on scientific and technological research. In other countries, the rate is 10 percent”, she pointed out. 

A doctoral student receives just VND40 million ($2,340) for one study, while in Thailand, the amount is equivalent to as much as VND1 billion ($58,000), she said. With such a small budget, many candidates can not afford to conduct research, she added.

By Thanh Hung - Translated by Quang Minh

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